In a deal that was more than a couple of years in the making, Chris Sauer and the ownership group at Albertville-based Cedar Creek Golf Club has completed the purchase of Riverwood National and Vintage Golf Course in Otsego, less than 10 miles to the north.
The move takes the Riverwood National property off the rolls of Highland Bank, which has owned the course and operated it with staff for the past two seasons. It adds it to Cedar and Troy Burne in Hudson, WI, for Sauer’s group.
Sauer said the deal came in under the $2.3 million asking price.
“We knew the course was for sale and someone would, obviously, would make the venture to buy it,” Sauer said. “We thought that it would fit well with our current golfing opportunities. When you work the numbers, if someone comes in and runs it at a price point that’s not going to make money, that’s going to hurt your business. If you can come in and offer something like stability and do the work it takes to offer a good golf experience at a good price point, you can help your current course and grow a course like Riverwood National, which has a lot to offer.”
Sauer will lean hard on golf pro Steve Fessler, who has been the pro at Riverwood for the past several years after more than 20 years at Pheasant Acres in Rogers.
“I think what excites me most is the stability and direction Chris and his group can provide, and the resources we can share between the three courses,” Fessler said. “When you look at Cedar and the growth it has had over the last couple of years, that’s a challenge for us to make the same thing happen at Riverwood. And that’s about building relationships with your golfers and providing opportunity, whether it’s leagues or a busy Saturday schedule. We’re going to give golfers a lot of options.”
It also gives patrons at Cedar Creek a new resource in the banquet facility at Riverwood, which holds more than 200 guests and is widely used for weddings and parties.
“It’s an asset we’ve never had, unless you’re using the patio area at Cedar, which still doesn’t hold as much,” Sauer said. “Plus, we have other, golf-related plans for that space as well.”
Simulators, for example, have new blow-up structures that can be inflated in minutes, and then deflated to make way for the next party.
“You could have four-station leagues, meaning 16 guys in here at one time playing Pebble Beach or something, pretty easily,” Sauer said.
The courses at Riverwood and Vintage will both see improvements. First order of business was hiring Derek Fredrickson away from Troy Burne (where Sauer serves as the general manager) and bringing him into the Riverwood fold as course superintendent.
“He can use a lot of what he’s done there and apply it here to the turf and greens,” Fessler said. “It’s a great move for us. It’s going to improve the playing conditions and really get Vintage back on track.”
Design changes might be a bit down the road, but Sauer realizes some are needed to improve the golfing experience.
“You want to walk away from the course knowing you had a good time and the course challenged you, but you don’t want to be ticked off about walking off 18 with a 10, either. Some changes will come. They’ll take time, but we can improve things here, for sure.”
Men’s, Women’s and Couples Leagues are forming at all three properties right now. The two clubhouses at the pro shops are also working on matching up tee time schedules with a new system, too.
“If we’ve got a tournament or a full slate at one, we can directly refer that foursome or group to the other course. They’re not calling because they were kind of thinking about golfing that day,” Sauer said. “They want to golf that day. So they’re going to go down the list and call the next course. We want to be able to do that for them.”