14, 22, 27, 30, 32, PB 31 – Those are the numbers I need to appear for the Powerball drawing on July 15th so I can carry out my dream of buying Willingers Golf Club and the surrounding land. Rumor has it that they are planning to build houses on that course, along with converting the par-4 eleventh hole to a par-3 (creating a par 71 course). If it were my course, that’s not exactly what I’d do.
The Twin Cities needs an annual PGA Tour stop–or at least participate in the new Western Open rotation. The two current PGA calibre courses, Hazeltine and TPC Twin Cities, are already spoken for, so a new course has to be built or an existing course renovated.
Willingers is a viable option if some changes were made. First, it needs added length. The current tips are listed at 6,809 yards, with a rating of 74.4 and a slope of 150. Compare this to the tournament tees at Hazeltine with a rating of 77.5 and a slope of 154 (that rating does not list yardage, but the 2002 PGA Championship played to 7,360 yards and some holes have been lengthened for the 2006 U.S. Amateur).
While there is some latitude to add new tees within the existing course boundaries, the key to this plan would be to buy the surrounding farmland (and, of course, the elusive gun club land). This would make room for new tournament tees on holes 3, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 16 and 17. This would also provide space for hospitality tents and on-site tournament parking (with no shuttle buses needed).
The driving range could be enlarged and shifted more to the south to allow for a larger clubhouse to be constructed. The existing building is nice, but it is not large enough for tournament activities. I would move the current practice green and build a Tudor-style clubhouse in the mold of Interlachen that would have scenic vistas over the 1st tee and the 9th and 18th greens.
Fine dining restaurant, casual grill, juice & coffee cafe, wireless internet access, outdoor patios, banquet and meeting facilities, fully-stocked pro shop, locker rooms, heated underground parking, library and business center facilities would all be a part of my ultimate clubhouse. Heck, throw in a mid-sized theater/auditorium for movies, presentations and guest speakers–it could serve as the media center for interviews during tournament week too. In fact, the whole building should be wired for the broadcast and technology requirements of a PGA Tour event.
The new range should include state-of-the-art practice facilities, with its own building for video analysis, golf simulators and year-round instruction. I’d ask Gerald McCullagh to head a new Willingers Golf Academy and bring along Dee Forsberg-Voss too.
The south metro is lacking in private clubs and I would plan to take the course private, but also create an innovative way to allow some open play in exchange for charitable support of a Willingers Golf Foundation. I drafted a plan to create a Minnesota Golf Foundation several years ago with the Minnesota Golf Association, but there was little interest from the MGA in the format as proposed. A Willingers Golf Foundation could serve as the benefitting charity of the new tour stop, with specific beneficiaries to be determined by a Foundation board. Allowing public play one day a week, with all proceeds benefitting the Foundation, would allow the general public continued access to the championship course the pros play.
Private clubs like Hazeltine are strictly golf clubs, while clubs like Interlachen are traditional country clubs, with tennis courts and swimming pools. I think both styles have their advantages, but since this would be my dream club, I’d add at least an indoor/outdoor pool and exercise equipment to increase options for families. Tennis has not been a big part of my life, but I would like racquetball/handball courts if space permits. Golf season in Minnesota is too short–additional year-round options make membership more valuable.
Northfield is just far enough away to be out of the hustle and bustle of the Twin Cities, yet close to both downtowns and the airport. Interstate 35 is not always the most traffic-free stretch of road in town, but it’s better than most areas that host events on the coasts. Hotels are an issue, as there are limited options south of the river. Players willing to commute from the Downtown/Bloomington/Edina/Eden Prairie areas, however, have a much wider selection of accommodations. I strongly dislike housing on golf courses, but would consider a few “cabins” similar to those at Augusta National (as long as they remained far from play).
Competition from local sports teams and other sporting events, including the 3M Championship and the Scholarship America Challenge, would be an issue for any new PGA Tour event. I would trade both current golf tournaments for the PGA if given the opportunity–the politics can be dealt with. There are plenty of well-to-do corporations in town that could support the cause.
The clock is ticking at Willingers. I’ll be watching those numbers closely Saturday night…DK
Originally published by DK on July 14, 2006 at 8:34 pm