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Hudson Golf Club to close down

HUDSON, Wis. -- A representative of the Hudson Golf Club’s owners came to the city Plan Commission last week looking for support to redevelop the 18-hole course.

He didn’t get any.

“I’m not inclined to do much,” said Mary Yacoub, the City Council’s representative on the commission. The comment appeared to sum up the general feeling of the commission.

Hudson attorney Jeff Redmon spoke on behalf of Hanson Brothers Golf Holdings LLC, the family corporation that purchased the 141-acre golf course and clubhouse in April 2010 for a reported $3.6 million.

At the time, the golf club’s board of directors said the cash purchase would eliminate the club’s debt.

“Hanson Bros. has committed to the club being private, at least for 2010, and maintaining the golf facility for a minimum of 10 years,” the board said in a letter to shareholders prior to the sale.

But in July of this year, Chris Hanson and Redmon announced that this season would be the last for the golf club.

“After serving the Hudson community since the 1950s, the financial viability of the golf course is simply unsustainable,” Hanson, the father and head of the family company, said in a news release.

On Oct. 24, Redmon told the Plan Commission that the decision to close the golf club was final.

“This isn’t going to be a golf course,” he said.

Redmon indicated that he suggested a working session with the Plan Commission to discuss options for the property, but after talking to city officials, decided that would be premature.

He said Hanson Brothers signed a covenant agreeing not to do anything that would prevent the operation of the golf course for the next 10 years, but didn’t promise to keep it open that long.

When Yacoub challenged the statement, saying club shareholders were given the impression that the course would continue in operation for at least 10 years, Redmon said he negotiated and drafted the agreement, and knows what’s in it.

He said that when the former golf club dissolved, the power to release Hanson Brothers from the agreement passed to the City Council.

There are six years remaining on the agreement.

Redmon noted that the current zoning of the course, except for the clubhouse and two development lots, is one-family residential (R-1).

He said Hanson Brothers has talked to a number of residential and commercial developers about the golf club, and that there is strong interest in it from a couple of both types of developers.

Redmon said the Hansons won’t ask the city for a waiver from the covenant barring development of the property until they have selected a developer and have a specific proposal.

‘A huge loss for the community’

Yacoub told Redmon that she felt misled by Hanson Brothers when they came to city a year ago asking for permission to subdivide the course, creating a separate commercial lot for the clubhouse and two development lots along Carmichael Road.

She said the Plan Commission had a lengthy discussion about preserving the integrity of the golf course so it could continue to operate, and the Hansons gave no indication at that time that they were going to shut down the course.

Yacoub said she may have voted against the subdivision if she knew then that the Hansons would close the golf course a year later.

A year ago, Redmon told the City Council that the Hansons intended to continue operating the course, and to use the cart storage building as a clubhouse if the present clubhouse was sold.

Plan Commission members Fred Yoerg and Mary Claire Potter agreed with Yacoub.

“We were painted a picture that was untrue,” Yoerg said.

“Maybe they don’t know how to run a golf club. That’s not our problem,” he added.

Addressing Redmon’s claim that there are just too many courses in the area for the Hudson Golf Club to be profitable, Potter said, “There are profitable golf courses out there.

“I think it is a huge loss for the community,” she said.

The final round

Meanwhile, Joe Merchak of the town of Troy, his son Tommy of Hudson and Don Nitzkowski of Woodbury are believed to be the final golfers to play a round on the course.

Merchak said two golf club employees met them in the parking lot to take their carts when they finished play shortly after 6 p.m. Sunday.

“They told us it was the last day of the season and we were the last ones there,” Merchak said. “They were anxious to close up.

“It was a great day,” he said. “When we got to the 17th green, we looked at each other and said, this is really kind of an emotional time.”

Nitzkowski took a photo of the father and son on the 18th fairway, with the iconic hedge logo containing the initials HGC in the background.

Merchak remembered playing the course (then known as the Hudson Country Club) with his father in the 1960s. He took up the game only recently, following the lead of Tommy and another son, J.P.

“The course is a fun one to play. I have always found the course and its greens exceptionally well-maintained,” Merchak said. “I’ll be sorry to see it go if it does close this year.”

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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