Christmas Mountain Village golf pro brings his best shot...
...AND IT'S WORKING.
Out of all the golf courses in the Wisconsin Dells area, 2022 may be “The Year of Christmas Mountain Village.”
At least that’s been the focus and primary goal for Golf Professional Jacob James, a 28-year old whose passion for golf dates back to his pre-school years. Hired in September last year, James has stealthily worked to promote the image of Christmas Mountain Village (CMV) for the high-end golf course it is.
Nestled into the glacially carved steep bluffs overlooking the Wisconsin River Valley, Christmas Mountain Village is home to what is arguably among the most picturesque of courses in the region.
Its two sister courses, The Oaks and The Pines, are in the best conditions some golfers say they’ve seen in years.
The 18-hole Oaks, four-star rated as one of Golf Digest's "Best Places to Play," boasts stunning views over large portions of the Wisconsin River Valley’s bluffs, where, at times, golfers will drive their carts straight up Christmas Mountain. The Pines is a nine-hole course among the oldest still active in the area, and shrouded in tall, ancient pines.
‘Best views and the best value’
James came on board as, like many attractions, CMV was recuperating from two years of a national pandemic, and an irrigation issue that closed The Pines for over a year.To say CMV has bounced back from that time is an understatement.
As of late August, 11,200 golfers have utilized the courses at CMV, with at least a month to go in the entire golf season. That compares to season totals of 400 more than 2021, 4,860 than 2020 (when The Pines was closed), 1,450 more than 2019 and 761 more than 2018.
As prices have increased exponentially for just about everything imaginable, James said the cost to play golf on one of the most stunningly beautiful courses in the Dells region is still widely known as affordable.
“I think of all the courses in the Dells area, we offer the best views and the best value,” James said. “On the back nine of The Oaks, every hole is a really picturesque hole. You can see the bluffs in the background and the way the mature trees kind of build a backdrop is serene. Playing 18 holes on a weekend here is $84, and that includes your cart.”
One full season pass at CMV with unlimited golfing is $1,450.
In James’ first year at CMV, significant improvements have been made on both The Oaks and The Pines that have golfers buzzing. James said he’s been inundated with comments in person, online and via emails praising the upgrades. He said he’s glad to have an experienced, passionate management partner in CMV Course Superintendent Gregg Schernecker to implement the most needed improvements to bring the courses back to the reputation they once had.
James and Schernecker, who once built his own public golf course in Poynette for his children to learn the game of golf, have worked together to make The Oaks at CMV what may be the most improved course in the region.
The Oaks has been widened in some spots, growing by 30 yards on each side in some areas. The water regulating system technology was upgraded at a cost of around $100,000.
Two bunkers were put back into play that had been removed, including on The Oaks at hole 11, which was completely re-designed. A new third bunker was added at hole three on The Oaks where a small pond was.
“The two major changes were taking away the pond on hole three and making a bunker, and adding a limestone rock wall on hole 11 where it was just a hill,” James said.
Additionally, the drainage around holes six and16 on The Oaks was repaired so water is diverted better.
Leaving a mark
James not only brings a life-long passion to the game of golf, and his focus on the quality of the courses, he keeps a line of communication going with his CMV season pass holders. He regularly writes to them with updates, keeping them informed about specials, golf outings and events.
What some of them may not know about him is that at 28 years old, James has been playing competitive golf since he was eight years old, and was a member of the junior golf program at Kestrel Ridge in Columbus for a couple years.
In high school, James played other sports like cross country and basketball, but golf, he said, “was different.”
“While I enjoyed playing all the team sports and the connections I made playing them, golf provided me something different,” James said. ‘While team scores mattered, it was all on me how I performed out on the course: How I carried myself when I was struggling, how I carried myself when I was playing well, and how to compete on a different scale. I fell in love with the game because it is a lifetime sport and it is something you can always get better at. There is no limit.”
He was awarded the Captain Award and Most Valuable Player on the Columbus High School Golf Team in 2013. From there, he made golf a career, obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Golf Enterprise Management.
James has worked in the golf industry for ten years, and as a golf pro, or assistant golf pro, since 2015, at the Baraboo Country Club, the Indian Palms Country Club in Indio, California and Lake Wisconsin Country Club before hiring on at CMV.
“My step dad and uncle probably had the biggest role in teaching me young,” James said. “Since 2016, everyone I have worked with has been a great mentor to me.”
He said the mentor with the most impact, however, was golf pro Angel Martinez who hired him as an intern at Trappers Turn in Wisconsin Dells for a summer when James was a sophomore in college. Martinez then invited James to come work at Indian Palms in California.
“He pushed me to really start running my own events and begin to understand the entire operation of a resort style facility,” James said. “We did it all, from checking in golfers to serving events in the upstairs banquet area and that experience is what led me to Lake Wisconsin Country Club as the head golf professional where I continued to experience a whole operation from member events to fundraiser outings. This is where I started hiring my own team and working very closely with other managers to create the best experience for our members and guests alike.”
At CMV, however, James said he’s just getting started, and is happy to be working in concert with a course superintendent like Schernecker with the same goals.
“The course is back to where it probably was quite some time ago,” James said. “In general, conditions are immaculate, and they’re only going to continue to get better. We’re at the point where we want to leave our mark on this place. I feel like we’re on our way and taking the right steps to be there. We want to rebuild our reputation.”