Many consider the White Bear Yacht Club (WBYC) to be one of the many gems in the White Bear area. With stunning views of the lake, the 69th-ranked golf course in the nation, top-notch food, a myriad of outdoor family activities and more, yes, the title is well deserved. Even F. Scott Fitzgerald was known to party there in his heyday. Last June, to the delight of their 250 members, the club opened for the summer season after a $3.2 million renovation. And this year? It celebrates its 125th anniversary.
In 1889, the WBYC opened for business, solely for sailing. The first nine holes of the golf course—famously designed by renowned architect Donald Ross—followed in 1912, and the last nine were completed three years later. “Golf slowly took over as the most important feature of the club, and sailing slowly died off,” WBYC controller Brian Seim says. The swimming pool was added in the ’30s, and the current clubhouse replaced the cracked foundation of the original in 1999. The club also has a marina and four tennis courts.
Membership chair and six-year member Dave Kelly calls Seim “the guy who has been around forever.” Seim worked at the Woodhill Country Club in Wayzata during high school and college and began working at the WBYC 26 years ago. He was just one of the driving forces behind the renovation. Also on board was 12-year member and current commodore Jeff Young. The WBYC partnered with the Rice Creek Watershed District to restore the club’s 600 feet of lakeshore. They hired Partners and Sirny Architects of Minneapolis to develop the new swimming pool, lakeside pavilion, patio, new outdoor dining deck, fire pit and golf course restroom. The crew broke ground in October 2012. “It turned out spectacular,” Young says. “Everything that happened turned out, in my opinion, better than we expected.”
Although the club was in need of many updates, Seim says impetus for the renovation was the pool. After 74 years of thawing and freezing, it was time to replace it. The new pool is 75 feet longer than the original and has five lanes rather than the original four. A kiddie pool was also a must-have. “That was something that was very important to families with young children,” Seim says. He says that throughout the years, the WBYC has become a go-to spot for families, golfers and tennis players.
Diane and Chad Swanson, parents of 10-year-old Katherine and 9-year-old Julia, joined the WBYC seven years ago. Diane says its family-friendly atmosphere was one of the main reasons they joined—that and Chad’s parents had been members and he had fond memories of the club. The pool, she says, is a huge improvement. “It made it more accessible with more opportunities for fun for families. For me, that is the most important thing,” she says.
Perhaps the most attractive feature of WBYC is its lakeside views. To enhance its dining experience, the crew built an outdoor dining deck, perfectly situated for summer sunsets. Seim says it is unmatched by any other yacht club in the area; Kelly likens it to a Caribbean resort. Swanson says escaping to the WBYC is like going on vacation. “You can’t have a better spot in the Twin Cities to sit outside for dinner,” Young says.
Rumor has it Fitzgerald spent the summer of 1921 at the WBYC. He published “Winter Dreams”—a short story set at a golf course in Black Bear Lake, Minnesota—the next year. Surely, if the author could visit the newly renovated club today, a sequel would be in the works.
To celebrate its 125th season, the WBYC is offering a special anniversary membership promotion. For more information, call 651.429.4567 or visit wbyc.com.
White Bear Yacht Club
56 Dellwood Ave.
White Bear Lake