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Since it opened in 2001, Wilderness Ridge Golf Club has been open for public play.

But that is going to change.

The country club in southwest Lincoln, near 27th Street and Yankee Hill Road, has announced plans to go to a membership-only model for golf starting in 2021.

Wilderness Ridge General Manager Chip Cary said the club has been considering the change for a couple of years and did some market research that showed it was something members wanted.

"Golf is a popular sport in this part of the city, and we're a good location to provide what people are looking for," Cary said.

But members of the club will be getting a lot more than just an exclusive golf experience.

Wilderness Ridge also has big expansion plans.

Cary said the club plans to build an aquatics complex, as well as a new pro shop building that will also house its year-round Nebraska Golf Academy. Plans also include a new members-only bar and grill, called the 19th Hole, as well as a fitness center.

Construction on the expansion will begin in the spring, with plans to have everything open in 2021.

The work will not affect the 18-hole championship golf course and will lead to only a minor change to the nine-hole executive course, Cary said.

The new pool will be built where the executive course's ninth hole currently finishes, so the green has been relocated.

The new pro shop will be built on the east end of the driving range near the first tee of the championship course.

The fitness center will be added to existing space in the lodge.

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Cary said the club's event and banquet facilities will remain available for public rentals. Still to be decided is whether the restaurant will go private or continue to be open to the public.

Wilderness Ridge is joining other country clubs in the city in upgrading its facilities.

Firethorn Golf Club added resort amenities a couple of years ago, including a pool, tennis courts, nine-hole golf course, a fitness center and a second restaurant.

The Country Club of Lincoln did a $3.5 million renovation in 2016 that included the addition of a casual dining area and an upgraded workout facility.

Also in 2016, Hillcrest Country Club added more golf practice facilities, as well as a poolside restaurant and bar.

Cary said Wilderness Ridge's expansion is not driven by competition from other clubs and that the timing is coincidental.

However, he did admit that all the city's private golf clubs have found that to stay competitive, "they have to maintain and expand facilities."

Cary said the response from members to the proposed changes has been "extremely positive," noting he has received dozens of emails in support.

He said the club has about 200 members now but expects that number to grow with the announcement of the expansion.

"We would anticipate a significant increase," Cary said.

There's also likely to be a fee increase for members starting in 2021, although he said fees will be "competitive with the market."

There are and will continue to be different levels of membership at the club to accommodate people's different needs, Cary said.

"I think we're going to be a pretty great option for the person who's looking for a private environment," he said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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