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Teeing up: Ives Hill Country Club preparing updated grounds for reopening

Mar. 18—WATERTOWN — It's not quite tee time at Ives Hill Country Club.

After four years, Ives Hill is about to finally reopen once again. But Jake Johnson, who bought the golf course in August, will wait until the course is in "perfect" condition before golfers can play the game they love.

An opening date has not been set while work continues on getting the course ready for the season. Golfers keep asking him when it's finally going to happen.

"I don't want to open just to open," Johnson said.

The restaurant and bar have been open since December.

Improvements on the tee boxes, greens, fairways and bunkers were made in the fall. With the nicer weather during the past two weeks, the greens keepers have been busy getting the course to the condition of what golfers have come to expect, grounds manager Jamie Howe said.

"It's taken a lot to get back to the standards and condition that I would like to be ready," Johnson said.

He purchased the nine-hole course's 56 acres and the clubhouse and restaurant on West Flower Avenue. The land consists of 40 acres on the Ives Street/West Flower Avenue side of the street and 16 on the Weldon Drive side.

The other nine holes were retained by former owner P.J. Simao, who is looking to redevelop them.

When the deal was made public last summer, Johnson said he was interested in acquiring Ives Hill because he knew how much it meant to the city.

While he owns the historic golf course, Johnson no longer plays the game.

When he was younger, he played with a cousin and his grandfather, Gordon "Big Jake," Johnson, every time he visited him in Rochester, he remembered. His grandfather died in 2011.

The local developer now devotes all his time to his career and property company, he said.

On a partially cloudy Thursday, he and a few of his crew were out picking up sticks and other debris that accumulated on the course over the winter. They still have to put up new hole signs before the course opens.

Howe agreed with Johnson that Ives Hill has a tradition and reputation that they want to uphold.

"I want it to be as perfect as it can possibly be," Howe said.

A retired state trooper, Howe had five years of experience at Ives Hill before getting hired in the pro shop. He then was called to be outdoors as the manager.

"I've known him a long time," Johnson said.

Brandon Mothersell, a city golf champion in 2021, is golf pro at Ives Hill. He graduated from the Golf Academy of America in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, getting a degree in golf operations and management.

So far, about 100 golfers have signed up for memberships with Ives Hill. The club rates for the year are: $250 for juniors younger than 17; $450 for college students; $900 for adults; $750 for seniors and military; and $810 for tenants of Johnson's properties and employees.

Johnson thanked the community for its support of the clubhouse restaurant this winter.

To coincide with the golf season, the restaurant's menu will soon change and will include some specials. Skylar Short is the restaurant's general manager.

Ives Hill was first closed under its previous ownership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The country club opened in 1897.