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Voyageur's Best Features of 2005

Minnesota national, nearing reality

Minnesota National, nearing reality
First nine holes of golf and living community open's in spring
by Fritz Wanlund  |  July 5, 2005

An eight year, multi-million dollar dream to create a business venture that would, “bring me home” is taking dramatic shape over and around the existing Savanna Golf Course east of highway 65 on route 232.

Wayne Alden, a Palisade native, along with his wife, JoAnne, are building Minnesota National Golf Course, a 309-homesite community and championship 18-hole course that will be partially open for play and residency early in 2006.

The 40-year-old 9-hole course was purchased by the Aldens in 1992 as the first step in a long range plan that would ultimately return them to the area. That layout has been redesigned and will be completed later next year. In the spring, golfers will play the new back nine of Minnesota National.

After graduation from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, military service flying in VietNam and for the Pentagon in Washington, the Aldens invested in McDonald’s franchises in the Baltimore area and other businesses elsewhere in the country.

They have since sold all of those enterprises and are now focused entirely on developing this unique golf village.

The expanded property now meanders across and through 600 acres of white and red pine, oak, birch, and tamarack. It encircles native marsh, prairie grass, streams and ponds.

Its permanent “residents” are deer, ducks, geese, fox and even a porcupine or two. Birds of virtually every indigenous species abound to the point that the Audubon Society has a keen interest in the project.

Its natural beauty in the partially and carefully cleared landscape is nothing short of breathtaking, certainly to the conservation minded. Without question Minnesota National is a signifcant business investment with an admittedly long term return on those dollars. Yet, the reality in the Aldens’ risk of capital is that a nature and wildlife preserve is being much a park as a golfing and residential playground.


Certainly nothing this extensive would not get off the drawing board without exhaustive research. When asked about the growth of golf course development – the number of holes available for play in Brainerd and the Grand Rapids area, Alden said it has been “overdone.” Stand-alone courses have seen a drop in overall play and corresponding slide in revenue, he indicated. What this suggests is that a major golf course layout needs to encompass more than just a nearby resort facility to provide rental property. “It needs ownership and the involvement of those families for success and growth,” said Wayne.

Minnesota National will be first in this region to incorporate a Planned Urban Development. This property designation demands a number of legal safeguards that include covenants to guide what and how individual homes and townhouses will be built to maintain the integrity of the community. It establishes an association among the owners who will direct future actions to be taken on and off the course itself. “At a certain level of home purchases, the residents will own Minnesota National with each having an equal share,” Alden said.


With a look toward the demographics of families who become homeowners and members of Minnesota National Alden said, “couples now in their late 50’s and planning for that second home and retirement will be the base of this development.”


A census of both the golf and residential development now underway quickly adds up to perhaps 30-50 workers scattered across the project involved in every phase of construction. “These are local people who have been contracted to bring their skills here to build this golf and living community,” Alden said.

As the course itself becomes operational, Alden estimated 24 to 36 employees will be on staff to run the golf course layout. Home site building will be spread over the next few years giving work to local contractors and their people in that part of the project.


Perhaps the analogy between building a large office complex and a 600-acre golf and residential community doesn’t work, but statistically the numbers are equally impressive:

• Some 10 miles of irrigation pipe are being installed

• More than 400,000 feet of wire will run through that pipe to activate some 450 sprinkler heads to water the 27 holes

• The entire system will be directed by satellite and computer

• An 8-million gallon holding pond is being built to contain runoff water for reuse

• A self-contained water treatment and sewage plant is under construction to handle a sewer system that will connect every home site. There will be no septic tanks

• A series of pumping stations will provide fresh water to the homes, but the course will be irrigated from reclaimed runoff

• About eight tons of grass seed (a combination of the latest hybrid bent and bluegrass) is being sowed

• When completed, the 27 holes will be served by 5 1/2 miles of blacktop cart paths

• 24 slips and a boat storage facility will be provided on the flowage


For golfers who range from skilled low handicap players to the occasional “hacker,” the new course combines great challenge, should you choose to take it, with play as easy as it can be. That’s because Joel Goldstrand, the course’s architect, has incorporated as many as five tee boxes on each hole that gives the golfer a totally different look and option. From the longest point, Minnesota National stretches to just over 7,200 yards. But as the series of tees move closer to the greens, avoiding some of the natural marsh and prairie hazards, the length can come down to a very managable 5,200 yards. “It’s a course for all of us,” Alden said.


“For next season, we hope to keep current annual memberships and fees about where they are now even while our current players will be testing out nine holes of the new layout,” Alden responded. “That will include keeping their cart storage as is for 2006.” In following years the expanded club house, driving range and other amenities will force closing of housing for personal carts.


In a perhaps 200-300-year-old stand of huge red and white pine on a ridge line above the mile-long shore of the flowage abuting the property, Alden said he and JoAnne plan to create their own home. “What’s more beautiful than this?”

This article first appeared in the July 5, 2005 issue of the Voyageur Press.