Red Wing Golf Course is taking a swing at the event venue business.
The course’s clubhouse is under construction in an attempt to bring in more business and appeal to a wider audience. RWGC — once private — has been open to the public for the last three years.
The renovation plans boost the course’s opportunity to be an ideal venue for various events such as weddings and banquets. The renovations include an updated event center known as The Skyroom. Bathroom remodeling, kitchen expansion, a bridal suite addition and a new bar are among some of the other upgrades.
“The money is in events and golf outings not just day-to-day golf,” director of sales and events Brittany O’Neill said.
In recent years golf course demand has been on the decline, forcing some courses to close and others to take an alternative route.
Renovation plans began in January, but the project itself did not start until the beginning of April. Two weddings had already been booked prior to the renovations and as a result RWGC’s project completion deadline is Sept. 1.
Seventy-two linear feet have been added to the building’s existing event center, more than doubling its size. A wall between the old event center and the additional space will be knocked down to create one big room. The rooms will be renovated to match one another, complete with luxury vinyl plank flooring and a stone fireplace. The old event center bar is being torn down and a new full-service bar will replace it.
One of the most noticeable features in The Skyroom is the staggering amount of natural light. The focal point of the room is the large skylight. Beyond the most visible expansions, a bridal suite and office space for O’Neill will be tucked away within the new space.
“We’re really going for a timeless classic look,” O’Neill said.
The Skyroom will accommodate over 250 people. O’Neill is accepting bookings for events for this fall and beyond. RWGC is hoping to have an opening party for The Skyroom in October.
Nineteen Bar + Grill
RWGC is upping its food and beverage game as another way to cater to non-golfing customers.
A new bar — Nineteen Bar + Grill — is located on the lower level of the clubhouse. They will be serving lunch and dinner daily and will have a casual bar menu.
“We are really looking to not only increase our food and beverage sales from it,” director of golf Paul Byron said, “but also incorporate daily lunches for local business people, for local residents. To get people in on a Friday night, Saturday night to have a good pizza.”
They will have fish fry, homemade pizza, appetizers, salads, sandwiches and beer. The bar opened in early August.
Construction beyond the clubhouse’s interior
A new parking lot is being constructed and golf cart storage will be created under The Skyroom. The renovation plans call for over 100 feet of deck with fire pits and patio furniture.
Another addition to RWGC is the purchase of the adjacent The Walsh House property back in February. The Walsh House is available for lodging needs such as bridal parties, golf outings and buddy trips. The house is fully furnished and available for booking now.
“The house is a great addition, brides can come in and look at it, it’s like a wedding weekend which I love, they can stay there the night before, have their rehearsal dinner, they're right here, wake up the next morning,” O’Neill said.
Changes to the golf industry
RWGC’s improvements are a move to be more competitive with other event venues in the area. Golf courses in Red Wing and around the country are seeing a decline in demand.
At a June 17 Red Wing City Council Workshop, Jim Keegan of JJ Keegan gave a presentation on the financial stability of the Mississippi National Golf Course in Red Wing. His study showed that the number of people wanting to come to Red Wing to play golf has declined compared to previous years. The study also found that the number of golf course facilities in the U.S. has declined from 16,112 in 2004 to 14,794 in 2017 according to data used from the NGF.
“It's a tough industry,” owner of RWGC, Bill Holst said at the workshop.
Each year the NGF releases a Golf Industry Report. The report includes important data about golf participation, golf course supply, golf’s engagement and other information related to the golf industry. The 2019 Golf Industry Report found that there was a 1.2% decline in golf courses with 12.5 new 18-hole golf courses and 198.5 golf course closings over the last year. Golf course closures have outweighed openings since 2006.
With golf course outlooks and competition with other courses, some facilities are making the change to cater to a different customer base.
Holst told the Red Wing City Council “I'm going a different route with my golf course, I’m going into the event venue that's because I don't think any golf course in this area can make any money, there is just too many golf courses.”