So this morning, the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote about a story that had been out in the golf community for about a week. The news is that Windsong Farm is in a heap of financial trouble. I didn’t want to write this previously, but now that it is in the biggest paper in the state, the timing seems OK.
The western Hennepin County club has essentially turned the keys to the Fought/Lehman design back to the bank. What happens now is anyone’s guess.
Will the bank try to sell the club? Would the membership purchase it? Will the bank hire a management company to run the golf course? Will it remain private? Will the course open its doors to some public play? Any of those things seem like they could be possibilities.
Preface to the rest of this: I’m not exactly sure if I should be talking in the present tense or the past tense, so to those who like to copy edit, it’s kind of a tense mess.
My opinion? I feel bad for the members and I feel bad for Minnesota golf in general. I wrote about Windsong Farm when I was still at the Star Tribune just as it opened. At that point, the golf course was just finishing the grow-in process and they were running the place out of a double-wide trailer. The last time I was out there, that story was still on display in the golf shop.
I really liked/like the club and what it was about. It was a place that was about golf and that was it. There was no pool, no tennis courts, no big social events. There isn’t a massive clubhouse with big banquet facilities. The club encouraged/demanded that golfers should walk when they played. There were no tee-times. There is a great practice facility (which for a while had ProV1s as range balls). I like all of that stuff.
Unlike the modern, high-dollar course up the road, Windsong really seemed to be way more about golf than it was about being rich. Now, Windsong wasn’t exactly about affordable golf nor was it open to the public, but it was way less about money.
The golf course itself was very, very solid. The back nine (with the exception of what I think is an awkward 18th hole) is filled with interesting and fun holes with some cool green complexes. I like several holes on the front nine (Nos. 2, 3, 4, 7), but the stretch from 5-9 has a few too many really, really long shots that seems more of a death march than a walk in the park.
What did the place in? I have no idea. According to the story, the club has 230 members (130 who have equity in the club). Is that enough? Apparently not.The initiation fee was in the $70,000 range at one point, but they also let some people in for nothing or next to nothing.
I haven’t seen the books, so I don’t know if they issue was not enough dues paying members, not enough other revenue, too much staff or what. Obviously the economy has never been great since the club opened — Tom Lehman has said that he was working on the golf course when planes went into the World Trade Center on 9/11 — but there are other things at play as well.
To the best of my understanding, there were not regular Monday corporate outings at Windsong. While Monday outings aren’t a favorite thing of members, they are kind of the dirty little secret of private clubs. The things are almost 100 percent profit and go straight to the bottom line. A club can clear $10,000-15,000 on a good Monday. Multiply that by 12 or so and that’s some real cash money.
What do I think will happen? If I had to wager $5, I’m guessing Windsong will remain open next year and it will remain a private club. I’m guessing there will be a significant push to get more dues-paying members and I’m guessing they will work to generate more revenue through Mondays and potentially through more cart rental. I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that both the bank and the members want to make something work.
Short of that, I’ll be stunned if Windsong doesn’t operate as a golf course. Seems as if there’s too much to lose.