Superior National is not the only golf course that finds itself in the rough. Last week the Two Harbors City Council held a special meeting to discuss the state of the city’s Lakeview National Golf Course. At that meeting the consensus was that Lakeview is in bad shape. Sunburned greens and tee boxes led to closing nine holes, further restricting golf course revenues.
Supporters of Superior National Golf Course in Lutsen have been to the Cook County Board on more than three occasions to argue for a new management plan and financial commitment to help with marketing and failing infrastructure. Superior National is owned and operated by the city-county Joint Economic Development Authority.
According to a report in the Lake County News-Chronicle, Lakeview’s groundskeeper Nate VanSanten told the Two Harbors council members a break in the irrigation system at the course led to burned greens and tee boxes when not enough water could be put on the course to keep up with the hot July weather. He said he tried to order new parts but was told by the supplier that past unpaid bills would hold up delivery. It took nearly two weeks to fix the problem and by that time, the turf damage was done.
According to Superior National spokesman Mark Sandbo, the irrigation system at Superior National needs replacement and extension. He told county commissioners recently that the traps were closer to gravel traps than sand. Superior National supporters blame poor management by the EDA, insufficient infrastructure investment and a declining marketing budget for a steady decline in rounds played over the past ten years.
In the case of Two Harbors, the city can’t operate the course at a profit and its options for paying for a bond on the property and the fixed costs are running out. City administrator Lee Klein sai
Lakeview revenues are down $150,000 from the break-even point on a course that should pay for itself. The city would need to find more than $250,000 to keep the course running next year and August greens fees were down 50 percent and are 20 percent down for the year.
According to the Superior National application for 1% sales tax funding, they are asking for a minimum of $1.2 million and a maximum of $1.8 million for golf course capital improvements. In addition to 1% money, the group wants the county to commit to $50,000 per year for 10 years with a visitor’s bureau match to cover marketing costs. They are also asking for a loan to pay off the outstanding revenue bonds of $460,000.
Declining rounds and revenues are not unique to the Lake and Cook County golf courses. Hundreds of courses are slated to close this year and many more may be switching to fescue grass to save money. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, fescue requires less watering, mowing, fertilizer and pesticides. Whether or not the concept of brown as the new green will help Lakeview and Superior National out of their financial holes is problematic. Both need more golfers and more marketing to bring players to their respective links.