Amana Colonies Golf Club-Better Than Brand New

By E. Nolan

Start Over. Take one of Iowa’s highest ranked and most scenic golf properties, one of its most popular golf group hangouts and start over. Get rid of the clubhouse and rebuild it to maximize the incredible lake and green views. Open a brand new 3,200 square foot, climate-controlled Event Center down by that lake, bring all the integrity of the original design back to the golf course, and then make literally everything better than it ever was before. Expand sight lines and playing fields by removing a few hundred trees, make the course more fun and less penal. Fill in some bunkers, firm up the fairways, add a first cut around those fairways to widen them, expand the maintenance budget and bring in a Troon-taught expert on course management as the owner and operator. Do all of that and what kind of an experience would you expect, at a course the experts already said was “Top 5 in the State?” Yeah… it’d be pretty amazing. It IS pretty amazing.

Kahler Golf, LLC took over Amana Colonies Golf Club in February of 2016. Ambitious ownership with the desire to implement a boatload of upgrades doesn’t always pan out, and certainly not immediately. And yet Kahler Golf gave the course everything it needed to be successful that very first year, and (more importantly) gave golfers a reason to trust in the development, and to circle it on their travel calendars for future visits. Year Two – Spring of 2017 – and Kahler Golf was opening their new Event Center. They were steadily booking golf groups and becoming a big hit at wedding shows as future couples saw the beautiful, lakeside wedding venue, the open-air expansion opportunities and the capacity to easily host 200 guests and… well… it was a match made in heaven for the best matches made here on earth.

Suddenly the six course-side condos were filled up weekly and Stay & Play packages were overflowing to great hotels like Hotel Kirkwood in nearby Cedar Rapids and the Marriott in Coralville (Iowa City). That’s how quickly a course can be revived when done right. That’s how relevant Amana Colonies Golf Club became across the state (to Des Moines, Dubuque and the Quad Cities, too) when they did what they needed to do. Start over.

I chatted with owner Stephen Kahler about the remarkable resurgence of his course on the regional golf scene the past two years. “It’s just such a beautiful place to spend the day,” Stephen said, smiling. “Or days. It’s a thrill to see so many wedding groups booking our new event center, and to see golf groups pouring in from all over again.” He looks out his office window at a sweeping panorama of ACGC’s superb natural beauty. Deer graze at the edge of the lake, and a couple white swans circle in for a landing. (Sure beats my parking lot view at home!) “What made you really want this property?” I ask him.

“So many things to love,” he replies. “I spent so many years working for Troon in the desert, where views like this were impossible… where opportunities to feel like you had a course to yourself was absolutely impossible.” It’s true, even when busy, that Amana Colonies Golf Club can often feel like “your own” course. It IS Stephen and co-owner Bob Johnson’s course, and their favorite spot to take everything in is out on the 17th green, looking across the lake at the clubhouse and event center. “It’s where we can best see how far we’ve come,” they say, “and where we can most easily envision just how much further we can go.”

As many new visitors and groups have discovered, the Food & Beverage service at Amana Colonies Golf Club is pretty great. New F&B Manager, Jen Mooney, has brought in tons of fresh ingredients and meats for their fabulous burgers, and great sides like Bacon Mac & Cheese, not to mention her homemade cookies and the Bloody Mary’s. “We take what works and keep working it.”

That’s more evident on the course than anywhere else. Meticulous conditioning under Superintendent Reid Pickering’s professional green thumb consistently yields a round of golf with so many scoring opportunities and plenty of diverse shots of memorable value. Amana Colonies has a spectacular collection of Par 3’s on both sides, and I love courses that end with their best holes – like the closing stretch from 15 to 18 here. In general the constant elevation changes and dramatic views provide a powerful punch – a big bang for the buck, considering rates (with cart and practice balls) max out at $59 in peak season. Amana Colonies Golf Club was built in 1989… yes. But, it was reestablished in 2016. Better than brand new.

Amana Colonies #17