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Like Big Bunkers? Check Out Tyler Rae's Restoration of Wakonda Club in Iowa

ike big bunkers? Check out Tyler Rae's restoration of Wakonda Club in Iowa

The Wakonda Club in Iowa nears completion of a restoration led by Tyler Rae. (Photos courtesy of Wakonda Club/Tyler Rae and David Blum)

Wakonda Club in Des Moines, Iowa, is nearing completion of a restoration at the hands of golf architect Tyler Rae and his associate, Jim Ryan Jr. Work is nearly complete with just a few items left as the course grows in.

Wakonda Club opened in 1922 with a design by William Langford, who started laying out courses during the golden era of golf design. Langford typically worked with partner Theodore J. Moreau through the early 1940s before continuing on his own later.

Along with Wakonda Club, Langford’s highest-rated courses include Lawsonia Links in Wisconsin, Texarkana Country Club in Arkansas, Skokie Country Club in Illinois and Culver Academies in Indiana. Wakonda Club, as judged before the restoration, ranked No. 4 in Iowa in Golfweek’s Best 2023 ranking of private clubs in each state.

Wakonda club has an extensive competitive pedigree, having hosted many tournaments including the 1963 U.S. Amateur won by Deane Beman, who would go on to play on the PGA Tour before becoming the Tour’s longtime commissioner. The club has hosted the Principal Charity Classic on the PGA Tour Champions since 2013, with Stephen Ames having won it this year.

Rae has an extensive list of credits to his name, including historical restorations and new builds. His other projects include Lookout Mountain Club in Georgia, Brookside Country Club in Ohio, Mountain Lake in Florida and Brae Burn in Massachusetts.

As noted in an email from the club, Rae’s extensive plan for Wakonda has included:

  • All new tee boxes, adding length to the championship tees while shortening the forward tees.
  • Ten-plus acres of fairway expansions, reinstalling width to the course. This includes joining two sets of fairways at Nos. 8 and 10 and Nos. 11 and 15.
  • Added five new greens (Nos. 2, 5, 9, 15 and 17) using themes from Langford and Moreau’s best work.
  • Used 22,000 square feet of sod from the old greens that were rebuilt to expand the greens on the 13 other holes.
  • Rebuilt every bunker to Langford and Moreau’s style, and reclaimed many bunkers that had been grassed over – L&M were not afraid to build deep bunkers with tall, nearly vertical faces. (Check the photos below for examples.)
  • Added XGD drainage to every green and installed a new Toro irrigation system.
  • Rebuilt the short-game practice area.

Check out several photos of the work below: