The baseball movie “Field of Dreams” was filmed in Dyersville, Iowa. Some two-and-a-half hours southwest just might be golf’s field of dreams.
I must admit The Harvester, designed by course architect Keith Foster 25 miles northeast of Des Moines in Rhodes, had the same ethereal effect on me as did the famous film, even before realizing the Iowa connection. The popular layout is a tough but fair 7,340-yard, par-72 gem from the tips, although course owner Dickson Jensen and I opted for the 6,775-yard blue tees, which play to a 72.9/133 rating/slope as opposed to 75.6/137 from the black tees.
The meticulously maintained course — No. 46 in Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses 2013-2014” ranking — has surprisingly dramatic elevation changes, contradicting my prior belief that Iowa is dead flat. Still, it’s a peaceful, easy walk over the bucolic property, which is dotted with groves of native trees, waving fescue, winding creeks, placid ponds and 60-acre Lake Harvester, which affects play on five holes.
Following a shaky bogey-double bogey start, I birdied the stout, 180-yard third hole, which requires an all-carry shot over a tee-to-green pond, and made par on the beautiful 575-yard fourth to right the ship. Besides the third, my other favorite front-side holes are the 560-yard sixth, a lovely downhill test that requires carrying a green-front water hazard, and the strong, uphill 465-yard par 4. The drive must avoid Lake Harvester on the left side, which then cuts in front of the landing area, necessitating an approach over water to the green.
The final five holes highlight an outstanding back nine. The 230-yard 14th, depending on the day’s tee location, plays from two completely different angles to a green with a blind rear lower section. The uphill 650-yard 15th, aptly nicknamed “Big Hog,” is the course’s longest and No. 1 handicap hole. The 480-yard, par-4 16th plays downhill to a putting surface backdropped by the lake, which also guards the left-to-right front sides of the peninsula green on the 180-yard 17th.
The lake also plays a prominent role on the classic risk-reward, 565-yard 18th. Water lines the entire dogleg-right hole’s right side, then separates the landing area from a middle peninsula, and again severs the middle peninsula from a final patch of land upon which the undulating green and three bunkers await.
No matter how you fare on the demanding finishing stretch, you’ll no doubt find The Harvester is a course you’ll want to play again and again. Apparently Dickson Jensen and Keith Foster — like Kevin Costner —are true believers in the “Build-It–and-They-Will-Come” philosophy.
The Harvester, Rhodes, Iowa
Rates: April 12 (course opening)-May 27, $99; May 28-Sept. 15, $129; Sept. 16-Oct. 31 (course closing), $99
Stay-and-play packages are offered at The Harvester’s on-site lodge and multi-room condominiums: www.harvestergolf.com/amenities/packages.html