The dining room of the Root River Country Club will remain open. The golf course will open when weather permits.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
The dining room of the Root River Country Club will remain open. The golf course will open when weather permits. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
The final decision came to the fore last Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Root River Country Club (RRCC) as owner Dennis Langreck, of Lime Springs, decided the fate of the golf course and restaurant located approximately four miles south of Spring Valley. Langreck had contemplated closing it due to lack of memberships and untenable golfing season weather, but chose instead to keep it open in 2014 in anticipation of a better golfing season and hungry diners.

Langreck and his wife, Beth, purchased RRCC in January 2012 from the former members of the RRCC collaborative. They immediately renovated the clubhouse and made repairs to the nine-hole greens - including adding a new bar, a bigger kitchen, new flooring, fresh paint, new restrooms and a solid menu of dinner entrees, and on the greens, cleaning up the bunkers, adding concrete culverts and an irrigation system. The hope was that the improvements might draw diners and golfers alike to the area landmark, home to the Kingsland High School golf team and a collection of dedicated area golfers.

At that time, he told the Tribune that his purchase wasn't about owning a golf course - it was about improving the existing facility and opening it to former members and the public. He stated in late February 2012, "I golf, but I'm not as avid a golfer as most. I enjoy the game. I really enjoy work and like to be busy. I enjoy golf, but this is more as a business. The focus is making this a viable business. We want to bring back all the old members who have gone away - we're trying to attract them back. We're still going to have memberships and members' dues, and they'll be exactly what they were last year, still affordable and with at least the same or better service for the membership dues."

The Langrecks did exactly that - they offered the public memberships at the rate that RRCC members had had them - but since the club had been operating without making a profit, there were expenses that Langreck assumed in the clubhouse renovation and greens update that required him to raise the membership rates in order to make the property pay for itself.

He told the Tribune Thursday, Feb. 20, while he was contemplating the future that the "biggest thing that happened is last year, we lost so many members. It wasn't profitable because we lost so many members, and then we didn't open until July because of the weather, and then we lost more members. There wasn't enough time to generate a profit or memberships...it lessened the time we had to turn it into a profitable business. Our intent when we bought the business was that it could carry itself for a couple years, then get by on appreciation.

"My costs are the same and higher each year, and if we can't be profitable, we can't stay open. I have to make a decision - if we're not going to be open as a golf course, then the clubhouse is not going to be open. I'll have to repurpose the property...I can't go through another year like last year."

Dennis pointed out that last Tuesday was the deadline for his decision because that was when he had to renew the property's insurance and affiliations with golf associations, and he's unable to shoulder the costs without further community support and the assurance that RRCC will have continued patronage both in the dining room and on the course. At that time, Langreck concluded, "I'd love to keep it open. It would be wonderful if we could, but I don't want to incur any more losses. That's where the difficulties are. I'm still hopeful that we can make it work. There are members knocking on doors and doing what they can to keep it open. I definitely appreciate everything they're doing."

And apparently, those members' efforts paid off, as Langreck was able to call the Tribune last Tuesday with his determination to offer the greens both indoors and out - salads on plates and grass on the course.

"Some members got together and twisted enough arms, got more memberships. There's a core group of members who worked hard, and we've made some changes because of their hard work," he explained. "We're now offering associate memberships - people can have memberships with some golf privileges, but mostly, the associate memberships are just to support the club - and we're also offering business memberships, which are designed for business owners who, if they want, can give their customers a card for a round of golf, and all the customer has to do is take the card and show it, and they can have a round on the course."

He's looking forward to when the snow melts and he can watch golfers putting on his golf course, but also to having diners enjoying more meals in his restaurant.

"We've repaired the course...other than that, we're just waiting for spring to arrive so we can open it to golf. In the restaurant, we plan on having lunch specials every day... and have them ready to eat so that people can be in and out the door," he said.

Right now, the restaurant is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but it will be open to golf and serve Tuesday through Sunday and stop at the end of brunch on Sunday.

"There are a few small changes...hopefully the weather will cooperate," he added. "The calendar has to cooperate a little, too, maybe give us a longer season. I'm really looking forward to this season. Having to make that decision was the toughest part, and it's a relief to have it done."

For more information on memberships and country club dining room hours, call Dennis Langreck at RRCC at (507) 346-2501 or (507) 259-5890.