DRUMMER FEATURE MARCH 9, 2014
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From greens keeper to owner
By Ed DuBois
At a time when golf courses have been struggling a bit financially, it might have been surprising when Brooks Ellingson bought the Timber Creek Golf Course a few miles east of Watertown.
Brooks has been golfing since he was seven years old, and in recent years he was much involved with the construction and operation of Albion Ridges Golf Course just southwest of Maple Lake. Together with his wife, Amy, and golfing friend and partner, Todd Moore of Maple Lake, he bought Timber Creek and has been working lately on remodeling the clubhouse.
He said they were able to get a good deal on the purchase of the 18-hole course, which was built in 1986. The sellers included a person who established the course, Tim O'Connor of the Lake Minnetonka area, plus his partner, Phil Kotula of Maple Grove, who bought in eight years ago.
Brooks said a few golf courses in the Lake Minnetonka area and Medina have closed, and he is hoping many golfers from that part of the metro area, as well as elsewhere, will be looking for a new place to play.
Because of that, he feels the timing could be right to become a golf course owner.
One of the things he likes about Timber Creek is its location a relatively short distance out from the metro area. The course is in the country but is close enough to attract metro golfers.
With its mature trees and its rural setting, the course is attractive.
"There are many wetlands all around the course, which makes its very picturesque. Because we are out in the country, there are not many houses near the course. It has a secluded feel once you get out there," Brooks said.
As its name suggests, Timber Creek has plenty of trees. Brooks said the course offers a challenging layout with smaller greens and some tight sightlines.
"We plan to work on making the course a little more player friendly," he mentioned. "We could make the roughs shorter and trim some trees."
Removing lower branches from some of the trees could help reduce the need for golfers to spend time searching for their balls off the fairways. This could help improve the pace of play on the course, Brooks said.
Asked about some of the more interesting holes on the course, he said number 17 is "a great hole," which features a dogleg and a pond at the elbow. It's one of ten par-four holes.
Number 12 is "an interesting lay-up par-four dogleg," Brooks added. "You need to pick the right club off the tee."
If your tee shot goes too far, you will get in some trouble, but if you can land on the fairway at the elbow, you can end up in a nice position for a clear shot to the green.
Everything is covered with a deep blanket of snow right now. Brooks is hopeful the course will be in good shape when the snow melts.
"A key is have the ground frozen before the snow arrives," he said. "That's what happened, so the heavy amount of snow should be a plus."
When the course opens, it will have 15-16 employees, who will mostly be seasonal workers. Brooks will be the general manager/superintendent.
He has plenty of experience. After graduating from St. Cloud Tech High School in 1981, he spent two years at a vocational technical school in Anoka learning turf grass management. His first job after that was assistant golf course superintendent at Brookview Golf Course in Golden Valley.
He was there until 1985, when he took a job overseeing construction of Rum River Hills Golf Course in Anoka.
Brooks and Amy moved to Buffalo in 1990, when Brooks took a job overseeing construction of Albion Ridges Golf Course. The former farm field went from "dirt to turf" in two years and opened in 1992.
Six years later, nine more holes were added to make Albion Ridges a 27-hole course.
Brooks probably would have stayed as general manager at Albion longer, but "my goal-slash-dream since I was 18 was to own my own golf course," he said.
He mentioned his mother had taught him how to play golf when he was seven years old. She had played on a high school golf team in Pipestone.
The family had a cabin on Lake Irene a few miles north of Alexandria. They played golf at the Lake Miltona Golf Course. Brooks said his dad had the summers off. He taught art at St. Cloud State University.
Since coming to Buffalo, Brooks has played golf mostly at Albion Ridges. He has also played in a league at Buffalo Heights Golf Club.
Brooks and Amy have two children, who grew up and attended school in Buffalo. Madalyn, 27, lives in Platteville, Wis. now. She was a music major at the University of Minnesota and has a new job with an orchestra in Dubuque, Iowa. Kyle, 25, lives in St. Paul and is a writer.
Dream coming true
Over the years, Brook held onto his dream of becoming a golf course owner.
"I kept my eye out for a course in the area where I could make some improvements," he said.
Timber Creek is working out well, so far. Besides its location, Brooks likes the lay of the land. It has interesting terrain, he said. Brooks also likes the fact it is relatively close to Buffalo. He and Amy love living in Buffalo and plan to remain Buffalo residents.
Golf brought them together
During an interview for this story, Brooks, Amy and Todd were all working on remodeling the clubhouse. Todd has worked at a firm in Long Lake that provides non-stick PTFE coatings for the medical device industry. He is excited about entering a new phase in his life as a golf course owner.
Todd mentioned that he was on the golf team at Brainerd High School, and it is possible he and Brooks played each other at some point during their high school years when Brainerd and St. Cloud Tech faced each other on a golf course.
Now they are partners in the ownership of a golf course.
The economy has not been good for business ventures in recent years, but steady improvement has been coming along, and in the golf business, Brooks, Amy and Todd are hopeful they are positioned well to take advantage of a recovery.
Now all they need to do is finish the remodeling project, hope for a smooth and timely snowmelt and get ready to welcome golfers.
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