Pine Meadows Golf Course sits in Baxter like a scorched desert, baked yellow from the sun and lack of maintenance.
The old Brainerd Country Club, designed by William Kidd and opened in 1922, is now empty. The greens are void of ball marks and the sand traps vacant of footprints -- the result of a former owner not profiting from the course's operation and new owners with visions of a downtown development.
As green and alive as Pine Meadows was just last summer, it now rests dormant with a future more likely to see bulldozers than golf carts. Along with the nauseating yellow stain on the Baxter landscape, the closing of Pine Meadows also caused problems for its former members.
With Oct. 31, 2004, as the last official day at Pine Meadows, its former members had to find new places to play. Many went south to Eagle's Landing near Fort Ripley.
"It wasn't much fun having to find somewhere else," said Larry Schmidt of Brainerd, a former Pine Meadows member. "I didn't know if I was going to play at all, the main reason being it was going to be a 17- to 18-mile drive, where Pine Meadows was nice and close.
"We were a little put out, too. (Pine Meadows former owner Dave Mooty) promised us two years then, all of a sudden, we have nothing. We were a little put out.
"But Eagle's Landing has been really good. I don't think we've ever been treated so good. There are really nice people there."
Josh Dahl, general manager at Eagle's Landing, said about 10 former Pine Meadows members joined his club this season. He said the biggest difference for Eagle's Landing is the number of daily green fees sold, especially in July.
The majority of former members went north to Breezy Point Resort. That's where the men's Twilight League and women's league relocated.
Breezy Point PGA professional Mark Johnson said the resort increased its membership by 60.
"That encompasses couples memberships and family memberships," said Johnson. "It's actually closer to about 80 actual people.
"The increase has been nice because our membership base was kind of old so this allows us to fill tee times and utilize the course the right way."
One of Breezy's big draws was the use of two courses for league and casual play.
"Breezy Point has been great," said Bobby Martin, former member at Pine Meadows. "We paid $800 for unlimited golf at both courses with cart. The greens have been mint and Mark Johnson, Dave Gravdahl and Bob Spizzo have been great to us."
An exodus from Pine Meadows occurred before the 2004 season when Mooty proclaimed the course would close in two years. That caused about 150 former members to join the Legacy Courses at Cragun's.
Now Cragun's has the area's largest men's league and one of the top membership bases.
"We established a 20-team men's league last year and we've expanded it to 22 this year," said Legacy PGA professional Brian Erickson. "We're in the neighborhood of 170 new members that used to be at Pine Meadows. Of those, 150 were from last year and we added 20 more this year."
Not included in that 170 are 25 new junior memberships, Erickson said.
Another effect of Pine Meadows closing is the loss of the regular foursomes. While Schmidt and his playing partners, Denny Ward, Al Baltes and Don Sellnow, went to Eagle's Landing, Don Samuelson, who was also a regular with the group, is now at Breezy Point.
A regular Saturday group at Pine Meadows of Dale Spaulding, Mark Jarboe and Lowell Boilke is now at Breezy Point, but is missing Sam Swanson, who went to Pine Ridge in Motley.
An early Saturday morning regular at Pine Meadows, Carl Hendrickson, didn't join a course this year -- a casualty of location.
"All the guys I golfed with went up to Breezy Point, but that's a 30-minute drive for me," said Hendrickson. "I work during the summer so I don't get home until 4:30 or 5 p.m. and it's just not worth the drive."
There are other repercussions from Pine Meadows closing, including the loss of jobs. But the biggest is the loss of a recreational area that was open to everyone. It's now a former green space that looks more like a waste bunker or simply more like a waste.
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
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