BUILDING A GOLF COURSE:Â VIEW OF A VISION
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
For those who have moved to Freeman in the past 30 years, or for those born in the 1990s or later, Valley View Golf Course has always just been part of the larger community — an 80-acre recreational vista located one mile south of town that is a regular destination for novice and serious golfers alike.
Of course, it hasn’t always just been.
No, in the grand scheme of history, it really wasn’t that long ago that the manicured ground today that is home to wide fairways, large greens, a 3-acre lake and maturing trees was nothing more than farmland nestled up against an elevated settlement known as Spitzberger — which in German translates to “pointed hill dweller” — that included a lake, farmstead and grand home associated with the Peter J. Graber family.
It wasn’t until the early 1990s, when a group of men with their eyes and hearts set on bringing a golf course to the Freeman community, that a seismic shift in the way the land was used began to take place that would ultimately lead to the construction and opening of Valley View Golf Course 30 years ago.
“I hadn’t lived here that long,” says Dean Dreessen, who moved to Freeman in 1990 after taking a job at Merchants State Bank and today is the CEO of the independent financial institution that is the oldest in the community. “I liked to play golf, and as I remember there was a core group of guys who liked to play at ParMar who said, ‘Let’s build our own course. We can do this.’ And I got involved.
“I remember having meetings at what was then the VFW — just throwing out ideas and having open and frank discussions,” Dreessen said. “How can we make this work? What would be our next step? Who would we get to be our builder? What process should we go with? What do we do to become real?”
Freeman Courier: Feb. 6, 1991: A meeting to discuss the development of a Freeman golf course will be held Wednesday, Feb. 6 at the Freeman V.F.W. at 7:30 p.m. New developments regarding a site for a golf course has given renewed interest in the project.
In reality, interest in a local golf course had gone back several years — several decades, in fact, to July of 1972, when the Freeman Courier reported that a meeting for “all interested golfers” would be held at what was then a brand-new City Hall to discus plans for a possible new golf course near Freeman. Those involved even invited golf pro Bob Marchand to help in the planning and to answer questions.
If that July 18, 1972 meeting yielded any progress, it never materialized, and it would be another 19 ½ years until the subject was revisited with what appeared to be cautious optimist.
Freeman Courier: Feb. 20: 1991: Local golfers are showing renewed enthusiasm about the possibility of building a nine-hole golf course close to Freeman. For nearly two years a loosely organized group of interested golfers has been working to find land for a golf course with suitable terrain and close to town. The idea of leasing land near Spitzberger Lake one mile south of Freeman is what has prompted local golfers to pursue the project with renewed energy. Organizers are hoping to lease 75.7 acres of land located in the southwest corner of the square mile section in which Spitzberger Lake is located one mile south of Freeman. The land, formerly owned by Edwin C. “Buster” Graber of Freeman, is now owned by his son, Darryll Graber of Renton, Wash. About 40 interested citizens met to discuss the project at a golf meeting held at the Freeman VFW Friday evening, Feb. 15. Enthusiasm about a local golf course ran high at the meeting. Many voiced support for the project. Many said they saw the golf course as a community project with much of the work being done by volunteers. If all goes according to plan, organizers said they hope to start work on the course as early as this fall after crops are out. “This is the best opportunity for a golf course for Freeman ever,” Dreessen told the group.
What followed that meeting in mid-February of 1990 can only be described as the continuation of a grassroots effort the likes of which had not — and have not since — been seen in the community. That included hiring legal counsel in the form of local attorney-at-the-time Dale Strasser, establishing a corporation, taking stockholders within the state of South Dakota, and forming a board of directors that included Dreessen, Roger Aman, Neil Zacharaisen, Laverne Waltner and Ted Pidde, Jr.
Freeman Courier: March 13, 1991: A meeting to continue efforts for a golf course in Freeman will be held at the Freeman VFW Club Friday, March 15, starting at 7:30 p.m. Dean Dreessen, chairman of the committee formed in February to pursue the project, said Friday’s meeting is a very important one. The agenda includes stock ownership, lease arrangements, articles of incorporation and continuing plans for the proposed golf course.
Later in March 1991: A group of Freeman golfers interested in starting a golf course in Freeman is taking steps toward incorporation. Freeman Area Golf Course Association Inc. is seeking 15 charter corporation shareholders. The name of the golf course will be determined later, said Dean Dreessen, one of the project organizers. A group of nearly 40 golf enthusiasts decided to incorporate at a golf course organizational meeting held Friday, March 15. The group set corporate stock price at $100 per share. Shares available for sale shall not exceed a total of 5,000 shares. The group also agreed no person or entity could ever own more than 10 percent of the total shares sold. The group plans to build a nine-hole community golf course on approximately 80 acres of ground near Spitzberger Lake, located one mile directly south of the southern edge of Freeman.
And then there was the enormous job of transforming the land into something suitable for a golf course, which was done by a volunteer work force that poured their heart, soul and sweat into a cause much larger than their collective selves.
“It was a lot of work, but when you can see the final goal and where you’re going — if you have a passion for what you’re doing — it doesn’t feel like it,” said Dreessen, who remembers two other locations that were considered for construction of the course: land located to the south of the Freeman City Cemetery and on ground that is today known as the Waltner Addition on the northeast corner of town. “Once we had everything in place we worked pretty diligently raising money, hired our architect — Marty Johnson — and we had two or three plans that were given to us and there were pros and cons to each.”
One of the plans, Dreessen said, had the clubhouse and the No. 1 tee box on the north end of the ground, in what ended up being the No. 3 hole.
“Believe it or not there were conversations that maybe that plan had more validity because we had the grandiose idea that if this really took off, we might build another nine holes,” he said. “If you’re going to dream, you might as well dream big.”
Regardless of the course layout, Dreessen said, those leading the effort had three mandates to the architect: 1. Larger green; 2. Double-row irrigation; 3. Multiple tee boxes “so that seniors, ladies and juniors would have the opportunity to play golf to their level or expertise or comfort — whatever it may be.”
By the summer of 1991 — less than six months after that initial meeting at the V.F.W. turned the idea of building of a golf course in Freeman into a serious prospect — the ball was rolling, and by February of 1992 it seemed there was no turning back.
February of 1992: A public meeting will be held Monday, February 24, in the Freeman Fire Station to discuss plans for construction of a golf course. The meeting is being called by the Freeman Area Golf Course association, Inc., a newly formed corporation organized to lease and develop land located one mile directly south of Freeman into a nine-hole golf course. The purpose of the meeting is to:
Choose one of three designs for a nine-hole course.
Sell stock in the corporation.
The initial fundraising goal of the organization is $200,000. The course can be built with $150,000, association president Dean Dreessen said. The board of directors of the Golf Course Association, Inc. are Dean Dreessen, LaVerne Waltner, Roger Aman, Bob Pidde and Neil Zachariasen.”
March of 1992: Plans are moving forward on construction of a nine-hole golf course in the Freeman area. A well to be used for irrigation, and likely eventually drinking water has been drilled on the golf course land one mile south of Freeman. Golf course organizers say they are satisfied with the six-inch well which is 284 feet deep and can provide up to 150 gallons of water per minute. The minimum well capacity needed for the 80-acre golf course is 100 gallons per minute. Plans are to pump the water at 130 gallons per minute. The water will be pumped into a holding pond from which an irrigation pump will distribute the water through a sprinkler system. The proposed golf course is being developed by Freeman Area Golf Course Association Inc., a local, for-profit corporation formed to construct and maintain a nine-hole golf course on leased property one mile south of Freeman. Golf course organizers also announced last week the association executed its option to lease the golf course land from Darryll Graber of Seattle, Wash., for 25 years. The association can renew the lease after the 25-year period.
May of 1992: The local golf course association has decided to include a three-acre lake on the nine-hole community golf course being built on 80 acres one mile south of Freeman. The lake will serve as a golfing hazard, but more importantly it will be used as a water reservoir for irrigating fairways and greens. The irrigation lake will be located in the center of the golf course between the fifth and sixth fairways. It will have a maximum depth of 10 feet and will hold 7 to 9 million gallons of water. A pond, a second smaller water hazard, will be located between the eighth hole and tee box and ninth hole green.
With land secured, the governing structure established and a plan in place, all there was left to do was the work.
That — and all that has come after — next week.