Editor’s Comments: A New Use for Old English Ground

Jan. 1, 2001

The town of English, IN, is gone; it packed up and moved east a few years back. Right where the downtown area used to be, a golf course is now taking shape.

Severe, repeated flooding from the Little Blue River—four major floods in the last 50 years, worsening after channel lining was installed along several miles of the river in the 1960s—finally led English’s 700 residents to move to higher ground just east of the old town site. Most homes and businesses have been demolished and rebuilt, although a few buildings were transferred.

Filling Empty Space

A condition of the federally funded move was that the 100 ac. in the floodplain where the town used to stand had to be converted to a park or other regularly maintained area. Two local residents started a development company to build the Old English Golf Course. Funding has come from private donations, investments, and loans. After the course opens, it will be owned by the Town of English and managed by the development company, Sterling Development Corporation. Several of the holes will be directly on what was once the downtown area, and additional private land has been purchased to accommodate the rest of the 300-ac., 18-hole course.

Companies, universities, and civic organizations have donated more than $1 million in goods and services to the project. Golf course architect Michael Hurzdan donated time. Purdue University provided photogrammetric mapping. Other companies have loaned labor and equipment, performed soil analyses, and even created a marketing video.

Two companies are helping out with much-needed erosion control services: Easy Lawn of Bridgeville, DE, has helped with hydroseeding, and Central Fiber of Wellsville, KS, and Canton, OH, has provided fiber mulch.

Ground clearing for the golf course started in the spring of last year, with local volunteers supplying some of the labor. “Most of the area was already clear because the town had been cleared away,” notes Bob Lisle of Easy Lawn. “But the architect came in, and they started reshaping the ground to turn it into a golf course, filling and cutting so it’s not just a big flat piece of ground.”

Several months into the project, says Lisle, “The Department of Natural Resources and the Corps of Engineers were getting on their case. They had all this open, exposed ground going into winter, and they had to get it seeded before it eroded away.” Nearly 40 ac. had to be hydroseeded fast.

“We went out there for a day, showed them how to use our machine, and trained their people, then we left them the machine for about three weeks while they did the hydroseeding,” he recalls.

Central Fiber donated hundreds of bags of Second Nature Easy Mix fiber mulch and some technical advice. “We got them going because they’d never hydroseeded before,” states Central Fiber’s Al Turner. “Bob was out there with his crew to show them how to use the hydroseeding machine. We showed them how to put the fiber mulch in the tank and how to add the seed—very simple to do, but when you’ve never done it, it kind of looks complicated. They grasped it pretty quickly.”

Not Your Usual Course

“It’s very unusual, the way it’s designed,” remarks Turner. “It goes under cattle passes and everything. The farmers who own some of the land there had given them some rights of way under the bridges where the creeks were going through so they could build a retaining wall and make a walkway to the next tee-off.”

English happens to lie in the only county in Indiana without a golf course. The southern Indiana town hopes the new course will generate revenue. Because of a $100,000 grant from The First Tee, an initiative to introduce the game to kids and novice golfers, the course will also include practice holes, a driving range, and a practice putting green. Nine of the holes will also be lit for nighttime play. Features like this, along with the strange circumstances surrounding the course’s origin, are expected to attract people from far outside the English area. Golfers from Louisville, KY, about 40 minutes away, frequent other courses in Indiana, and Turner notes that they’ll have to pass right by the Old English Golf Course to reach some of them. 

 “They’re doing it on a shoestring,” says Lisle. “We’ll be working with them again in the spring. We’re trying to give them a boost to see if they can’t get it finished.”

“Once it’s done,” adds Turner, “it’s going to be a beautiful golf course.”

About the Author

Janice Kaspersen

Janice Kaspersen is the former editor of Erosion Control and Stormwater magazines.