Villisca Country Club celebrates its 100th plus anniversary

The Villisca Country club, located north on Highway 71, is in the middle of celebrating a major milestone.
As of the spring of 2023, the country club has celebrated a little more than 100 years of operation. Randy Nelson, Vice President of the Villisca Country Club Board, has been a long-time member. Nelson said that while Villisca residents were invited to join the Red Oak Country Club in the early 1920s, the community decided to have a club of its own.
“A group bought the 30-acre farm just north of town, owned by C.M. Ewart, and converted it to a then six-hole golf course in the spring of 1923, and developed from there. They turned the farmhouse into the clubhouse, and sold the rest of the buildings,” Nelson said.
In the Feb. 14, 1924, edition of the Red Oak Express, the Villisca Country Club Board announced plans to construct a new clubhouse. According to the April 14, 1924, edition of the Express, a community talent show was held to raise money for the new clubhouse, which was estimated to cost $2,700. The funds were eventually raised, the existing farmhouse serving as the clubhouse was sold and a new clubhouse was erected in 1924.
While the club closed out the 1920s strong, installing some new features, it was in the 1930s that Nelson said the club tackled some adversity.
“In the 1930s, Villisca went through the Great Depression, and the country club was shut down because no one had any money. It shut down again in the 1940s during World War II because all the guys were gone fighting overseas,” commented Nelson. “With those back to back events, the club just couldn’t survive it.”
It was in the late 1940s, Nelson said, when the neglected country club was saved from closure.
“It was around 1947 that the land went up for a sheriff’s sale. The club was bought, and then the Ker-A-Vor Post #251 bought the club for $1, and they’ve owned it since then, and those of us that serve on the Country Club board lease the club from them for years and years,” commented Nelson. “The board pays all the property taxes and bills and the upgrades, but if the Legion hadn’t gotten that original purchase in 1947, it may not exist today.”
Nelson said the country club board is looking into the potential sale of the property from the legion, but no other details are available at this time. However, if the sale goes through, Nelson said he felt the legacy of the legion would be honored.
“If we do get the country club bought, one of the legion members asked that the Ker-A-Vor Post #251 be put somewhere on the clubhouse to commemorate the guys who took part in the war,” Nelson said.
Another major event occurred in September of 1953, An Express article reports the club went through further adversity, as they dealt with a fire that caused extensive damage to the kitchen as well as extensive smoke damage throughout the rest of the building. At the time of the fire, then Fire Chief H.R. Patterson said the blasé started in the club’s furnace room.
“It almost burned the entire clubhouse down. The insurance didn’t cover everything that got burnt, so the community and the city helped rebuild. Over the years, there have been countless hands that have kept it going through the tough times,” stated Nelson.
Another trying time for the club took place in the early 1970s, when reconstruction took place on Highway 71.
“That project ended up taking off some of the number six fairway, which was right next to the road, so they had to do some redesign. Those were some tough years too. I’ve heard that people basically had to drive up an old dirt trail to get to the club while they were working on the highway. I talked to some of the guys that were with the club when that happened, and now I’m part of the new generation of guys helping keep the club thriving,” Nelson explained.
While the club was heavily involved with the Villisca School in the 1950s and 60s, that has sadly tapered off in recent years.
“Right now the golf team practices at Corning. Back in the day, there were a lot of golf meets and stuff like that at the country club. Villisca has lost a lot. Our major attractions now are the country club and our swimming pool. It’s just a kind of the times. That’s why myself and the other members of the board work so hard, we want to make sure the country club is still there long after we’re gone. If the purchase from the legion happens, we’re dedicated to making sure it never gets sold and stays the destination that it is,” advised Nelson.
The country club operated on 30 acres until the mid 1980s, adding seven acres of land.
“After that land was purchased, we built onto the number eight fairway. The eight and three fairway were very close together, so we were able to move the eighth fairway over and cut in a pond and that gave us a lot more room to operate with,” Nelson said.
Currently, the club has nine holes, and for the cost of $20 per person, golfers can play all day.
The clubhouse has a restaurant that is open for meals April through August from 5 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Sunday nights.
Ironically, Nelson said the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 ended up being a boost to the club restaurant.
“Our to-go food sales just went through the roof. We stayed open and did all the protocols and it sold extremely well. Even now on Wednesdays and Sundays, you can’t believe the amount of food that goes out the door. That was unheard of before COVID. It’s really kept up. Of course there were tough times. People who golfed had to stay away from each other and stuff like that, but we never shut down completely. We put up the signs and let people come and use their own judgment. I think people preferred being outside doing something rather than sitting at home,” Nelson advised.
“The dining isn’t limited to club members, it’s open to everybody. We welcome everyone with open arms. The more business we get, the better. Our cook is from Villisca. She’s been with us for three years and she does a great job,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the people keeping the club up and running are all great people to work with.
“We’ve got good board members, and regular members. They really care about the place. Ryan Focht is our current president. If we need to work on a hill or a green, he makes a call out and we have 25 or 30 guys showing up every time to work,” Nelson commented. “On top of the hill, it gets so windy, we cover four greens on top of the hill so they don’t get wind burnt. It takes a good 10 to 15 guys to get the tarps put on and taken off every year. If we get snow cover, we’re fine, but if we get a windy winter with little snow, they’re slow to come around a green up. It’s a good group of people working together. The equipment, chemicals, insurance, it’s expensive. It takes a lot of work.”
While not as fancy as some clubs, Nelson said the Villisca country club has a lot to offer.
“In addition to golf, we’ve hosted numerous class reunions, wedding receptions, and we have a ladies night, and a mens night. We have a lot of tournaments as well, including the K-9 tournament, the Shriner’s tournament, the Elliott Fire Department tournament, and I believe the Red Oak Fire Department is having a golf tournament here this year,” stated Nelson. “We have 138 sheds available for people to keep their carts in, and we’re going to have to build more. We also currently have 150 members in total.”
While the community of Villisca has done much to preserve the country club, Nelson said they receive a lot of support from neighboring Stanton.
“If it wasn’t for Stanton and Villisca working together, I don’t know if we’d still be going. Stanton supports us very well, as well as the hundreds of hours of volunteer labor, When new people start, they never realize just how many hours it takes to keep us going,” commented Nelson. “Also, we keep our dues and costs down as much as we can. We want everyone to come out and eat and support us and enjoy their time with us,” said Nelson.
Another unique feature of the club is that gold is available at any time during the months of normal operation, April to Oct. 1.
“We’re basically always open. We have a box there, so people put their $20 per person in to pay and play, and they can go. We don’t have rental carts at this time, but we’re trying to figure out a way that we can allow for people to rent carts and use them safely without a fear of them being taken off the course or things like that,” explained Nelson.
One of the benefits Nelson said he’s enjoyed as part of being a member of the Villisca Country Club is being a part of the group Wobblies.
“It’s a group of guys that go all over Southwest Iowa every Monday and golf. You have to be a member of a country club to join. We’ve got new members joining Villisca who also take part in Wobblies. We play from Interstate 80 all the way down to Tarkio, Mo., It’s only $2 for me to be a Wobblies member,” stated Nelson.
More information about the country club can be found at

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

Comment Here