Notes from the road – Births, Deaths, Transactions, Etc.

My nomadic ways expose me to a lot of news about the golf industry… here’s a midseason report on the major transactions observed on my travels so far in 2018… I’ll post another recap at the end of the year.  If you know of transactions that I’ve missed, please post a comment to share the news.

Nationally, the number of course closings is about 10x the openings… so as you can see by the info below the MSP Metro and surrounding areas have been doing relatively well.  That doesn’t change the fact that owning and operating a golf course in the Upper Midwest is risky business.  We’ll see what next year brings.  Reports from the field so far this year have been pretty positive… owners/GMs/head pros have been pretty consistent in stating that they are “about on par” with last year’s results despite a miserable April (record snowfall).  May results were terrific, June was ok and we seem to be off to a solid start in July… anecdotally, I’m seeing parking lots looking a bit fuller this year.

All of the courses that I have played in the MSP and Brainerd areas have been in fine condition.  Reports from Duluth and north, however, indicate that some green complexes didn’t make it out of winter in the best of shape.  If you are traveling far north to play this year, check in advance on conditions.


Golf Course Births

The stork has arrived at:

Royal Golf Club, Lake Elmo, MN – the Arnold Palmer/Annika Sorenstam design is now open on the site of the old Tartan Park course… for golfers like me who hate to spend time on the range, the 6 hole par 3 course is the perfect warm-up before heading to #1 on the main course.

Sand Valley Resort, Nekoosa, WI – The Sand Valley course opened in 2017.  Now, in 2018, this new Wisconsin golf destination has opened Mammoth Dunes, an 18 holer designed by David McLay Kidd and opening to rave reviews and The Sandbox, a 17 hole par 3 course designed by the renowned team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.  Sand Valley was developed by the masterminds behind Bandon Dunes… I’m chomping at the bit to get over there and sample the full 53 holes.


Golf Course Deaths

These Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro courses didn’t make it into the 2018 season:

Hayden Hills, Dayton, MN – the 18 hole executive course closed during the offseason and was the site of a little excitement this spring as the clubhouse was burned to the ground in an exercise for local firefighters.

Hillcrest Country Club, St. Paul, MN – this venerable private club closed in fall 2017.  The club had been sold a number of years ago to the local pipefitter’s union and now there will be plenty of pipefitting work to be done on the houses that will be built on this land

Mississippi Dunes, Cottage Grove, MN – the 18 hole links course designed by owner Doc Doebler and home to the “phantom 54” golf round was one of the most spectacular settings for golf that the nomad has had the pleasure to play.  Alas, the course closed in fall 2017 and the future use of the site is still being determined.

Thompson Oaks – West St. Paul, MN – the 9 hole executive course closed during the offseason… the city-owned land will be developed.

And a quick drive around the Brainerd area over the July 4 holiday discovered a few more casualties:

Fairways at Howard’s Barn, Fifty Lakes, MN – this spectacularly quirky 9 hole executive course has not been mowed this year and the for sale sign is out.  During the one round I played there with my college buddies we discovered that this site was the inspiration for the old Neil Diamond song… “You’re So Sweet, Horeseflies Keep Hangin’ Round Your Face”.

Grand View Lodge Garden Course, Nisswa, MN – this 9 hole course just inside the entrance of Grand View Lodge closed before I had a chance to play it; Grand View is re-purposing this land for other recreational activities.  Of course, Grand View still operates two big-time courses at The Pines (27 holes) and The Preserve (18 holes).

For the truly morbid among the readership, click here for a list of all 116 Minnesota golf courses that we have a record of that have closed over the years.


New owners have taken the reins at these courses in the vicinity of the MSP metro area:

Albion Ridges, Annandale, MN – 27 hole regulation course in the West metro

Driftwood Golf & Fitness (formerly known as Eagle Trace Golf and Event Center), Clearwater, MN – 18 hole regulation course in the West metro

Lake Wissota Golf & Events, Chippewa Falls, WI – 18 hole regulation course on the banks of Lake Wissota just north of Eau Claire

Medina Country Club, Medina, MN – this private club in the NW metro (18 hole regulation and 9 hole short course) has been acquired by ClubCorp, the largest single owner of golf courses in the US (~200 properties)

Montgomery National, Montgomery MN – 18 hole regulation course in the South metro welcomes local pro Greg McKush back to the golf industry

Newman Golf, owner and operator of Southern Hills in Farmington, MN has now assumed management responsibilities for The Summit, Cannon Falls, MN (18 hole regulation, 9 hole executive).

Some Other New Developments

Several courses have upgraded their facilities this year:

Brookview Golf Course, Golden Valley, MN – The City of Golden Valley erected a snazzy new family activity center and at the same time upgraded the golf facilities at Brookview… our tax dollars at work.

Hidden Greens, Hastings, MN – Hidden Greens has a new event center well underway and scheduled to open later this year.

Theodore Wirth, Golden Valley, MN – not to be outdone, the Minneapolis Park System made some significant changes at its Theodore Wirth facility at the other end of Golden Valley… a few new holes were added to the regulation course and the holes they replaced were morphed into some bike and ski trails and a modern new building next to the Par 3 course.

White Eagle, Hudson, WI – take the new St. Croix River bridge and get a gander at the spanking new White Eagle clubhouse

And… or course the Braemar redesign in Edina is underway… now scheduled for a spring 2019 opening.



Leave a Reply

Note: Your email address will not be published.