Rochester discusses cost versus benefit of golf courses

The city council is looking at whether maintaining the city's four courses is a smart move for taxpayers as rounds of golf decline.

Posted: Jan 14, 2020 4:06 PM
Updated: Jan 15, 2020 9:28 AM

ROCHESTER, Minn. - The cost and benefits of golf are being weighed for the city of Rochester.

The city council is looking at whether maintaining the city's four courses is a smart move for taxpayers as rounds of golf decline.
It may not be the season for golf but Rochester Parks and Recreation Department says now is the time to discuss the sport.

Director Paul Widman said, "In the future we need to decide just which type of golf program we want to have and start gearing up for that."

With wet weather and other factors limiting activity in recent years the department says the number of rounds of golf played is decreasing while the cost of operating the city's courses increases.

Widman explained, "The tax investment for golf has gone from anywhere to $55,000 back in 2012 and we're not up into the $300,00 and that's just the fact that we're losing rounds due to weather, our cost to maintain the courses have increased and just overall the expense of operations has gone up."

So, now the question is: what is the right amount of golf courses for the community?

"Do we have the capacity with three courses or two courses to meet the demands in Rochester? I don't know the answer to the question but it could lead us down that path," said Widman.

The city has taken steps to help offset the cost of maintaining and operating courses. Widman says they've reduced the full-time golf maintenance positions form seven to three and increased the annual passes and green fees.

He added, "We've been a really good bargain for golfers and we're gradually increasing those fees over time we've gone 5-7% over the past four years."

Widman says another factor the department will be watching is a private course, Willow Creek closed, so they hope those golfers will bring their business to the city's courses and impact its bottom line.

Council members say this is an initial assessment and they'll continue to look into the issue. For now the parks department says all four of the city's golf courses will open as usual this season.

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