Spokane, Washington's oldest golf course, The Spokane Country Club, which dates to 1898, now belongs to the Kalispel Tribe of Indians and has been renamed the Kalispel Golf and Country Club.
The purchase was concluded on December 8 after a lengthy judicial battle largely due to bankruptcy proceedings. The price paid was just over $3 million.
“We’re excited. We’re now the official owners of this club,” said Phil Haugen, a Kalispel tribal member and general manager for Northern Quest Resort & Casino. The course and the resort/casino are several miles apart but visitors to Northern Quest will have the opportunity for ‘stay and play’ packages, which would benefit both properties.
One of the first changes is a new logo featuring a frog. “We want to show our Indian cultural history. In the Indian culture the frog represents transformation, renewal and rebirth. It’s proof of health and balance in any ecosystem. That’s one reason we chose the frog,” Haugen said. “This club is transitioning from Spokane Country Club to Kalispel Golf and Country Club. We’re looking at the rebirth.”
The club was purchased with the idea of diversifying tribal businesses. “We bought it to make revenue but I think it’s a great project to express what Kalispel hospitality is,” Haugen said. “Your experience here is going to be matched by no other in the area. That’s Kalispel hospitality. We take great pride in that.”
The club will continue to be primarily membership-based but some nonmember play will be allowed, which would include stay and play packages. A number of key staff members have accepted employment with Kalispel Golf and Country Club, which will help with the transition. The opportunity for nonmembers to play will be a special opportunity for many who haven’t had the chance to play here before. It’s a beautiful course with towering pines flanking the fairways sheltered behind by a large treed hill.
Phil’s son, Brandon Haugen, is executive director of economic development for the tribe, and thus deeply involved in changes and upgrades to the property. “The first thing we’re going to take a look at is an enhanced food and beverage experience for members and non-members alike. We have a concept called the 'gastropub' which allows us to get very formal, yet in an informal manner, and will cater to the golf demographic as well as to outsiders who want to have a unique experience with food and beverage.”
This concept would include expanded varieties of craft beers on tap, simple food made elegantly, all in a unique state of the art atmosphere.
Another upgrade planned before golf resumes in the spring is installing simulators. They allow golfers to train, teach and coach in the winter months all the things one normally does in a normal golf environment. Fitness room upgrades are also planned focusing on golf fitness.
The Kalispel Tribe has been generous in supporting the Spokane community, donating over $13 million to non-profits since 2000. “We’re going to use this enterprise as a way to support that,” Brandon said.
First Tee, which uses golf to teach young people life skills and character building, has been the recipient of a Kalispel-sponsored golf tournament the past five years. No decision has been made yet on which charity will be given the proceeds this year, but it’s in the planning.
Phil Haugen said the tribe was planning to have about 12 golf tournaments in 2016. Some will be just for Native American golfers, while others will be for golfers in general. There is a Native American golf circuit including several regional tribes. “It would be great to get into it,” he said.
It would also allow Native golfers to play a course that’s been off limits to all but country club members for 117 years.