Many area golfers played their first round as a child at Forest Heights Golf Course. The par-3 layout on Forest Avenue is the perfect size for children and beginning golfers because it's longest hole is only 150 yards, but it has been closed for nearly three years.
But not anymore.
''I've wanted it for some time from the moment I heard it was for sale,'' said new owner Scott Nedreberg. ''It took two-and-half years before I could finally get it. I'd been trying for some time, but it finally came together at the end of April.''
New owner Scott Nedreberg checks out one of his ‘‘babied and coddled’’ greens at Forest Heights Golf Course.
P-J photo by Jim Riggs
And it's a dream come true.
''The idea of having a golf course of my own has been a life-long dream since I was about 8 or 9 years old when I first started playing golf,'' Nedreberg said.
And one of the first courses Nedreberg played was Forest Heights because it was near where his grandparents lived when he visited Jamestown during his childhood.
''I played it under the lights,'' the 42-year-old Ohio native recalled.
Now he owns the par-3 course. However, not only had it been closed for three years, but for the last two years there was no mowing. So was it in better or worse shape than Nedreberg expected?
''It was worse,'' he said. ''The greens have been difficult getting back. Some of them came back. Some are taking a little bit longer than others.''
And he noted, ''For a par-3 golf course it's mainly about the greens.''
Nedreberg knows something about taking care of golf courses. Most recently he was the greens superintendent at Maplehurst Country Club which is just one of many golf courses he has worked at all over the country, including Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, the site of next month's Presidents Cup matches.
He noted the budget for course maintenance at Muirfield Village is about $1 million. That's quite a bit different than Forest Heights.
''I have myself and a few volunteers who help out once in a while,'' Nedreberg said. ''If I had a crew I'd have to pay and I don't pay myself.''
In the last week of April, Nedreberg started clearing away two years of overgrowth at Forest Heights, first with a rotary mower and then with a riding mower to take dead grass off the top to prepare for new grass to start growing again. Then he tackled the biggest problem - the greens.
''They were all pretty much torn up,'' he said.
Nedreberg mainly brought them back with a vertical mower and overseeding and then he ''babied and coddled them for the next month and a half.''
He has also given the course a bit more definition.
''There's quite a bit of high-grass area, it's kind of a Scottish-links style,'' Nedreberg said. ''It's quite a bit more challenging than it was.''
A local rule is a free drop out of the high grass.
''It's still a beginner's course and I want to discourage people from going in the high grass,'' he said. ''It's a beginning course, it's a learning course and I think one of the most important lessons to learn is to hit it straight.''
After a summer of hard work, Nedreberg finally opened Forest Heights on Aug. 30.
''I wanted to open earlier,'' he said. ''I knew I had to open at some point this year no matter what shape it was in. If I did two good months or two mediocre months that would be fine and by next spring it should be in really good shape.''
In 2014, Nedreberg wants to start up a senior league, a women's league and a junior league, and the latter is the most important.
''I think junior golf is one of the most important things for the golf industry,'' Nedreberg said. ''They need the par-3 courses. There's a definite niche for your beginning par-3 courses or else the golf industry doesn't get that input from the next generation that comes up.''
Forest Heights is priced for the beginner at $5 for nine holes and rental clubs are available along with pull carts. And with only a staff of one who is usually out working on the course, there will be a sign on the door telling customers to please put their money in a mailslot in the door.
There was some nostalgia on opening day as one of the first customers was a man who began golfing at Forest Heights as a child and he had brought his son there to learn to play.
Another customer was a visitor from Chautauqua who played 18 holes on back-to-back days.
''He was looking forward to seeing what I do with the place,'' Nedreberg said. ''He likes what he sees so far and he thinks it will be really interesting when I get it further down the road.''
And when will the new owner play?
Nedreberg is not only talented at working on a golf course, but also playing. He was the club champion at Maplehurst in 2009 and played in the 2010 P-J Champions tournament. However, now that he's running a course, playing golf will become an afterthought.
When asked if he planned to get out and play soon, Nedreberg said he did.
''It's on my list, under napping,'' he said.