Hyland Greens looks to be out of the rough and back onto the fairway.
The money-losing par-3 golf course, on 63 prime acres in west Bloomington, was in danger of being sold for development. But a community task force is recommending that the city keep the course open, calling it “a gem in the heart of Bloomington” and an important public asset.
“The task force recognizes that if Hyland Greens is shut down, the likelihood of having a similar course developed in the city of Bloomington is slim,” according to a report presented this week to the Bloomington City Council.
“The task force really wanted to preserve this amenity for the citizens of Bloomington,” said Diann Kirby, the city’s director of community services.
“The task force really worked hard and did a terrific job with the information they had and the research they conducted.”
The final decision on the course’s future will rest with the City Council, which has not yet scheduled a vote on the recommendations.
The group offered several ideas for improving the course’s financial performance. It suggested hiring a golf management consultant to make recommendations, and it said the city should consider selling roughly 10 empty acres on Normandale Boulevard once used as a driving range. Money from a sale could be used for capital improvements at the city’s two public courses — Hyland Greens and Dwan — and in the city’s park system.
The strong recommendation is arguably surprising, given that golf has been on a steady decline over the past decade. Nationally, about 5 million people have stopped playing golf since 2003, according to the U.S. Golf Association.
Since 2004, rounds played at Hyland Greens and Dwan are down by about a third.
Hyland Greens has been steadily in the red, with annual losses of more than $200,000 in four of the past six years. In 2015, aided by exceptional weather and a lingering autumn, the course’s deficit was limited to about $90,000.
Meanwhile, neighboring Edina in 2014 closed its Fred Richards course, a similar city-owned, par-3 layout.
None of those gloomy facts convinced the 24-member task force to pull the pin on Hyland.
“We think it’s a unique amenity. It’s very user-friendly, especially for kids and the senior population,” said Rod Axtell, a task force member. “The task force consensus was pretty strong that we do everything to keep the golf course.”