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Jerry Kelly helping design par-3 golf course that is part of new residential project in the town of Middleton

November 19, 2018

The developer of Hawks Landing has plans for a similar project in the town of Middleton that will include single-family homes intertwined with a par-3 course that Madison’s PGA Tour Champions golfer Jerry Kelly is helping design.

Called Pioneer Pointe and located at the site of the old Tumbledown Trails golf course on Mineral Point Road, the project will include 82 single-family home sites, a 13-hole par-3 course, a clubhouse with a fitness center and restaurant, a pool, playground, and tennis and pickleball courts, according to developer Jeff Haen.

“This is going to be a fun, family neighborhood and the par-3 concept fits right into it,” Haen said. His son, Kyle Haen, is a co-developer of the project. Kelly is part of the family, too, since Kelly’s wife, Carol, and Haen’s wife, Sue, are sisters.

Kelly says par-3 courses are becoming more popular because they take less time, and can be more fun, to play. Many of the top golf destinations — including Bandon Dune s in Oregon and Sand Valley in central Wisconsin and Treetops Resort in Michigan — have terrific par-3 courses and they get as much play as their regulation courses.

PGA Tour stars like Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth have designed outstanding par-3 layouts. Also, a PGA Tour Champions event called the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf tournament in Ridgedale, Missouri, has included par-3 courses in the 72-hole rotation.

“I think golf is moving in that direction. Cool par-3 courses are totally the way to go,” Kelly said.

“Anything that I can add from a player’s perspective to make the shot value pretty cool, that’s what we’re going to try and do.”

Developing Pioneer Pointe

Haen says he has an accepted offer to buy the property from the Watts Family Trust and the initial plans have been approved by the town of Middleton’s Planning Commission. He did not give any purchase numbers. He hopes to start moving dirt for the re-routing of the golf course in the spring, put the first 20 lots up for sale in about a year and open everything by the spring of 2020.

“So the golf course should be all done being seeded and growing next fall. Then we’ll probably start the construction of the clubhouse next summer to have it ready by April (2020),” Haen said.

Like Hawks Landing, the golf course and other amenities at Pioneer Pointe will be private, according to Haen. Unlike Hawks Landing, homeowners in the new development will be required to be members, he said.

The cost of the membership — which he is in the process of figuring out — will be part of their homeowners’ association fee, he said.

“I made a mistake at Hawks (by not requiring the membership),” Haen said. “Had I done that at Hawks, that thing would be really rocking and rolling pretty well (financially) right now.”

A hot seller’s market should help the project, which features lots bigger on average than the lots at Hawks Landing. It’s also in a strong location with plenty of amenities on site and nearby.

But Haen said Pioneer Pointe isn’t going to be Hawks Landing 2.0.

“We want this to be more affordable than really anything else,” Haen said. “It’s in the town of Middleton and has town of Middleton taxes, which are about one-third less than Madison. Plus you’ll be on a golf course with great proximity to Middleton schools.”

Products of the ‘golf boom’

Both Hawks Landing and Tumbledown Trails were products of the golf boom. Hawks Landing opened as an 18-hole course in 2002. A private course located across Mid Town Road from University Ridge on the Far West Side, Hawks Landing has a strong reputation for its conditioning, strong layout and outstanding practice area. Like most courses, it’s always in the hunt for members during golf’s long financial downturn.

Tumbledown, which opened all 18 of its holes in 1996, was the polar opposite of Hawks Landing. It had some of the lowest greens fees in the area and struggled with conditioning and a pedestrian layout throughout its lifetime before becoming a casualty of golf’s downturn this summer.

Haen said he knows of several other courses in the area that are struggling financially. So while he understands building a golf course is a gamble, he believes the par-3 concept with Jerry Kelly’s name attached to the design will spark interest.

Kelly suggested shortening the course to 13 holes when it was determined there wasn’t room for 18 holes, Haen said. Besides the fact that 13 is Kelly’s favorite number — it’s prominently displayed on his golf bag — he also thinks it works for golfers who want to a play an 18-hole configuration. “It’s perfect, you have 12 holes that work for the configuration and you have one extra hole that you make the betting hole,” Kelly said.

Designing the course

Lohmann Quitno Golf Course Architects Inc., of Marengo, Ill., which designed Bishops Bay Country Club in the town of Westport, is the lead architect for the golf course. Kelly, who is one of the leading money winners on the Champions Tour in 2018, is going to put the finishing touches on the design, Haen said.

Kelly has some golf course design experience. His redesign of the par-4 seventh hole at Maple Bluff Country Club, where he is a member, has received strong reviews. “I made it harder for the longer hitter and I made it easier for the shorter hitter. So I’d like to be able to take that same kind of approach. It’s not easy, but you just have to have both in mind all the time,” he said.

“I’ve heard and seen what some of the other PGA Tour players have done when they get a hold of these courses and they just want to build a course that only they can play. I don’t like that idea. I think it should be about what can you do both aesthetically and with playability; make it challenging but still cool for everybody to play.”

A routing map already exists and a rough layout shows the holes generally following the old hole routes at Tumbledown. The course measures 1,940 yards with the shortest hole at 110 yards and the longest at 250 yards.

Kyle Haen said Pioneer Pointe’s costs will be reduced because it can incorporate the irrigation system and other elements already in place for Tumbledown. Also, Hawks Landing superintendent Neil Radatz will supervise the maintenance of the course.

“Part of the reason we can tackle this project is just because of the connection with Hawks,” Kyle Haen said. “If we don’t have Neil, if we don’t have that background of running Hawks Landing, I think this is a pipe dream.”

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