Just like my drive to Sioux Falls, I split the return drive over two days! After a nice family breakfast I left Sioux Falls around 10am headed south on I-29. On my trip home though, I decided to go across through Iowa and not through Missouri. It was a bit shorter this way and it meant that I would be going past some great looking courses!
My plan was to stop just outside Des Moines and call a couple courses on my list. I called over to Otter Creek and they told me to come on out, they made it sound as if they weren’t very busy! Well, I drove into the parking lot at Otter Creek and it was packed! I think there was a graduation party but from what I could see, the course was packed with golfers. I inquired about playing and it was going to be about 40 minutes and cart path only, so I said no thanks and got back on the road. I really wish more courses would take tee times for singles! It worked out though as I ended up finding a gem.
I knew that Iowa City had some courses and that I’d be there just in time to finish eighteen holes, so I called over to Finkbine, which is the home of the Iowa Hawkeyes. They said come on out so I tried it again! This go around worked out a lot better as I ended up teeing off around 5pm and trailed another single around the course. There were just a few singles sprinkled throughout the course. I walked, and finished as the sun was setting in about 3 hours 15 minutes. It was one of those perfect evenings, where it is nice to be alive!
I’m a course nerd and recently saw Finkbine on social media of someone that I follow. This person liked the course and after playing it myself, I agree! Finkbine was a great test and very fair. My score was commensurate with my play and everything was right in front of me, no tricks here! I picked the gold tees which are 71.6/131/6601. That’s my sweet spot to allow me to shoot my handicap, while still challenging me. I suffered two large numbers which derailed a round under 80, but this is a place I wouldn’t mind a few more cracks at!
Finkbine has plenty going for it as it is a good driving course, the par 4 and par 5 yardages vary, and it has a signature stretch of holes on the back nine. The par 3’s, while not my favorite yardages, should generate some thought prior to your tee shot. And, for an Iowa course, the elevation change will surprise you. I suppose I’m that guy who thinks the whole Midwest is flat!
In order to score at Finkbine you have to drive the ball well. There is no way around that! Ideally you’ll want to shape it both ways, but if one shot isn’t working that day you’ll still be just fine. The problems arise if you start missing the fairways. The fairways aren’t terrifyingly narrow, however if you miss them it will likely be a pitch out from the trees on the parkland style layout. I missed three fairways during my round and didn’t have any shots at the greens! Thankfully it isn’t like a miss in the Mid-Atlantic where you lose the ball. You can still give yourself an outside shot at a par, it’s just your backswing or line may be obstructed.
There isn’t a bad hole at Finkbine, just good holes and better ones. The stretch from the 12th through the 15th are the best holes at Finkbine in my opinion! The 12th is a sharp dogleg left requiring you to pick a line and a club from the tee, possibly allowing you to carry a group of bunkers or a juniper-looking tree. Then, the landing area on the approach is blind. The 13th, the signature hole, is a downhill par 3 that plays to one of two island greens! It was about a club less for me to the left green, which is 160 yards on the scorecard. The hole is towards a corner of the property, so there weren’t any distractions.
The 14th and 15th play up and down a large hill and have a good look to them. You probably can reach the 15th in two since it is only a 462 yard par 5. But, the fairway slopes off slightly on either side with bunkers to the left and the pitch out trees lurking to the right!
The one drawback that I can see about Finkbine is its location. That is probably tied to its success too, since it is a collegiate course! The course is close to the University of Iowa and in an urban setting, not far from downtown Iowa City. It is bordered by roads on two sides, creating some outside distractions on occasion. There were students rolling by on scooters and someone even yelled fore as I walking up the 3rd fairway. If they only would have been driving by when I was on the 6th hole, and uncorked a tee shot!
The conditions were near perfect! The tees and fairways, except for divots, were like carpet. The bunkers were washed out from rains the day before, but I was impressed with how the rest of course drained. There was very little standing water, and it looked like the area got a good bit of rain. The greens were smooth and fast, although I didn’t read enough break on many putts. The rough was long and thick and I paid the price the few times that I had to play from it. I tried to muscle a 7 iron from it and ended up topping the ball! I’m sure the course keeps the rough longer to challenge the school’s golf teams.
Do yourself a favor and check out Finkbine if you find yourself in the area!
#1 (411 yard par 4):
#2 (511 yard par 5):
#3 (394 yard par 4):
#4 (163 yard par 3):
#5 (350 yard par 4):
#6 (504 yard par 5):
#7 (368 yard par 4):
#8 (185 yard par 3):
#9 (414 yard par 4):
#10 (425 yard par 4):
#11 (530 yard par 5):
#12 (357 yard par 4):
#13 (160 yard par 3):
#14 (397 yard par 4):
#15 (462 yard par 5):
#16 (369 yard par 4):
#17 (158 yard par 3):
#18 (426 yard par 4):