Earlier this year, the Hyland Lassies golf league was honored by the Bloomington City Council for 50 years of play.
Last week, the Lassies discovered that the council might be closing their golf course.
“The group is real upset,” said Fay Clark, who’s been a Lassie for 22 years. “It’s a great activity for our ladies. We walk, we talk, we have lunch.”
Over the next few months, a task force will consider options for the future of Hyland Greens Golf and Learning Center, a par-3 course that opened in 1963 and has been owned by the city since 1974.
Although no final decision will be made until spring, the numbers don’t look good for golf. About 60,000 rounds were played at Hyland in 2000, the most ever. Last year, that dropped to 24,000 rounds, a decrease of 60 percent. The course has been operating in the red since 2005, city officials said, and is projected to lose about $225,000 next year if it remains open.
Golf is also struggling nationally, according to a city report on the future of Hyland. The number of golfers is down 23 percent since the sport’s peak in 2002, according to the National Golf Foundation. And more than 150 public golf courses closed in 2013, the last year for which figures are available.
There’s also a trend toward closing smaller, par-3 courses, such as the Fred Richards course in Edina, which closed last fall.
“You look at the golf industry, and things are changing. And that’s affecting how Hyland Greens is being used,” said Diann Kirby, the city’s director of community services. “Based on the history and the rounds played, that’s what opened this discussion.”
The task force will consider five options for Hyland:
• Continue operating it as a city-owned course.
• Convert the 63-acre site to a park.
• Sell the land for development.
• Contract with a private manager to operate the course.
• Partner with investors to create a year-round golf facility.
According to the city report, the land could bring $10 million to $12 million if sold. City planners suggested a mix of single-family homes, townhouses and senior housing. Mayor Gene Winstead pointed out that the land, if developed with housing, could permanently add $50 million or more to the city’s tax base.
The city also would consider a combination of housing and parkland for the site, Kirby said: “There might be the opportunity to create something really unique.”
The task force, still to be appointed by the City Council, will look at the options and make a recommendation to the council in February. The council is expected to make a final decision in April.
Clark said the Lassies are looking at other places to continue their league, but it’s not easy to find a good fit.
“We’re all seniors. My members can’t walk 18 holes,” she said. Cost is also an issue. With frequent-player discounts, the Lassies golf at Hyland for $12 a round. Most public courses — if you can get a tee time — cost more than $50 a round, she said.
“We do understand it,” she said. “We’re not surprised to see this happening. But you look at Minneapolis. It’s amazing with all that green space, and you’d think the suburbs would have learned that people want green space.”