Yahara Hills

The financial impact of closing half or all of Yahara Hills Golf Course was analyzed by the Parks Division, but neither option nor the option of closing Monona Golf Course would fully remedy the instability of the city's golf system.

A financial analysis of three proposals to make the city’s golf courses financially stable found that a significant investment of funds to improve the quality of the courses would be needed even if some holes were to be closed.

At its meeting Thursday, the city’s Golf Subcommittee received an analysis by the Madison Parks Division of three options proposed by the subcommittee: closing the nine-hole Monona Golf Course, closing 18 holes at Yahara Hills Gold Course or closing all 36 holes at Yahara Hills.

The report concludes all three options would reduce the amount of money the public courses lost each year, but the operation would still see a net loss.

“Nobody’s happy with the numbers,” said subcommittee chairman Dan Smith. “I think we’re just frustrated, and I think the Parks staff is too.”

The Board of Parks Commissioners will discuss the report Wednesday at it’s 6:30 p.m. meeting at Olbrich Botanical Gardens, 3300 Atwood Ave.

The city’s Golf Enterprise was intended to be self-sustaining, but costs continue to mount for much-needed repairs. Capital costs are estimated at $5 million to $8 million with up to $4 million needed for improvements at Yahara Hills alone.

“Even if the operational income issues were solved in the short run, without a serious plan to reinvest in the courses, they will continue to become less desirable to play and costlier to maintain,” the report states.

The report says the enterprise would lose about $239,000 annually without closing holes or making capital improvements.

The analysis found that closing half the holes at Yahara Hills would save just $11,000 a year since the two halves of the course share irrigation systems, facilities and maintenance staff.

Closing all of either the Yahara Hills or Monona course would result in annual savings of $191,000 and $142,000 respectively, though the enterprise would still see a net loss overall.

Without a subsidy from the city — Mayor Paul Soglin has said he opposes any taxpayer subsidy — or an angel donor, Assistant Parks Superintendent Charlie Romines said selling the land could be the only way to raise capital for needed improvements, but the analysis didn’t include that potential revenue.

Romines said analyzing how much a land sale could bring into the Golf Enterprise involved too many variables — including the amount of land sold, buyer interest and how the city would potentially allocate that money — to include it in the financial analysis. He said sale revenue would be analyzed further down the road when a business plan is created.

Several negative impacts were listed along with each option. The report noted that leagues, high school teams and First Tee — a program aimed at introducing young people to golf — would likely be displaced and unable to be accommodated at courses if all of Yahara Hills were closed. The same programs would be displaced from Monona, but could possibly be relocated within the remaining three courses, which also include Glenway and Odana Hills.

A report released last month by Edgehill Golf Advisors for city officials found the demand for golf in the area will stabilize over the next decade before starting to decline.

The subcommittee discussed the possibility of closing or selling all of the courses, but both Romines and Smith said it wasn’t the ideal option.

“I think the city has to decide if they want to provide golf to its residents or not,” Smith said. “If it does, then they have to fix (the infrastructure). Or divest from those properties.”

Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

Subscribe to our Politics email!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Shelley K. Mesch is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She earned a degree in journalism from DePaul University.