Westlake, Ohio has hired local golf operator and media personality Jimmy Hanlin as a consultant and engaged Fry/Straka Global Golf Course Design, to come up with plans for how to have the 27-hole property provide unique practice and playing experiences so the course is a “natural draw” that doesn’t “compete with everyone else.”
Meadowood Golf Course in Westlake, Ohio has been “in a downward spiral” since the 2008 financial crisis, Bob DeMinico, Recreation Director for the Cleveland suburb, told Crain’s Cleveland Business.
Westlake’s 2018 financial report showed that the golf course—which features an 18-hole, par-3 layout and a standard nine-hole option—had expenses that exceeded revenues by $216,877, Crain’s Cleveland Business reported. That tally was up almost $70,000 from a loss of $147,440 in 2017.
But Westlake’s plan for trying to turn the course’s fortunes around is to spend more money on golf, Crain’s Cleveland Business reported. In 2018, emboldened by the 2017 renewal of a 0.125% municipal income tax, the city approached Northeast Ohio golf operator and media personality Jimmy Hanlin about devising a master plan for the future of Meadowood.
The city has since hired Hanlin as a consultant on the potential project, and in November it also retained the services of Fry/Straka Global Golf Course Design, Crain’s Cleveland Business reported. The Dublin, Ohio-based firm’s credits include Little Mountain Country Club in Concord, Ohio and StoneWater Golf Club in Highland Heights, Ohio—two courses Hanlin has a hand in operating.
The Westlake project, however, doesn’t figure to follow the standard 18-hole path, Crain’s Cleveland Business reported. Instead, Hanlin and Fry/Straka principal Jason Straka will be drawing up plans that could create with a loop course that would play in different directions, depending on the time of day, and a state-of-the-art practice facility.
“It’s easy to walk in and say the facility needs something, [with an attitude of] ‘Let’s rip it down and build a golf course,’ ” Hanlin told Crain’s Cleveland Business. “The idea is to create something that maybe you don’t have in Northeast Ohio, and maybe something different than anything we’ve ever seen before.”
Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough and DeMinico are counting on Hanlin and Straka to be creative, Crain’s Cleveland Business reported. While a new 18-hole course hasn’t been ruled out, that option doesn’t seem as likely, because doing so could extend the golf course’s property beyond the current grounds. While Westlake could make such a move after gaining 13 acres through a 2017 land swap, it would be more costly to do so. And it also wouldn’t be as different as some of the other options that have been discussed.
“We want something unique so we’re not competing with everyone else,” said DeMinico. “We feel having a practice facility next to a unique nine-hole golf course will be a natural draw.”
A practice facility is key, all parties said, partly because so many driving ranges have shut down in the region, Crain’s Cleveland Business reported.
“There’s really almost nothing on the West Side [of Cleveland] if you want to just hit a bucket of balls and practice right now,” Hanlin said. “That makes it easy for us to create teaching programs for the city. That’s a major focus of this project.”
Another is an “outside-the-box” approach that Clough said he prefers, Crain’s Cleveland Business reported.
In separate conversations, Hanlin and Straka each mentioned The Cradle, a nine-hole, par-3 layout that opened in 2017 at the historic Pinehurst Country Club in North Carolina.
During a recent visit, Straka said The Cradle featured a corporate outing, families playing with their kids, music blaring from speakers built into rocks on the course, and beer flowing. “There’s also a putting course next to it, and it was packed,” he said.
While that particular concept isn’t being considered for Westlake, it has elements—clever, fun attractions that appeal to younger golfers—that Hanlin and Straka are contemplating, Crain’s Cleveland Business reported.
A nine-hole reversible course could be “really cool and different,” Hanlin said. The same goes for an indoor-outdoor practice facility that could have a driving range that includes a par-3 course.
Straka, an Ohio native with family members who live a mile from Meadowood, also brought up the possibility of a 12-hole course that could play in three four-hole loops, Crain’s Cleveland Business reported.
The younger generations “are much more focused not on the collection of things, but the way to spend their time with experiences,” said Straka, who frequently gives presentations on the state of the golf industry. “For them, it’s not less time, but the value of time.”
Apeealing to those generations is important to Westlake, which has partnerships with the First Tee of Cleveland and the PGA Jr. League and has posted some of its strongest numbers during the down years via younger players, DeMinico told Crain’s Cleveland Business.
Hanlin said his visits to dozens of golf courses because of his work filming his “18 Holes” TV show have given him a glimpse at “what works and what doesn’t work,” Crain’s Cleveland Business reported. To be successful now, he said, facilities must have multiple sources of revenue.
As Hanlin and Straka come up with different versions of a potential Westlake project, the pair will narrow their selections to a few in the coming months, and those will then be presented to the city council, Crain’s Cleveland Business reported. “We’re anxiously awaiting the master plan,” Clough said. “We’d like to know by the spring.”
If the city likes and gets the necessary approvals for one of the options, which is the expectation, the plan would move forward, Crain’s Cleveland Business reported. Ideally, Hanlin said, construction would start later this year.
DeMinico is a proponent of that timeline, but doesn’t expect things to happen so fast, Crain’s Cleveland Business reported. “By late August, our numbers really drop,” the Westlake recreation director said of Meadowood. “Our clientele is juniors and seniors. By then, they’re done. Their outings are over.
“That would be a great time to do that,” he added, “but that would be aggressive.”