Turkey Creek praying for no more rain

By Steve Sell
May 21, 2015

The Class 4A State Golf Tournament, supposedly scheduled for Tuesday at Turkey Creek, is being held hostage by Mother Nature.

The old girl seemingly has lost her mind. Maybe she’s coming off a bad breakup, because she’s been raining tears all over our fine 18-hole course.

After Tuesday’s pounding rains, on top of earlier deluges, Turkey Creek was closed on Wednesday and was still closed as of this morning.

With more rain in the forecast, especially over the Memorial Weekend, chances are better than 50-50 that we won’t be playing golf on Tuesday and could be looking at Wednesday or Thursday. The course has taken on as much water as it can as its banks runneth over.

It hasn’t helped that we’ve had unseasonably cool temperatures, which slows the drying-out process. We need about three days of 80-plus temps and winds whipping at 30 mph. It doesn’t take much to dry the course, but there has to be a starting point. As long as it stays in the 50s or 60s, “The Creek” is just that — a creek.

Since opening in 1990, Turkey Creek has been a popular choice by the Kansas State High School Activities Association. The course will be hosting its fifth state tournament, with previous events being contested in 2010, 2008, 1999 and 1993.

One reason is it’s a good course. Secondly, the people are friendly. It’s also centrally located, unlike McPherson High’s regional track meet in Holcomb on Friday that’s going to seem like a trip to the Twilight Zone.

I’m sure course superintendent Jason Buschbom and his staff have been praying to the golfing gods for the rain to stay away. The greens were aerified nearly a month ago and for the most part have come back reasonably well, with the exception of a little poa annua in a few.

The workers have been busy in recent weeks trying to stay ahead of the rain. The fairways have been in good shape and the rough remains penal. Miss a fairway or green and you’re going to pay. You can be five yards off the green and have a lie that will have you cussing.

Turkey Creek plays to a 35-35, par-70. It generally plays with a prevailing south breeze, which helps golfers get off to a good start since four of the first five holes are downwind.

The key on the front nine is the “dreaded triangle” of Nos. 4-5-6. A good golfer believes he should be no worse than 1-over through 3, but No. 4 — if played from the back tee — is a menace since there’s no bailout area to the left unless you go way left of your target. It’s a huge carry, though these young flatbellies can carry it much farther than we old-timers.

Hole 5 is one of the three toughest on the course. You have to lay up to a small landing area and hit a shot from about 175-190 yards into a shallow green. That’s followed by a tough par-3 normally dead into the wind with an undulating green.

Golfers get somewhat of a reprieve on holes 7-9, provided they just hit the ball straight. Hole 9 is a risk-reward par-5 if the wind is out of the north, but generally a 3-shot hole if the wind is from the other direction.

I personally enjoy the back nine more as it has lots of character. Hole 10 is probably the toughest hole to par day-in and day-out, a 400-yard dogleg right into the wind. Again, it’s a tough green to hit, especially when the pin is at the front.

Golfers need to take advantage of No. 11, a shortish par-4. That’s followed by a hard par-3 as an intimidating tree at the left creeps into your head. A yank into the trash left and it could be an easy double-bogey or more.

Holes 13-14-15 generally are downwind, but not easy. Hole 15 is a par-3 that can play over 200 yards, with high grass to the left and a creek to the right.

The closing three holes aren’t easy. The 16th is a long dogleg right and it’s a difficult driving hole if played from the blue tees. The 17th is a dogleg left, though it can be played without a driver. If the wind is out of the south, the par-5 18th can be an exciting finishing hole as big hitters can reach it in two.

I think Turkey Creek is an extremely fair test for high school golfers. If conditions are benign, even-par or under can come into play since it’s a short course with an emphasis on hitting greens and putting.

Tournament officials can make it a hard setup though with ornery pin placements, as well as double-cutting and rolling the greens. I’d just like to see it somewhere in between instead of tricking it up. If a high school golfer can break par, just tip your cap to him. We want the players to take away a good experience from Turkey Creek, which I’m sure they will.