Rochester’s public golf courses? The city council has questions

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – The City Council is torn over what to do with Rochester’s four municipal golf courses.

“It’s a piece of equipment for the city of Rochester, it doesn’t have to make a profit, it doesn’t have to break even,” council member Shaun Palmer said.

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

A study by the National Golf Foundation shows that they need twice as many average golfers per course to stay well funded, leading to maintenance issues on the course.

“It seems like an oversized and very inefficient system to be able to fund itself,” Keane said.

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

“Our golf facilities have deteriorated over the years, we just replaced a clubhouse two years ago in Northern Hills, and it was eaten up with mold,” said Paul Widman, director of parks and recreation at Rochester.

The pandemic has caused an increase in the number of golfers, but the city does not know if this will continue in the future.

“It’s still to be determined, it’s a factor the golf market is waiting to find out, how long the increases can be sustained or will they continue,” Widman said.

The elimination of a course was an idea raised during the session, but the city council reiterated that it was to improve the golf experience.

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

“The decisions we have to make are not whether to close the courses, it’s how to improve the courses, how to market them better so that more people come to use the same facility,” Palmer said.

The board also wants to focus on improving course advertising and technology.

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

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Michael C. Ford