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Rochester’s public golf courses? City Council has questions

Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 10:28 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – The City Council is torn on what to do with Rochester’s four municipal golf courses.

“It’s an amenity for the city of Rochester, it doesn’t have to make a profit, it doesn’t have to break even,” said councilmember Shaun Palmer.

“So there is this assessment that says hey, what do we have to do to either bolster our investment to make it work better or do we get to the point where we’re like ‘hey, that’s a reasonable expense to subsidize for golf,’” said councilmember Patrick Keane.

A study conducted by the National Golf Foundation shows they need twice as many average golfers per course to keep them well funded, which is causing maintenance issues on the course.

“That appears to be a system that’s way overbuilt and very inefficient to be able to pay for itself,” said Keane.

“We end up not maintaining the golf courses as well, and that has a negative impact down the road.”

“Our facilities in golf have deteriorated over the years, we just replaced a clubhouse two years ago at Northern Hills, and it was being consumed by mold,” said Paul Widman, Rochester’s Parks and Recreation director.

The pandemic caused a surge in golfers, but the city is unsure if that will continue into the future.

“That’s to be determined, that’s a factor that the golf market is waiting to find out, just how long the increases can be sustained or is it going to continue,” said Widman.

The elimination of one course was one idea brought up at the session, but city council reiterated it’s about improving the golf experience.

“It’s just fiscally irresponsible to let them run at deficits without understanding what our options are,” said Keane.

“The decisions we need to make isn’t to close the courses, it’s how do we make the courses better, how do we market it better to get more people to come use the same facility,” said Palmer.

The council also wants to shift the focus on improving the courses’ advertising and technology.

“Parks touch everybody’s lives, and so we just need to invest more in that,” said Palmer.

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