Dec 16, 2022 - Business

Wakonda Club's golf membership tumbles as project approaches

A photo of golf at Wakonda Club.

A scene from the PGA Tour Champions Principal Charity Classic in 2017. Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP

Wakonda Club membership has plummeted in recent months due to concerns with a plan to restore its iconic 18-hole golf course to its original design, multiple current and former members tell Axios.

Why it matters: The private, member-owned club has been an important piece of DSM's culture for 100 years. The exodus of members could hamper its future.

What's happening: A multi-million dollar renovation headed by golf architect Tyler Rae would bring the course back in line with its original Langford design.

  • Langford courses are known for pushing player strategy, partly by incorporating rough landscapes like hilltops or ravines into the course.

Zoom in: The plan would add more sand traps and likely require the removal of hundreds of trees.

  • That's caused worry among some people who are fans of its mature oaks, member Fred Hubbell told Axios.

Yes, and: The plan would be phased over a series of years with building or clubhouse improvements coming last.

  • Some members believe upgrades to amenities like tennis courts should come first to make the club more appealing to younger players, said Curt Yocom, a 44-year club member who quit in October.

State of play: A $5,000 per-member special assessment to help pay for the first phase is expected in February and there's concern that subsequently larger payments will be required due to the loss in membership, Yocom said.

  • Meanwhile, the club's membership dropped about 40% from 675 to around 425 people, former club president Bob Buckley said.

Of note: Wakonda's board will meet in January when details linked with projects and member assessments will be better known, Rheanne Kinney, the its general manager told Axios.

  • Course renovations won't begin until after the 2023 Principal Charity Classic in June and likely be completed by September, she said.
  • Course closure during the renovation is also a member worry, Yocum noted.

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