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Monona Golf Course

Ken Bent of Madison tees off on the eighth hole at Monona Golf Course.

A crowd of golfers on Tuesday night tore into the possibility of shuttering the Madison-owned Monona Golf Course.

The closure and sale of some land at the nine-hole Southeast Side course is one of several options the Madison Parks Division is considering as a way to prop up the city’s floundering Golf Enterprise Fund. Madison’s four-course golf operation, which is supposed to be self-sustaining, has run a deficit in eight of the last nine years and is facing millions of dollars in repair and renovation work.

Dozens of concerned residents packed a room at Olbrich Botanical Garden to express their emphatic opposition at further consideration of shutting down the golf course along Monona Drive.

“That golf course is a part of our lives,” Monona regular Amy Scarr said.

Other solutions to turning around the financial woes were included in a recently released 2016 Golf Enterprise Fund report.

They include increasing greens fees, adding liquor and wine sales at courses, boosting the number of events — such as weddings and corporate outings — closing troublesome holes or attempting to get taxpayer support from the city.

City officials are looking for ways to cover millions of dollars in repairs across the courses, particularly at the water-plagued 36-hole Yahara Hills Golf Course that has lost the city more than $1.4 million since 2010.

The possibility of closing holes or the entirety of Yahara Hills is also included in the report.

Parks Superintendent Eric Knepp told meeting attendees the golf operation has been unsustainable for years and noted the options to address the funding problems are in preliminary stages with nothing being formally introduced.

“All of the above are worthy of discussion, but it’s my role to say all of them should be discussed,” said Knepp. “We should look at all options.”

But for many people Tuesday, the Monona Golf Course is a standout feature for the East Side they described as a gem, landmark and treasure.

“It’s every person’s course. It belongs to everyone, young, old, small, big, youth, senior citizens,” said Mark Buffat, a frequent player at Monona.

Several speakers argued that if any course or holes are to be closed, it should be Yahara Hills due to the expensive repairs needed for its drainage system, bunkers and other issues.

“If you have a bleeding wound in your right hand, don’t cut off your left as a cure,” said East Side resident Thomas Stoebig.

The Golf Subcommittee, which provides advisory decisions to the Parks Commission, took no action on which path forward it would like to take to shore up the operations.

“I don’t want to lose a single golf hole,” subcommittee chairman Dan Smith said.

Several members questioned why the golf courses aren’t included in the Parks Division budget rather than being a separate fund. For member Bob Dye, he would like to see a combination of efforts taken to make the city’s courses sustainable.

“I’m just worried that if we don’t take any action in the next six months that spring’s going to come, and we’re going to be opening four golf courses, all of which have individualized things that are really problematic,” Knepp said. “We have to have an open and honest conversation.”

The subcommittee will take up the topic again before the Parks Commission meets on Sept. 13.


Logan Wroge has been a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal since 2015.