What are the ambitions of Escalante Golf with the new 550-acre Wilderness Club?

By: March 27, 2024

In January 2022, I could report that Troon had won the Wilderness Club management duties. Escalante Golf, one of the nation’s premier owners and operators of golf courses and private clubs, added the 550-acre Wilderness Club in Montana to its property portfolio.

This is Escalante Golf’s first property in Montana and 23rd in the U.S.

Established as a joint venture partnership with Brian Ehlert, the owner, and developer of the Wilderness Club, Escalante will oversee more than $15 million worth of expansion and improvements while managing golf operations, hospitality, food & beverage, and real estate development and sales.

Escalante Golf’s plans also involve transitioning Wilderness Club from its current semi-private club model back to a fully private club in honor of its founder’s original vision.

Wilderness Club golf course Hole #10

Wilderness Club is 8 miles from the Canadian border in Northern Montana, halfway between Glacier National Park and the Kootenai National Forest, surrounded by lakes, mountains, and protected forests.

The property features an 18-hole, 7,207-yard, par-72 golf course designed by Sir Nick Faldo that goes through natural streams, lakes, and 200-foot-tall ponderosa pine trees.

It consistently ranks as Golfweek’s No. 1 public course in Montana and ranked No. 44 on Golf Digest’s 2023-2024 list of America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses.

The Wilderness Club experience

The Wilderness Club is home to the award-winning Wilderness Grille, the 21-acre Wilderness Lake for

  • fishing, canoeing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and swimming;
  • multiple short-term lodging options, including fully-equipped luxury cottages, suites, and larger-group cabins;
  • a Water Park with 2 saltwater pools, a 250-foot waterslide, a splash pad, and a hot tub;
  • a Sports Park with an 18-hole championship disc golf course, a soccer/lawn sports field, beach volleyball, basketball, and pickleball courts; a workout facility; and a golf clubhouse with a pro shop.
Wilderness CLub luxury cottage

The Wilderness Club also boasts an expansive luxury residential community, housing

  • small-to-midsize luxury cottages and custom-built estate homes ranging from 1,000 to 6,000 square feet.
  • 100 homes have already been built and occupied, with nearly 40 lots remaining within the phase 1 development.

Planned improvements or additions

  • The conversion from a semi-private to a fully private club model honors its founder’s original vision for Wilderness Club to be Montana’s premier private club and mountain resort (the transition will be complete on January 1, 2026).
  • The development of multiple new residential phases will be home to 300+ new custom-built homes offering unparalleled mountain and lake views. Homesites will range from $800K to $4M, and the project scope includes adding new roads, landscaping, utilities, and services.
  • The installation of a $1.5M geomembrane lake liner throughout Wilderness Lake will prevent water loss through ground absorption, keep water levels consistent, and improve the quality and clarity of water from loose silt and dirt contamination (completion slated for Q4 2024).
  • Complete overhaul of golf course bunkers, elevating both the aesthetic appeal and the strategic challenge of the holes and affirming long-lasting durability and low maintenance costs for many years to come (completion slated for 2025).
  • Developing a new state-of-the-art clubhouse will serve as the club centerpiece and a hub for member engagement. Included will be
    • a full-service bar & restaurant with indoor & outdoor dining,
    • a grab-and-go market,
    • men’s & women’s locker rooms with lounges,
    • private event & meeting spaces, and more (completion slated for 2025).
  • Conversion of the existing clubhouse into a new Lifestyle/Wellness Center, complete with a full-service spa, massage and treatment rooms, fitness studio, yoga facilities, and more (completion slated for 2026).
Wilderness Club lake

Recommendations for consideration

In the first instance, I would like to express my admiration for the proposed development plans and ideas. Nonetheless, we cannot discount the significance of the following aspects and requirements:

Golf clubs – regardless of their type – must prioritize sustainability! Today’s people are much more aware of the environmental impact generated by their lifestyle.

We should push further personalization of service and communication. Achieving hyper-personalization, which 71% of customers demand, necessitates extensive data analysis and the utilization of digital tools such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.

This powerful combination allows businesses to anticipate and proactively meet their guests’ needs, offering them highly tailored experiences based on their preferences and habits.

By leveraging these tools, businesses can gain greater insight into their customers’ behaviors and preferences, ultimately increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Finding answers to these questions would be worthwhile to ensure a better return on investment.

Wilderness Club golf course