This year's warm winter offered a break to Billings residents and local businesses. Without having to endure the harsh cold and heavy snow, a lot of businesses are getting a jump start on their work. For the folks at the Lake Hills Golf Course, the off season ended when the year began.

Since taking ownership in November of 2009, Ron Hill has been focusing on improving the Lake Hills course. The club was established in the 1950's, and in the years leading up to Hill's purchase it was in steady decline. This year, Hill ramped up the effort by taking on some big projects and bringing in a new grounds manager.

For those who live near by or have already started swinging, it is hard not to notice the mountain of mud between holes number five and 16. This is the course's biggest project, and it is an important one. The pond surrounding the island serves not only as a pretty obstacle for golfers, but as the water source for the course's irrigation. Even more important, the pond also serves as the storm drainage for a large section of the Heights. Due to lack of care in years past, the pond has lost necessary depth and has been consumed by algae.

The new grounds manager Mike Pigg began his work at the course January of this year. Pigg holds a degree in horticulture (the study of plant cultivation) from Montana State University in Bozeman. Alongside clearing out the pond, Pigg said his biggest goals for this year are getting the fairways and greens to a top-notch standard. When asked about the digging on the pond, he remarked that the project is not just for the course. "People are a little nervous about the mess now because they are just seeing the start. This will benefit the city by adding beauty and value to the area."

Comments of the grounds crew's improvements have already started coming. I spoke with one gentleman, Tom, who has been a member of Lake Hills for fifteen years. He said all little improvements like new signs and filled bunker have already made a big difference, and  he is excited to see how the course looks mid season.

Another golfer from Red Lodge, Shea Park, said this will be her fifth season golfing at Lake Hills. Her biggest compliments were the friendly attitudes of Lake Hills employees and other members. Because of the  laid-back demeanor, she said that Lake Hills is a great course for beginners. The club also offers free lessons to those new to the game. So, if you're up for a new hobby or just looking to dust off the clubs, Lake Hills is the place to start.

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