Some of the bunkers at the Edinburgh USA golf course were so immense, it could take golfers multiple tries to escape.
After a $2 million remodel, there’s a lot less sand on the city-owned 18-hole course in Brooklyn Park. The number of sand traps was cut from 81 to 64, with the sand replaced with cool, green grass.
Three tee boxes, three putting greens and the driving range tee boxes were also redesigned. The idea is to speed up play and make the course more fun.
“We went from 150,000 square feet of sand to 108,000. That’s a big reduction in sand,” Edinburgh Golf Pro Don Berry said. “The par has stayed the same and the length of the course has stayed the same.
“It’s still a championship course, and it’s challenging. It just appeals to more skills levels. It’s really about the fun factor.”
While a number of Minnesota golf courses have been sold and some converted to housing as interest in the game has waned, Brooklyn Park leaders have chosen to invest in the operation at 8700 Edinburgh Crossing in the north side of the city.
“The City Council looks at this as a real asset to the community. It’s one of the flagship facilities in Brooklyn Park,” Berry said.
The course’s annual revenue has been around $1.8 million a year. It finished $38,000 in the black in 2013 before the renovation, and the city is projecting a slim operating profit this year.
“Most years we cover operating expenses,” Barry said.
“The golf course is owned by our Economic Development Authority. We look at it as an economic development tool,” Mayor Jeff Lunde said.
Homes bordering Edinburgh have fared well, officials say.
“Our most valuable homes in the city that retain value are because of the golf course,” Lunde said. “We believe the golf course adds 15 to 20 percent of the home value.”
Lunde said the golf course has made money over the years but that the city has taken those profits and spent them elsewhere, including on an ice arena.
“We have not done a good job planning for capital expenses. We didn’t reinvest. A lot of long-term maintenance was not being funded with those profits,” Lunde said.
This renovation is a change in policy — reinvent and renovate with the aim of again attracting Ladies PGA events, Lunde said. “We have decided to run the golf course like a business.”
Course use averaged about 40,000 rounds of golf per year at its height around 2000. That number is now around 35,000 rounds, and the city hopes the redesign will deliver a boost.
“Everyone in the golf industry has taken hits. We lost 15 percent from the heyday of golf, but that is considered pretty good. A lot of courses have lost a lot more.” Berry said.
Edinburgh opened in May 1987 and was considered the first high-end public course in Minnesota, Berry said. It’s hosted seven LPGA Tour events and the USGA Public Links Championship.
The firm of renowned golf architect Robert Trent Jones II designed the course.
“When the course was built … you had to hit that fairway or you would go into a bunker, water or trees. There wasn’t a lot of forgiveness,” Berry said.
The same firm oversaw the remodeling that created a more forgiving and scenic course — adding more green space.
Other changes include more fairway grass around the greens vs. rough. Some of the course topography was also changed.
“We banked some areas,” Berry said. “If you miss a green, it will funnel right back onto a green.”
Construction started in the spring of 2014 and was technically completed last August. The grand reopening marks the first full season.
Staff is already noticing quicker play. It takes most players 4 hours, 20 minutes to play the par-72 course. Before, it took about 4 hours, 30 minutes.
A round of golf costs $48 for residents, $57 for nonresidents and $43 for seniors.
Barry said the front nine is more of a links-style course. It’s open with wider fairways and six water features. The back nine holes feel more Minnesotan. It’s narrower with a heavier canopy of trees.
Barry said he’s talked to hundreds of golfers since the remodel.
“I haven’t heard one negative comment,” Berry said. “Its almost universally accepted. It’s a big improvement.”