In his presentation to the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce on April 22, which I attended virtually, Duluth parks director Jim Filby Williams cited the National Golf Foundation in reporting there has been a downward trend in golf participation through 2018. He said it was one of the reasons the city decided to close Lester Park Golf Course (Our View: “City: Get on board with losing Lester or risk ending Enger, too,” April 24).
Williams failed to include, however, that the foundation also reported, in February, that golf experienced a national resurgence in 2020, even though many courses were shut down, sometimes for months and especially in the spring, by COVID-19. The number of rounds played in 2020 jumped 14% in the U.S. over the previous year. It’s a trend I’d expect to continue
In Minnesota, the growth in golfing last year was about 30%, according to the Minnesota Golf Association, making Minnesota a leader in this resurgence.
At the city’s Enger Park Golf Course last year, the growth in rounds played swelled by about 10%, which doesn’t fully account for the rounds lost to the closing of Lester. Where did Lester’s golfers go? And why didn’t they go to Enger?
Based upon the National Golf Foundation’s reports, it makes sense to me and to others for the city of Duluth to open both the Lester and Enger courses this golf season and in 2022. It appears a profit can be made, especially without the continuing losses from Lester being closed but minimally maintained so it can reopen for a final season in 2023, at which point Enger is to be closed for renovations.
In 2019, the Lester Park course, in my opinion, was in better playing condition than the Enger course. With road construction now completed near Lester along both East Superior Street and Lester River Road, golfers likely would utilize the Lester course in numbers reflective of the national and statewide resurgence.
Additionally, I was somewhat shocked by Williams’ inference that if taxpayers like me continue to urge reconsideration of the closure of the Lester Park Golf Course, we somehow jeopardize the renovation of Enger.
Bob Heller of Duluth is a local golfer and retired businessman, business consultant, and attorney.