Ray Richards Golf Course re-opens

It won’t be long before birdies, eagles and more are flying on Ray Richards Golf Course again.

The UND nine-hole course reopened to the public on Saturday, June 13, with opportunities for disc golf. It will host its first rounds of public recreational golf in nearly four years, on Saturday, June 20.

For more information on disc and traditional golfing opportunities at Ray Richards, including COVID-19 safety precautions, setting up tee times and a 10-percent discount offer for season membership pre-registrations (before June 22), check out the official golf course website.  You can also find information on Facebook and on Twitter @RayRichardsGC.

Cash-only payments will be collected, until further notice, at check-in, while course managers await installation of equipment for other types of transactions.

“We are delighted at the prospects of bringing the golf course back online and restoring the legacy of wellness and recreation that Ray Richards and others made possible at UND so many years ago,” said Jed Shivers, vice president for finance & operations/chief operating officer.

‘Happy’ family

The family of the late UND benefactor Ray Richards, the golf course’s namesake and donor of much of the land that made the course possible, also has been kept apprised of University plans to reopen the course to public play.

“The family of Ray Richards is happy that his legacy is again honored with the reopening of the golf course bearing his name,” said Holly Ray Douglass, a great grandniece, representing many of the extended Richards Family who have been involved in the reopening plans. “It is gratifying to us that the land donated for this expressed reason is again fulfilling its intended purpose. It is our hope that golfers and nature lovers will enjoy it for decades to come.”

Grounds work on the course continues at a feverish pace to get it up to quality standards for traditional golf later this month, according to Kyle Myers, Ray Richards general manager. The fairways look great and the greens are almost to the standard that Myers would like to present to golfers and former members.

In the meantime, Myers said he’s eager to show off its new distinction as a world-class disc golf course. He said he’s had a handful of professional disc golfers test out the course in recent weeks, and they’ve had rave reviews.

“They are as excited as we are for it to open publicly,” Myers said. “It’s quickly becoming one of the more popular disc golf courses in the Midwest. The popularity of the course is greatly exceeding our expectations, and we are looking forward to hosting competitive and noncompetitive players.

“A few pros have already set their tee times for Saturday.”

Myers said plans are to open course to disc golf, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., beginning Saturday. Public disc golf hours will be adjusted once the course is ready for traditional golf. The public is encouraged to refer to Ray Richards’ website and social media channels for information on specific times for disc golf.

“As popularity of disc golf on our course grows, we can assure traditional players that their golfing experience will not be affected, Myers said. “Traditional golf will remain the king of the course, but we certainly look to take advantage of the added value that the growing sport of disc golf brings to our facility.”

Myers said there will be a small fleet of carts available by June 20, with a larger complement expected to be ready to go by the beginning of July. The golf course driving range will not be open to the public as the University continues to explore interest in alternative uses for that space.

Lasting gift

Land donated to the University 57 years ago by the late Ray Richards, a Tulsa, Okla., petroleum engineer, formed the nucleus of what would become the Ray Richards Golf Course. He worked with UND to turn the some of the land around his family homestead into a golf course. The idea was born in the early 1960s when former UND President George Starcher occasionally joined Richards for golf in the latter years of the benefactor’s visits to Grand Forks. Richards, at the time, was in the process of liquidating his family’s farm, which was located across the railroad tracks just south of campus. Over the years, Richards would also provide more donations for the Ray Richards clubhouse, scholarships and to his fraternity, according to family members.

In addition to land donated by Richards, UND eventually purchased additional land and raised construction funds for the golf course project.

Ray Richards Golf Course first opened to the public on April 30, 1968, and, to date, has hosted some 60,000 rounds of golf. In 2016, UND decided to shutter the golf course in a cost-saving move after state-mandated budget cuts impacted every unit on campus. The decision was subsequently reversed.

Myers said that COVID-19 related challenges in dealing with vendors and suppliers pushed back University plans to open the course sooner, at least for disc golf, but the wait should be worth it once the public sees the result of efforts to bring the course back to life. He added that a higher-profile celebratory event to observe the course’s reopening may be in the works for some time next year.

“We’re really looking forward to getting some life back on the course this weekend,” he said. “The course is already beautiful, but it’s the people, the camaraderie and friendly competition that will add the finishing touches to the picturesque landscape — that is what our staff and grounds crew is most excited for.”