Duluth's municipal golf courses lost about $191,500 in 2019, posting a poorer performance than last year, when they finished about $66,000 in the red.
About $100,000 of those losses are likely attributable to 'winter kill' last offseason that damaged greens at the Enger Park Golf Course, rendering some popular holes unplayable for part of the season, according to Jim Filby Williams, Duluth's director of public administration. However, he said those greens bounced back quicker than first feared.
About 51,300 rounds of golf were played at the city's two municipal golf courses during 2019 — down nearly 16% from the 61,000 rounds played last year. But part of that decline was to be expected, Filby Williams said, with Lester Park Golf Course closed for more of the shoulder seasons in an effort to trim costs during lower-traffic parts of the year.
Despite the financial loss, Filby Williams said there are no current plans to increase the cost of season passes for the municipal golf courses next year, as a survey has indicated local golfers are quite price-sensitive. However, he does expect some increase in golf cart charges, and the price paid for a round of golf will no longer be tax-inclusive, likely adding about $2 to the cost per round, Filby Williams said.
Next year. Lester Park Golf Course will downsize, offering 18 holes of play, instead the 27 it did previously. The city is entertaining proposals to see the Lake 9 section of the course redeveloped into housing.
Duluth's municipal courses anticipate they will attract 60,250 rounds of play in 2020, and they are projected to post a loss of just over $116,000.
Billy Casper Golf's contract to manage the courses is up in 2020, and Duluth is posting a request for proposals to operate the properties.