Financial Losses Make Future of Hilltop GC Unclear

The municipal Plymouth, Mich., golf course is losing about $100,000 per year, and the township does not have the funds to make updates that operator Billy Casper Golf has suggested. Township Supervisor Kurt Heise is considering forming a transition committee to determine the best use for the land.

Amid steep financial losses, the survival of Hilltop Golf Course in Plymouth, Mich., remains unclear as Plymouth Township Supervisor Kurt Heise considers forming a transition committee to examine what might become of the 18-hole course, the Novi, Mich.-based HometownLife reported.

If elected officials choose not to renew a contract that expires in March 2019 with the golf course’s management company, Billy Casper Golf, Inc., the township would have to notify the company 120 days in advance, HometownLife reported.

While it doesn’t appear any decision is imminent, Heise and other township officials are increasingly concerned about golf course money losses that they say amount to about $100,000 a year. Moreover, officials say Billy Casper Golf has asked for more than $1 million for walking paths, concession improvements, new golf carts and removal of trees that impede golfers, HometownLife reported.

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“That is money we simply do not have,” Heise said.

It’s also unclear what would happen with a loan the township made years ago from the general fund to the golf course. With interest, that amounts to $540,000, HometownLife reported.

Golf course officials have indicated they stand a better chance of reversing financial losses if they can get the money to improve the site. General Manager Aaron Spokaeski also has cited efforts to bring in more revenue with nine-hole night golfing; a spring craft beer outing; ushering in a soccer-like foot golf game allowing players to kick a ball toward holes; new evening leagues; a bigger push to promote beginner golf lessons; and rolling out a smart phone app to generate new business and revenue, HometownLife reported.

Golf course officials “are doing the best they can with what they’ve got,” Heise said, but financial losses can’t continue. The committee he is considering forming would involve township trustees and residents who would examine possible land uses for the site, if the township ultimately decides to shut down the golf course, HometownLife reported.

Trustee Bob Doroshewitz said the township should exhaust all efforts to determine whether the golf course can become viable before closing it. Trustee Chuck Curmi also cautioned that the latest discussion shouldn’t be interpreted as a death knell, HometownLife reported.

“We haven’t made a decision to close this facility,” he said, though he acknowledged it would be “a monumental task” to make the golf course profitable.

Heise offered one possible vision that would involve converting the golf course into a recreation area, where residents could walk, jog, bike and cross country ski, among other activities. It could potentially include walking paths, pavilions and other amenities. “Golf course properties are being repurposed all the time for open space and green space,” he said.

To help pay for maintenance to that and other township parks, Heise floated the idea of selling the southernmost portion of the golf course, roughly from the clubhouse south, along with a so-called “triangle” of other land. That area, he said, could be developed with about 30 single-family condominiums, while the Hilltop clubhouse could be converted into a restaurant and bar, HometownLife reported.

Heise estimated the township could get $2 million for the property—money he said could be put into a recreation fund to maintain parks. He said that could potentially be coupled with a nonprofit entity that could accept money from corporations and private donors, HometownLife reported.

Treasurer Mark Clinton, however, said residents have voiced opposition to him about more housing, amid concerns about issues such as worsening traffic congestion. Trustee Gary Heitman suggested one possible use for the golf course could be to bring back the Fourth of July fireworks show that officials canceled last season, saying it was costly, too big for the Township Park neighborhood and caused public safety concerns, HometownLife reported.

The latest talks dovetail with plans by Plymouth Township and the city of Plymouth to develop a joint master recreation plan. By working together, officials say, the plan should increase the chances of securing state grant dollars for parks and recreation, HometownLife reported.