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Cragun's 2016

Travel Club
July 22, 2017

Amana Colonies Golf Club - Truth Be Told
Amana Colonies #4
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Amana Colonies #4
Amana Colonies #5
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Amana Colonies #5
By E. Nolan

It is no exaggeration whatsoever to say that this is one of the five best golf properties in Iowa (arguably even Top 3). It is also no exaggeration to say that Amana Colonies Golf Club has never been in better hands. Those might be considered bold statements to someone who hasn't seen and experienced all of Iowa's best courses... to someone who hasn't visited Amana Colonies a half-dozen times over the last ten years. But, to those of us who have done both... we know these sentiments are very much THE TRUTH.

For a full decade now I've been providing written prescriptions to golfers promoting properties operated by KemperSports and Troon Golf - the two best golf management companies in America. We're a little less familiar with Troon in the Midwest, but they do manage Giants Ridge in Minnesota, and the new owner/operator of Amana Colonies spent the past decade (before buying the club last year) representing Troon - operating some of their signature properties in Arizona and Connecticut.

A decade of experience in anything teaches you a lot about "best practices," regardless of focal area, and Stephen Kahler is already intently pouring his Troon-taught knowledge and purposeful passion into this - his personal investment. He knows what the property is, what it has been, and he knows what it can be. Stephen Kahler and his business partner, Bob Johnson, formed Kahler and acquired Amana Colonies through a combination of chasing dreams and "perfect" (for them) circumstances. Stephen LOVES Iowa, and golf, and with two children and a wife who wanted to be close to their Midwestern home, he capitalized on the opportunity to take something great like Amana Colonies Golf Club and make it even greater. The old clubhouse burning down didn't deter them - they immediately built a new one. Appropriately, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the NEW Amana Colonies is beginning a most luminous life.

Out with the old, and in with the new. Stephen gave 2016 Iowa Superintendent of the Year Nominee, Reid Pickering, the reins to the turf at Amana Colonies last summer, and Reid went straight to work on reinvigorating the greens. With new maintenance equipment, and a background of modern application techniques gained from his experience at Short Hills Country Club and Quail Creek, Reid and Stephen outlined their master plan: firm the fairways, trim back the trees, reemphasize the beautiful sightlines, speed up the greens and most importantly... make the entire course playable again. Credit that ambition. (Extra credit for having successfully completed all of that in just the first year.) Now for Year Two.

"We've rolled out 64 brand new golf carts," Stephen says. "We have golf groups who sent their scouts out to investigate our progress last fall, booking their events here again (after years of going elsewhere). We've got new business partnerships in Coralville, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City (each only 20 miles away) churning golfers our way, and a 3,200 square foot building by the lake that we're converting into an event center this year, with all the necessary facilities for hosting weddings, parties and other social gatherings. We've brought the popular lantern logo back, with a little more light in the design, and you can bet this is going to be this club's most successful year ever. We're going back to the roots of what this place was built to be, back to the roots of "golf first," and grounding our growth on the roots of all the people who used to love to play here. Our aim is to be THE best course in Iowa, and we don't know why it couldn't or shouldn't be." Who wouldn't want to work for a man with a vision like that? (I just mailed in my application.)

Stephen isn't telling you that the course is "already there" - Kahler Golf's corporate vision is far more elaborate... their master plan encompasses many more steps. But this is the most significant wager of Stephen's career, and he wants all of the responsibility and accountability that goes with that. I can tell you a lot about the golf course from my own experiences. I've seen a lot of deer there. I've stayed in the condos just off the course, (with Stay & Play packages available) eaten meat from the famed Amana Meat Shop that the course is now working with, and I've lost a few golf balls in the beautiful ponds. I loved the walk, the ride, the many signature holes, water carries and various shot challenges. I loved all of the remote, and natural majesty, and I really can't wait to love it all over again. (I absolutely have to get back there this year!)

Amana Colonies is the kind of place I'd like to live... the kind of golf opportunity I'd love to have every day. Some (like Stephen) might even say, with no exaggeration whatsoever, that it's the kind of place where dreams come true.

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