Wakonda Club history

Wakonda Club
April 10, 2013

By Champions Tour staff

The Principal Charity Classic, a Champions Tour event held in Des Moines, Iowa, since 2001, is headed to the Wakonda Club in 2013.

Glen Oaks Country Club hosted the event 11 times in the tournament’s 12-year history. Tournament Club of Iowa hosted the event in 2005.

“We’re eager to bring The Principal Charity Classic to the heart of our city and showcase downtown Des Moines to a national audience,” said Mary O’Keefe, chair of The Principal Charity Classic and senior vice president, The Principal. “Above all, we’re honored to partner with Wakonda Club to bring Champions Tour golfers to one of Iowa’s most legendary golf courses.”

Wakonda Club, founded in 1922, will host the event for the next three years.

“We have an absolutely win-win situation for the community, the charities, for Principal, for Wells Fargo (the presenting sponsor) and certainly for our membership,” added Dave Schneider, Wakonda Club general manager.

Jay Haas tied the tournament record (197, 16 under) when he won the 2012 Principal Charity Classic with a tournament-record five-stroke victory over Larry Mize and Kirk Triplett.

Here are some highlights of the Wakonda Club history:

1922: Wakonda Club, a 6,959-yard, par-72 course designed by William B. Langford, is founded. During his childhood Langford suffered from polio. A while later he took up golf (prescribed during rehabilitation) and excelled at the sport. By 1917 he had designed golf courses in Illinois, Michigan and Kansas. The original membership of Wakonda Club included 350 resident members. The formal opening of the clubhouse on Dec. 16 was apparently ‘a great event’, where diners were set upon by a band of Indian masqueraders who performed a war dance among the tables.

Wakonda borrowed its name from the native Indians. In 1922, the curator of the Historical Department of Iowa wrote: “This aboriginal word was found and mapped as the name of a stream which flows from southeastern Iowa to northeastern Missouri into the Mississippi and it came from the Indian apprehension of omnipotence. Manito was God whose power was Wakonda. The wind and hills were part of Manito but the winds were put in motion and the hills were kept in place by Wakonda. The floods and forests of Wakonda River fed the hungry and its quiet banks afforded rest. The ancient habitations and the modern homes along this Indian Jordan were part of Manito but through the power of Wakonda the wikiups have vanished and by his grace our modern homes remain.”

1930: An underground watering system (possibly the first in Iowa) was installed on the golf course... at a cost that exceeded $20,000.

1932: Wakonda was the only one of the private Des Moines clubs able to get a beer license.

1936: There was a fire which caused several thousands dollars in damage. A section of the clubhouse roof burned. Also, that year the caddies went on strike (for the first time) demanding higher wages.

Also that year, the 150 caddies had a second strike. Caddies’ fees at the time were $1 for 18 holes.

1938: The Board of Directors passed a resolution that male golfers must wear shirts.

1939: Wakonda Club experienced a third caddie work stoppage.

1944: The club files a petition in U. S. District Court for insolvency. It took four months to reorganize.

1947: Wakonda hosts the Western Amateur.

1948: The clubhouse burned to the ground. A bolt of lightning started the fire. A new clubhouse was built, costing $350,000.

1955: Wakonda hosts the Trans Mississippi Championship.

1956: Wakonda hosts the Women’s Western Open.

1961: Wakonda gets a new kitchen. The same kitchen is currently used for banquet events and preparation work. The stainless steel equipment cost the club $42,850 in 1961 and has proved to be a good investment.

1963: In September the United States Amateur Golf Championship was held at Wakonda. Deane Beman, who went on to become PGA TOUR Commissioner, won the championship.

1972: The 50th Anniversary of Wakonda Club was celebrated on October 13th. A gala evening was held with 360 members enjoying the music of Count Basie.

1975: Arnold Palmer participated in the first annual Multiple Sclerosis Exhibition, followed by his “army” of 3,000 fans.

1976: Jack Nicklaus gave a golf exhibition at the Wakonda Club in July, which attracted over 5,000 in the gallery. The proceeds again went to the John Ruan’s Multiple Sclerosis charity.

1983: The Board of Directors approved a $2.1 million program for clubhouse improvements and construction. It was completed in 1984.

1994: Record flooding the previous summer results in a major renovation project for the entire waterway system on the club’s grounds over a 12-month period.

1997: Wakonda Club celebrated their 75th anniversary on July 12. Over 450 people enjoyed a historical video review of the club on a large outdoor screen.

2001: A year for improvements included a resurfacing project for the entire parking lot as well as a newly constructed 5th green.

2002: Improvements on the golf course continued with a new 17th tee complex and 16th fairway.

2008: Some environmentalists and club members are unhappy that 98 fully-grown trees are removed from the property to allow more sunlight on new turf. Several hundred new trees are planted.

2009: Famed golf instructor Jim McLean visits Wakonda Club to perform a clinic for the Iowa PGA.

2012: Wakonda Club selected to host 2013 Principal Charity Classic, a Champions Tour event.