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Jack Tone Golf adjusts to 7-hole course to accommodate golfers

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Jack Tone Golf Course General Manager Aaron Heether points out one of almost a dozen greens that are now underwater that the swollen Stanislaus River has crept in and flooded.


POSTED May 17, 2017 1:03 a.m.

When Arron Heether arrives for work as the general manager of the Jack Tone Golf Course he’s used to seeing people hitting balls at the driving range.
But for the better part of the last week, Ripon’s only public golf course has had to turn away those who wanted to work on their strokes before heading out and golfing either nine or 18 holes alongside the meandering Stanislaus River.
And the driving range isn’t the only thing that’s closed.
With large water releases coming from New Melones Reservoir for the first time this year, the low-lying course has become inundated with water from the swollen river, which has engulfed all of the holes on the course’s back nine as well as two on the front of the course that wind down into the low-lying areas – cutting the playable holes on the course down to only seven.
And while it would be easy to throw his hands up and curse the gods for a record snowpack that will likely keep the river high for weeks if not longer – enough time to destroy the greens and much of the grass that is currently underwater – Heether remains optimistic that his dedicated stable of golfers and a community that loves to stay local will help keep things afloat.
“At this point it’s really just a mindset thing – there’s not much you can do but deal with the situation the best you can,” said Heether, who worked as the course’s head golf professional for almost a decade before assuming the GM role just over two years ago. “We’ve reconfigured some things to make the course playable, and we have some floating range balls coming in this week that will allow us to open that back up and there are some other things in the works.
“It’ll be a lot of work once the water recedes, but this course has been through floods before and we’ll be able to do the same this time around.”
It isn’t the first time that the course has faced this sort of a situation.
Just over a decade ago, the swollen Stanislaus River affected the course much the same way that it is now, and at the time the family that built the course on land still by the City of Ripon approached the city council to request relief in payments to the city as the course receipts were adversely affected – a relatively routine request that turned into a fierce battle between the Buzzini family, which still operates the course today, and a faction of the council that called their financial decision into question.
Since then, according to Heether, the lease has been renegotiated and the course pays into an emergency fund that will take care of the obligation to the city even in the event that Mother Nature deals a blow like it has recently.
And he’s thankful that the course has such a positive working relationship with the City of Ripon.
“We had a meeting last week to discuss things and they’re very understanding and very supportive,” Heether said. “I love everything about managing this facility in this town because everybody is so supportive and it shows even when you do something like that.
“It’s truly a family-like atmosphere when people come out to the course and we pride ourselves in maintaining that.”
According to Heether, even if the water recedes relatively soon, the amount of work that will need to go into reshaping and replanting the holes that are underwater will take months – requiring heavy equipment to reform the earth and smooth out any of the gopher holes that have become a problem in recent years. The earliest he’s anticipating having that open, if all goes according to plan, is October.
In the meantime, banking on promoting that family friendly atmosphere is where Heether is going to focus a lot of his effort – bringing in outdoor games and promoting a social scene that will provide something unique for the course and for the die-hard golfers that frequent it during the summer months.
Currently the 7-hole configuration has special rates. The sale of all new monthly passes – which require a one-year contact – are being halted until the work is completed.
For more information, or for status updates, visit the course’s Facebook page at, or call 209.599.2973. The course, located at 1500 Ruess Road in Ripon, is open seven days a week from dawn until dusk, and closes only for Christmas.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.

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