GreatLIFE announces leadership changes

GreatLIFE announces leadership changes

Original content published by Sioux Falls Business Journal with Jodi Schwan.

GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness has named Nick Ovenden as its new president, along with a new leadership team.

Ovenden replaces Donn Hill, who has been president since GreatLIFE was founded more than five years ago. Hill has taken a new position as pastor of missions and operations at First Evangelical Free Church. His last day at GreatLIFE is April 30.

He will continue to have ownership in Bakker Crossing Golf Course, which is part of GreatLIFE.

“Everything I’ve experienced has led me to this point, and it’s the right thing at the right time that allows me to work with the church I’ve been part of all my life and use my passion for mission in places like South Sudan. I’ll still be a supporter of GreatLIFE because I believe in the mission and I believe we’re making a positive difference in people’s lives,” Hill said.

“The element that’s much different from even what we conceived was how huge the fitness role could become in this and how much the company could actually impact people’s lives through fitness and healthy lifestyles.”

GreatLIFE was founded by Tom Walsh Sr., who remains CEO.

“As with all things, there’s change, and I want to thank Donn for five great years,” Walsh said. “What we’ve been able to accomplish has changed the world. We’ve become a lifestyle.”

Ovenden is well positioned to take over the leadership role, Walsh and Hill said.

A Sioux Falls native and Augustana University graduate, he worked at the Sanford POWER program before becoming a trainer and assistant department head at Life Time Fitness in the Twin Cities. He joined GreatLIFE as director of fitness and nutrition in early 2014.

“I love everything we stand for,” Ovenden said. “I understand what Donn’s vision and leadership style has been, and I think I’ll be able to utilize a lot of the knowledge I’ve gotten from him and be able to take the company on for 20 or 30 years, hopefully. We’ve talked about changing the world, and that’s truly what we want to do.”

Ovenden will lead a newly named leadership team:

Brad Hansen is vice president of development. He joined GreatLIFE as director of food and beverage last year and has more than 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry, including as an operating partner at Burger King.

“Brad has a great financial grasp of the things we need to do, and he can help us take a step back and see what makes sense,” Ovenden said. “His food and beverage background really helps our golf and fitness centers take their offerings to the next level.”

Randall Hill is vice president of fitness, after previously managing the GreatLIFE Performance Center at 69th Street and Southeastern Avenue.

“Randall is an incredible leader,” Ovenden said. “He just turned 30, and he leads like he’s been doing it for 20 years. He’s a very visionary thinker, and he’s got people who follow him who put his vision into action, and that’s why he’s been so effective.”

Jason Sudenga is vice president of golf. He has led golf at GreatLIFE since its inception after doing the same at Bakker Crossing.

“Jason is the best business mind in golf,” Ovenden said. “He’s a golf mind but open to change and is not a traditionalist. He’s open to ideas and knows we don’t have a typical golf base.”

With about 40,000 members and more than 500 team members, GreatLIFE has fundamentally changed the golf and fitness market locally in the past five years. Ovenden predicts significant growth ahead, though.

“Our ultimate goal is to change the world, so we need to figure out how to manage our growth and be great at what we do, so when we grow into different cities, we’re providing the best possible member experience,” he said. “As long as we’re doing that, I think our potential is limitless. There are a lot of places with golf courses and fitness centers, but what sets us apart is our culture – our attention to detail and how much we care about our members.”

Ovenden is passionate about building GreatLIFE and brings the work ethic needed to do it, Hill added.

“We have a lot of people committed to doing whatever it takes to get it done, and Nick’s been that way from the start, along with many others,” he said. “He’s the right guy to carry it on.”

Ovenden agrees the job is more than a job.

“It’s so much more than a paycheck,” he said. “I know that’s cliche, but when you find your passion and understand your calling in life and you can apply that to work, it doesn’t seem like work.”

Golf season brings new rules of the game. Here’s what you need to know

Golf season brings new rules of the game. Here’s what you need to know

Original content published by Sioux Falls Business Journal with Jodi Schwan. Sponsored by GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness.

While golfers begin to immerse themselves in all the routines involved in getting their games in shape after a particularly long and cold winter, they’ll have additional adjustments to make this spring.

The Rules of Golf have changed. While none of these changes would singularly qualify as earthshaking, collectively reducing the sport’s 34 core rules to 24 definitely will be worthy of study and commitment to memory for those who desire to play the game the right way.

The most obvious change, one that fans have witnessed on television since the PGA, Champions and LPGA Tours began play in January, is that golfers now have the option of leaving the flagstick in for all shots, including putts.

Other rule changes may not be as obvious but could be just as important depending on the situation. Collectively, it’s an attempt by golf’s governing bodies to simplify with a nod to making the game and its rules a little more accessible to the casual player.

“The whole point is to make golf more playable,” said Jason Sudenga, GreatLIFE director of golf. “I think they’ve done that, especially with the flagstick. There’s not so many rules with the flagstick or with golf balls on the putting green.”

Here’s a summary of some of the major changes, some of which will affect amateur casual golfers.


In the old days, once a ball was on the green, the flagstick had to be removed for the next shot. Not anymore. Now, it’s entirely up the preference of the golfer whether it’s out or in.

“Some people say it’s an advantage to keep the pin in, and some say it’s not,” Sudenga said. “I guess it depends on the situation that you’re in. It could hurt you, and it could help you. I’ve seen examples of both already this year.”

An obvious motive for this rule change involves speeding up play.

“You don’t have to take the time to pull the flag out and put it back in,” Sudenga said. “You can hit it in, pick up your ball and then move on to the next hole.”

Repairing greens

On TV, the next most noticeable rule change involves caddies not being able to stand behind their golfers during putts. On a local level, however, the fact that golfers now will be able to repair everything in their path from ball to hole will be much more applicable. In the past, it was OK to repair ball marks that might alter the shot, but for reasons that seemed mystifying to many golfers, they could not repair spike marks. Now, it’s OK to repair with impunity, regardless of origination.

“On a day-to-day basis for the average golfer, it could really come into play,” Sudenga said. “We’ve seen with the elimination of metal spikes a drastic reduction in spike marks on the green from what it used to be. Now, they’re saying, ‘Hey, if you see one you can tap it down.’ ”

Accidental movement of the golf ball

In the past, if a golf ball on the green was accidentally bumped while being marked, it was cause for a penalty. Now, accidents like this will be tolerated as long as the ball is put back in its original spot. Furthermore, if a ball moved after it was placed after being marked, players had to play the ball from wherever it ended up. Now, they can move the ball back to its original spot without penalty. “The new rules are definitely a little friendlier on the greens,” Sudenga said. “If the wind moves your ball, you pick it up and put it back and away you go. That’s a nice one for golfers.”

No more two-chip penalties

It’s possible to hit a ball twice on the same shot. Famously, it was an act committed by T.C. Chen in the 1985 U.S. Open and played a role in costing him the tournament. It usually happens during chip shots with the club deaccelerating as it moves through shot. It was a one-stroke penalty, and now golfers can just play the ball where it lands without an additional stroke added to the score.

No such thing as a water hazard

Water hazards have been renamed “penalty areas” in the golf rule book with no distinguishing one from the other. Golfers are free to move loose impediments and ground the club without fear of penalty. Players can not try to improve their chances of hitting out of a penalty area by using a club to clear a path, however.

“There were a lot of golf courses out there that were marking areas of the course as water hazards when they were not water hazards,” Sudenga said. “I like this rule. It’s going to save some time because you’re going to be able to make a drop instead of going back to the tee box to hit again.”

While there are several other rule changes, most of them will not affect a normal non-tournament round. For a complete list, with explanations and clarifications, players can visit the USGA website.

Here’s a look at all the major changes courtesy of GreatLIFE:

  1.  SEARCH TIME – Reduced from 5 minutes to 3 minutes
  2.  BALL MOVED DURING SEARCH – Replace with NO penalty
  3.  EMBEDDED BALL – Free relief anywhere through the course
  4.  MEASURING A DROP – Use longest club (except putter)
  5.  DROPPING – Drop from knee height rather than shoulder
  8.  DOUBLE HIT – NO penalty, now only counts as 1 stroke
  11.  DROPPING A BALL OUT OF BUNKER – 2 penalty strokes
  12.  WATER HAZARDS – now called “penalty areas”
  14.  BALL MOVES ON GREEN AFTER BEING MARKED – replace without penalty
Play Now. Pay Later.

Play Now. Pay Later.

You’ve waited forever to play 9 or 18 and golf season is finally here. Signup for a Golf and Fitness membership today. And when you do, you’ll have no payments until May. That should make you get your clubs ready.

$59.99 gets you access to 19 different regional courses. Couples memberships are just $69.99. Make up for lost time and enjoy unlimited golf. Even better, squeeze in a workout at any GreatLIFE fitness location. Enjoy fitness classes and even go bowling.

Play now and pay later with no payments until May. Learn more at

*Offer good for new memberships only. Please bring voided check at time of sign up. Not valid with any other offers, some restrictions apply. Excludes Mitchell, SD, location.

Get Ready for the Greens

Get Ready for the Greens

It’s getting to be golf time at GreatLIFE and you can swing into the season by signing up for a Golf and Fitness membership today. And when you signup, there’s no enrollment fee and no payments until April.

$59.99 gets you all the driving, chipping and putting you’ve been waiting for. Couples can signup for just $69.99. Enjoy unlimited golf at some of the region’s finest courses. Plus, you’ll have access to all GreatLIFE fitness locations, fitness classes and even bowling.

With no enrollment fee and no payments until April. There’s no reason not to join. And a great reason to get on the greens.

*Offer good for new memberships only. Please bring voided check at time of sign up. Not valid with any other offers, some restrictions apply. Excludes Mitchell, SD, location.

A Great New Year Starts Here

A Great New Year Starts Here

There’s a lot to look forward to in the coming year. And a great New Year starts with GreatLIFE. Join now for $0 down, no enrollment fee and no payments until March.

We’re extending this offer to encourage members to start the year off right and commit to a fitness lifestyle. Fitness memberships start at just $39.99 per month.

Your Fitness Plus membership also entitles you to year-round perks like free bowling at Suburban Lanes and discounts at Skyzone Trampoline Park and the Washington Pavilion.

For five years, GreatLIFE has helped families live and play, better. Why? Because we know that fitness enriches lives. And we want your life to be its best in 2019. Join today.

*Offer good for new members only. Please bring voided check at time of sign up. Not valid with any other offers, some restrictions apply. Excludes Mitchell, SD, location.

GreatLIFE Expands with Golf Partnership in Yankton

GreatLIFE Expands with Golf Partnership in Yankton

This is a piece originally posted on Sioux Falls Business with Jodi Schwan.

Golfers in Yankton and beyond will have another option this season as GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness has started a four-year lease with the city of Yankton for Fox Run Golf Course.

“We really like the course,” GreatLIFE president Donn Hill said. “It’s in good condition, and they really do a nice job maintaining it.”

The 18-hole course is on the north side of Yankton just off Highway 81. It includes a pro shop, practice putting and chipping greens, a practice sand bunker, driving range and indoor simulator.

“It’s a parkland course with mature trees,” Hill said. “And it has big greens and wide fairways, so it’s good for golfers of all abilities.”

The relationship will be a good example of how GreatLIFE can partner with municipalities similar to Yankton, which has about 15,000 residents, to turn their golf courses from liabilities into assets.

“We believe that most municipalities in that size range lose money on their golf courses. They’re subsidizing them,” Hill said.

“We think this is an opportunity to work with Yankton to show that doesn’t need to happen anymore. Other cities, as they see what we’re able to do with our model, will realize they too don’t need to lose money operating golf courses.”

Yankton-area residents can begin signing up for memberships this month. They also will have access to unlimited fitness at the Summit Activity Center, which includes an indoor pool and waterslide along with an indoor walking track, cardio equipment, free weights, fitness classes and two gyms.

“And we’ll be bringing additional fitness options to Yankton,” Hill said. “We’re working on several opportunities we think GreatLIFE members will really enjoy.”

Fox Run Golf Course will continue to be staffed by pro Matt Drake and superintendent Jason Metz.

“We’re looking forward to working with them, and we’ll be hiring many more people in the community as well,” Hill said.

GreatLIFE members from outside Yankton also can use their unlimited golf and fitness benefits there.

GreatLIFE Announces It Is Now Managing Fox Run Golf Course In Yankton

GreatLIFE Announces It Is Now Managing Fox Run Golf Course In Yankton

GreatLIFE is excited to announce it is now managing Fox Run Golf Course in Yankton.

Fox Run is an 18-hole golf course that opened in 1993. It features exceptional golf for any age and all the amenities of Lewis and Clark Lake and the Missouri River right next door.

“We’ve always had a great relationship with this wonderful destination and the people of Yankton,” says GreatLIFE Chairman/CEO Thomas P. Walsh Sr. “We’re excited to add Fox Run to the family and we have a lot more plans in store.”

Yankton GreatLIFE members also have access to Summit Activities Center. The 40,000+ square foot facility includes:

  • Heated pool and water slide
  • 2 gyms
  • Indoor walking track
  • Extensive cardio equipment
  • Free weights
  • Fitness classes
  • 8 outdoor tennis courts
  • 2 outdoor softball fields

GreatLIFE also plans to add additional fitness locations in Yankton in the near future. A GreatLIFE Golf and Fitness Plus membership entitles members to unlimited golf and unlimited fitness to 23 golf courses and 16 fitness centers around the region.