One of the great pleasures in my life is in building golf courses. It's like that for most golf course architects and builders. That's why we're in a business that's so demanding of families. That's why we cope with crazy travel schedules, constant deadlines and the year-to-year insecurity, not knowing if there'll be work after the present job is done.
Glenn Rehbein shares that pleasure. He started a landscaping business with a used sod cutter and a beat-up pickup truck, and turned it into a huge, diversified family business. His first taste of seeing a golf course morph from dirt piles into mystical ribbons of green grass was as a subcontractor on a golf course built in northern Minnesota. That led to other projects and finally to qualifying him to do all phases of the work as a legitimate golf course builder. But golf course builders don’t get much opportunity to be creative, as they're working with someone else's ideas. In the heart of most builders' festers a belief that, "Things will be different when I build my own course."
In 1998, Glenn decided that he was ready to build, own and operate his very own golf course, Troy Burne. The Rehbein businesses are located in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, where everyone takes pride in the success story of native son Tom Lehman. Tom is not only a great professional golfer, he's a superb family man, a complete gentlemen, a thoughtful spokesman and a spiritual thinker. It was natural for Glenn to invite Lehman to be his design consultant on his dream course. Hurdzan/Fry was ecstatic to be selected by Glenn as co-designers with Tom, for we knew that these were all quality people who would produce a quality project on what proved to be a quality site. The actual site was just over the St. Croix River in Hudson, Wisconsin, only minutes from the Twin Cities.
As a contractor, Glenn knew that the better the drainage offered by the existing soils, the easier it is to build and maintain a great course. So he looked for glacially deposited landforms, one with lots of character and great drainage. The farm that would become Troy Burne had both characteristics, plus some spectacular views of the river hundreds of feet below. The site he selected would also serve a housing development, with a separate company developing the housing.
As we drafted the various routing options for Glenn and his housing development partner, we pushed the idea of a core golf course as much as possible by giving the bluffs and river views to the housing. The idea was to satisfy the requirement for high-priced lots without weaving the golf course through condo alleys. In addition to the sandy soils, the site was also blessed with two wide valleys, a fair amount of topographic change and some scattered patches of nicely-sized trees. These site features permitted us to route the course in the valleys, place housing on the high ground, use the topography to create varied shot values and use the trees to separate and isolate views and golf holes. Since Glenn and his company were going to build the course, we had a free hand to move large volumes of earth if necessary.
Tom Lehman enjoys European links-style golf, and his 1996 British Open victory is a testament that he knows how to read the often-quirky playing conditions and develop tactics to deal with them. Tom made many, many great contributions to the design strategy of Troy Burne, but perhaps none greater than his insistence on having a flowing creek, or as they say in Europe, "a burne," to add a special flavor. Recirculating creeks are no big deal on most golf course sites, but when the soils are extremely sandy and the topography is significantly hilly, it takes an enormous amount of skill and expense to make it work. Because Tom was so emphatic about it, Glenn simply took it as another challenge to tackle. In the end, the recirculating stream became the namesake of the course, Troy Burne.
Another dramatic feature is the 10-foot-deep sod wall bunker in front of the par-3 15th green. This is another linksland trademark that seems to be at home in the side of a Wisconsin sand hill. In fact, there are dozens of features on this wonderful golf course that evolved through the lively give-and-take among Tom, Glenn and us. Take, for example, the 12th hole. It was the only location we could find for the irrigation pond, and Tom suggested that his Troy Burne terminate in it. Once we settled on tee locations, we added the fairway contours and bunkers, and Tom designed the green. The reclaimed farm building on the hole, which serves as the irrigation pump house, restroom and rain shelter, was purely Glenn's creation. Together, this assembly of parts seems in perfect visual balance and has produced some exciting golf shots.
As with so many of our clients, Glenn, his wife Myrna and several of their sons who worked on the project, have become personal friends. We appreciate the trust and confidence that the Rehbeins showed in us, and we openly welcomed their ideas and concerns as we tried to fulfill one of life’s grand dreams - building your own golf course.