Amana Colonies Golf Club – Emerging Target

By E. Nolan

Not all golf courses like to be considered a “hidden gem.” It implies, somehow, that you have to really dig to find the value. In that instance, Amana Colonies is NOT a hidden gem. Its value is blatantly obvious. On the other hand, it easily qualifies as one of Iowa’s more bizarrely “under the radar” golf destinations, in particular because it sits on two major radars (just outside Cedar Rapids and Iowa City), and because of its worthiness to be a mainstay on ALL golf publications “Best in Iowa” lists by now. The right people are starting to come. Are you one of those “right people?” If so, then pay attention. You need to come play Amana Colonies in 2019.

You can no longer consider current co-owners Stephen Kahler and Bob Johnson “new.” Their takeover phase began three years ago, back in February of 2016. Kahler brought his impressive track record from Troon management and threw his heart and soul into the revitalization of ACGC. That revitalization was generated by a desire to take Amana Colonies back to its humble but glorious roots, to the course Stephen remembered (so fondly) playing in his youth. “Way less rough… way more fairway… less native grass and fewer bunkers… keep all the beauty and even accent it more – make the entire experience way more playable and fun!”

Those goals, when put together, are quite ambitious. Not surprising though, to those who know Kahler, the team (thanks in large part to Superintendent Reid Pickering’s brilliance and diligence) have accomplished just that, investing heavily in projects like brush clearing, fairway broadening and tree trimming to make every hole infinitely more playable to the average golfer. “Amana has always been a stunner,” Stephen says. “A lot of that beauty had just been covered up. So we uncovered it.” Take a look at some of the courses pictures on their website, or even in this article, and you’ll get a glimpse of the glory awaiting you in Central Iowa.

“There’s something to be said for the relationship between beauty and playability,” Kahler adds, “and the more playable we make the course, the more we hear people praising the scenery.” That revelation resonates with many of the big-name architects of today (like David McLay Kidd with his new Mammoth Dunes course in Wisconsin) – playability makes every other component of a design more enjoyable. “Along with the trees, we’ve put new sand in our bunkers,” Stephen adds, “and even removed some bunkers that we deemed penal or unnecessary. That, too, has made the experience so much more enjoyable for the average golfer!”

Amana’s progressive changes have been rewarded by impressive numbers. Group Outings, Weddings and Events continue to surge, enhanced by a 30% annual increase in Annual Passes sold. Visitors find a host site that boasts many amenities, including a fabulous Event Center down by the lake, easily able to accommodate 200 guests. Groups that visit find Amana Colonies Golf Club offers great Stay & Play packages too, with condos of different configurations right on the golf course that can house anywhere from 16 to 32 guests. And they’ll be hosting a NEW group this year, with the 2019 Iowa PGA Section Championship coming July 22 and 23 – a National Qualifier for the 53rd PGA Professional Championship.

New in 2019: Amana Colonies is revving up a NEW Club Car Tempo golf cart fleet, and rolling out a new website and POS system to serve and market the growing customer base better. “We are committed to continuous improvement,” Mr. Kahler says, “and our goal is to have ACGC recognized as one of the top public facilities in the region.” That statement is evident in their increased social media presence across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, all significant influences on golf business these days. (Follow them everywhere you can!)

Amana Colonies has always seemed like an upper Michigan course to me – the furthest thing from flat farmland. Visitors are bound to encounter any number of deer, bald eagles, turkeys, swans, turtles and even the occasional bobcat in a round. The atmosphere is comfortable if not laid back in the clubhouse, with music playing, great food grilling and games on the big screen TV’s. And that patio… I could sit out there all night.

“You and everyone else,” Stephen laughs. Which is exactly my point. Everyone else needs to hang out here for a while. Come on over. Come on down.