DES MOINES, Iowa — Wakonda Club officials say hundreds of oak trees were cut down on the private, members-only golf course.
Aaron Krueger, director of golf at Wakonda, said the tree removal is part of an overhaul of the golf course that includes a new and more efficient irrigation system. The club also has plans to replant turf on fairways and tees, install new tee boxes and improve drainage throughout the course.
Wakonda Club ranks No. 5 in Iowa on Golfweek’s Best list of top private courses in each state.
“All these things we’re addressing are going to make the golf course more efficient from a maintenance standpoint, from a playability standpoint and from an enjoyment standpoint,” Krueger said. “It’s just a really really exciting project for us.”
The 18-hole, William Langford-designed golf course near downtown Des Moines opened in 1922. It was designed with the hopes of being the “most beautiful (course) west of New York,” and to be ranked among the best in the country, according to Wakonda’s website.
Ninety years later, in 2013, it became the host of the Principal Charity Classic, an annual PGA Tour Champions golf tournament that raises money for Iowa children’s charities.
The club hired Tyler Rae, a golf architect, to oversee improvements that would ensure the golf course remains viable for the next 100 years, said Rheanne Kinney, general manager and chief operating officer. She said part of that included removing 180 mature oak trees, mostly due to the trees’ health.
The club plans to plant 170 oak trees in the fall, she said.
“Most of our trees are similar in age, so we see them failing all at once. That’s a huge issue where we don’t want our entire tree population dying at the same time,” Kinney said. “So we are taking the proactive approach to making sure that we have many trees planted as well, so that they continue to grow and we don’t just one day have no trees.”
More: These are Iowa’s top five public and private golf courses, ranked by Golfweek
Kinney said an arborist evaluated the trees on the property. They indicated many were dying and “becoming quite a dangerous situation,” she said.
“Many of the ones that we cut down were hollow, rotting inside or diseased,” Kinney said.
This year’s Principal Charity Classic will be held June 1-4. Renovation will break ground after Father’s Day, June 18. Nine holes will be open through July 9, and then the course will be closed the remainder of the season. New trees will be planted in September.
Wakonda Club plans to host the 2024 Principal Charity Classic.
“We’re all looking at the future of the club and being a part of the Des Moines community,” Kinney said.
The golf club did see some members leave after it announced the renovation and tree removal, but does not know whether they left because of the plans. Kinney said they normally see some members leave when they take on big projects. The club did not disclose how many members left.
Rae, the architect, declined to comment for this story and the Register was unable to reach the arborist who evaluated the trees.
Noelle Alviz-Gransee is a breaking news reporter at the Des Moines Register. Follow her on Twitter @NoelleHannika or email her at NAlvizGransee@registermedia.com.