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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 17, 2006

Schaefer’s big dream has big results

By Tim Matteson

DUANESBURG — Three years ago, Dave Schaefer had visions of a do-it-yourself golf course dancing in his head.

Now those delusions of grandeur aren’t so delusional as Schaefer’s small-time golfers’ wooded paradise is up and running, and faring well.

On an August morning in 2003, Schaefer told The Enterprise his dreams for running a place where golfers could learn the game and improve their irons. Hence the Iron Works.

"What I said in the article," Schaefer said this week, "really came true. That’s really cool."

Schaefer had to overcome a horrible wet spring to let the course blossom — the nine-hole fair is now Verdant fairway and the greens are very plush.

"It was a worse spring than three years ago," he said. "I had to put money into weed control. I had to put down fertilizer. I hired a guy to do it."

But Schaefer has proven to have a green thumb.

"Three years ago, I moved 200 spruce trees," he said. "You expect 50 percent of them to die. I only lost 10 out of 200. Every year, what I was planning has been perfect; it’s worked out."

Schaefer battles constantly to keep the course in great shape. He is forever mowing and pulling brush and branches and doing his self-proclaimed least favorite activity — trimming. He leaves the out of bounds areas alone. They are reminders of the wooded land where the golf course rests. He left natural ponds and stonewalls that he discovered three years ago while clearing the land.

The ponds are key to the major change that has not only improved the course tremendously, but kept it beautiful while saving Schaefer time. He set up a water pump system that uses the ponds as the major water source. The watering system cuts what would be a three-day job to an hour-and-a-half task.

"It gives me time to do something else besides watering trees and greens down," Schaefer said.

"A golfer’s golfer"

Schaefer also got help from one of his customers.

"One golfer that comes here works for the Star Tree Service," Schaefer said. "He’s a golfer’s golfer. But he comes out with his mother and daughter."

The golfer has hooked Schaefer up with a lot of equipment to use on the golf course.

"He came up to me after one day and said ‘You have a lot of stumps out there,’" Schaefer said. "The next day, I come out and there is a stump remover in the driveway. He said that I could use it if I fixed it for him. Another time, he saw me digging holes and he asked me if I had a Ditch Witch. The next day, I had a Ditch Witch. It cost me a couple of bucks to fix it, but I had it for three years. He just came back and took it the other day."

But that wasn’t the guys’ biggest contribution.

"The next thing I was trying to do was the irrigation system," Schaefer continues. "Two weeks later, he shows up with an entire fire engine — an old pumper. It was bright green. We stuck it behind the barn. He was like, ‘There’s the pump you need.’ I took the truck apart and opened this huge pump."

Schaefer has three pumps that are at the two ponds on the course and run water through underground pipes to feed the greens, keeping them the bright hue that they still are showing late into summer.

"A one-man band"

The next task for Schaefer is one that he has started but had to give up for a little while. He is building a snack bar, which he now hopes to have finished by the fall.

"I started it in March," Schaefer said. "But I had to stop in April once the season got going and I was into mowing mode. Once that happens, it’s hard to do anything else. It’s still tough being a one-man band."

Even still, Schaefer has made a lot of changes to the course. He widened the fairways and added a second tee to most of the holes. Some of the second tees change the look of the hole and make it more challenging to play. There are also carts at the course.

Schaefer also wants to build a clubhouse, but that is "plan X."

The course has personal associations for Schaefer, who built it all himself.

Hole five, for example, has a wooden swing which belonged to Schaefer’s father. He named the hole "Poppy’s Hole."

It’s tough for Schaefer to keep up as his course has become popular. Last Sunday, he had 40 golfers show up to play.

Schaefer can’t complain about the turnout. He won’t. He loves it. He loves seeing players who are just beginning to learn the sport or working on their games. He loves that people are having fun playing the game for the low price of $7 per golfer for nine holes and $10 for an additional trip through the nine holes.

"It’s a place for people to learn the game," Schaefer said. "They can go play the big course and they can practice here. It’s grown bigger than my vision."

Bigger than dreams

His hope three years ago was to have a place for kids from Duanesburg to practice. But he didn’t envision getting members of the Berne-Knox-Westerlo golf team using his course and becoming a big part of the program with a lot of credit from Coach Don Dennis for helping his players.

"He came out the other day and one of their team members was here golfing," Schaefer said. "They all don’t come at once, but they come out and they drag their fathers along. That is the way it should be."

Schaefer doesn’t charge the BKW players, and his kindness is rewarded at the end of the fall golf season.

"They give me a ball washer every year which is great," Schaefer said. "I have three ball washers, courtesy of Berne-Knox."

Schaefer said that "real golfers" come out to his course to warm up before their league matches. They like the challenge of the course and the easy-going atmosphere.

"I don’t think you will find five golfers that would admit to it," Schaefer joked of the pre-league warm ups.

He said that it isn’t just the new golfers who are learning from the course.

"The thing is, the course is teaching me things I never knew," Schaefer said. "I learn about the game and not just the golf course."

Schaefer said that he would like to get several tournaments at his course. The Quaker Street Inn held its inaugural golf tournament at Iron Works last year. The inn is coming back for its second tournament later this summer.

"It was a wonderful time," Schaefer said of last year’s tournament. "I didn’t play, but I helped out with the running of it. Then we went down there and had dinner and they had Karaoke. It was a first-class party."

Schaefer started another tournament that had a scramble format.

"I started it and I don’t know what to call it," he said. "It’s meant to be for fun. Scramble tournaments are fun and kids don’t have that chance to play them. With the exception of beer, the kids got to be in a scramble tournament. They had to bring an adult. Most were father-son, but there were also kids-uncles and mothers-daughters."

Though the business has its up-and-down moments, Schaefer is dedicated to keeping the course running.

"The other day I had just two golfers," he said. "And someone asked me, ‘How can I do it with just two golfers"’ I said, ‘It’s $14 that I didn’t have when I woke up this morning. I don’t like two-golfer days, but it’s better than zero golfers. We had 11 golfers on Saturday and 40 on Sunday. That’s a really big day."

Schaefer has even hosted his neighbors’ wedding at the course.

Schaefer has begun to advertise Iron Works and he is not worried that added traffic to the course will hurt the work he has done.

"It’s golfer-proof now," Schaefer said.

Schaefer doesn’t believe what his work over the last three years has produced.

"I’m still living the dream," he said. "And it’s a good one."

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