American Indian Tribes Tap Into Golf

The Associated Press
Friday, April 21, 2006; 12:42 PM

MORTON, Minn. -- Dacotah Ridge Golf Club sits deep inside Minnesota farm country, far from any four-lane highways and surrounded by towns with tiny populations.

But the remote location hasn't kept golfers from flocking to test their skills against the stiff winds, rolling hills and demanding greens at the club, whose owner, the Lower Sioux Indian Community, just happens to operate the Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel a few miles up the road.

In Minnesota and elsewhere, American Indian tribes that have mastered the casino gambling trade are increasingly venturing into the golf course business. The immaculate layouts springing up around the country are routinely winding up on must-play lists of leading golf magazines.

"The native tribes that own casinos are realizing that you have to have something more than just a casino to bring guests in," said Henry Boulley, a member of Michigan's Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa and the organizer of the Native American Cup golf tournament.

"When Native American tribes put up a course next to their resort, they don't put up just a run-of-the-mill course," he added. "They put up a really spectacular course."

There are more than 50 tribal-owned courses in 16 states, and another 20 or so are planned, according to KlasRobinson Q.E.D., a consulting firm that works with tribes. More than half are situated near casinos.

The building boom has been recent, with at least 40 percent of them constructed since the turn of the century.

Last spring, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation opened a highly touted 36-hole golf complex _ one private course and one for the general public _ adjacent to its Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut.

In February, the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe rolled out a plan for a $400 million casino and golf resort in central New York.

Next month, the first full season of play opens at The Meadows of Mystic Lake Golf Course owned by Minnesota's Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which runs one of the Midwest's largest casinos.

"It brings in a different type of clientele," said Bill Rudnicki, the Shakopee tribe's administrator. "We want to be seen as a resort facility."

Golf and tribal casinos mix well, said Sean Hoolehan, the president of the 21,000-member Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. Hoolehan knows that well as superintendent of the Wildhorse Resort and Casino on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon.

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