With low revenues at Yahara Hills Golf Course expected to cause Madison’s golf courses to lose money again this year, the future of the 36-hole facility may depend on an aggressive plan to increase rounds there in the future that includes the return of liquor sales, city officials said.

Revenues at the city’s four courses are expected to finish anywhere from $25,000 to $75,000 short of its expenditures in 2014, said Charlie Romines, Parks operations manager. That disappointed Parks officials because Odana Hills and Glenway golf courses had strong years financially and Monona Golf Course was marginally competitive, Romines added.

Rounds played at Yahara Hills continued at such a low pace in 2014 that it failed to earn more revenue than Odana, an 18-hole course, for the fifth time in the past six years, Romines told the city golf subcommittee at a meeting Wednesday at the Goodman Maintenance Facility.

Although there have been discussions about finding other uses for the golf course if it continues to lose money, Romines said Parks is committed to find a way to make it succeed.

“We have to figure out how to make Yahara a positive for us instead of what it is now, which is an albatross around our necks,” Romines said. “We have to get it in the black.”

The city’s golf courses have been in the spotlight ever since the City Council voted in 2012 to replace the four PGA of America golf pros who previously ran the courses with one golf pro, some assistant golf pros and unionized concession workers. The pros — Tom Benson, Rob Muranyi, Mark Rechlicz and Bill Scheer — have filed a lawsuit alleging that the city violated state laws in 2012 by not renewing their contracts. A trial is scheduled for August.

The golf courses lost $105,000 in 2013, the first year with the new system in place. The shortfall is expected to be reduced this year with the help of improved revenues from concessions and other areas, Parks Superintendent Eric Knepp told the subcommittee. Revenues from rounds played at the courses stayed about the same, Knepp said.

The courses need an additional 4,000 rounds to be self-sustaining, Romines said. Yahara Hills has room for all of those additional rounds but it won’t get them until its reputation as a course that doesn’t measure up to competitive courses in the area changes, Romines said.

Parks officials are floating a plan that includes increasing outings at Yahara, creating a discount card focused heavily on driving play to Yahara, and asking the City Council to approve liquor licenses for the four courses, Romines said. Liquor had been sold at the courses under the former system.

“It’s a service that competing courses provide,” Romines said of liquor sales. “We don’t anticipate it will create a lot of revenue, but it’s a service people want and we want to provide it.”

The state Department of Transportation also might come to Yahara Hills’ aid because it is contemplating replacing a dangerous intersection at Highway 12-18 and Millpond Road where drivers turn to get into or out of the golf course parking lot, Knepp said. One potential alternative floated by DOT includes a new interchange at Highway 12-18 and Highway AB and a new frontage road that would follow along the golf course to its parking lot, he added.


Rob Schultz has won multiple writing awards at the state and national levels and covers an array of topics for the Wisconsin State Journal in south-central and southwestern Wisconsin.