Jan 20, 2023 - News

Des Moines' Wakonda golf club will cut 185 trees

A photo of trees

Some of the trees at Wakonda Club have been marked as part of upcoming plans that will elimiante 185 from its golf course. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Wakonda Club met a fundraising threshold and will move forward this year with plans to restore its iconic 18-hole golf course to its original design.

  • That's according to a letter sent this month to members of the private club from its board of directors.

Why it matters: The plan calls for chopping 185 trees. Many are mature oaks that are part of the course's modern identity.

  • Hundreds of members have quit in recent months as the plans and its cost estimates have progressed.

Yes, and: Even DSM Mayor Frank Cownie — a leader in environmental advocacy — told Axios he may quit the club in protest.

  • Cownie's family was some of the century old club's founding members.

Details: The $6.5 million plan is being headed by golf architect Tyler Rae and includes replacement of the coure's irrigation system.

  • The course will close in early July for work with a goal to reopen in late spring of 2024.

State of play: The renovations will begin after this year's Principal Charity Classic, an annual PGA Tour Champions tournament.

  • Negotiations to renew the event's contract in 2024 are underway, according to the letter.

Zoom in: The previously projected monthly fees and capital dues will remain between $200 and $820, depending on the level of membership.

  • A special assessment to help pay for the renovations will additionally cost each member between $3K and $10K.
  • Members who recently quit but return by March 1 will be reinstated at their previous club status, according to the letter.

Zoom out: A second member assessment for clubhouse improvements was canceled. That portion of the project will be reevaluated in coming years, Rheanne Kinney, general manager of the club, told Axios Thursday.

  • Separately, a $400K tennis court improvement project this year will add new pickleball courts, Kinney said.

What they're saying: Fred Hubbell, a Wakonda member and former Democratic candidate for Iowa governor, told Axios last week that he and others remain concerned about the trees.

  • Plans call for replanting 170 trees in outer areas of the course but that can't make up for the loss of the mature oaks for generations, Cownie said.

The other side: At least 62 of the trees are in poor condition and would have been removed anyway, Kinney said.


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