Mar 9, 2023 - Sports

Driving range, upgrades coming to Highland Park Golf Course

A decorative stone sign reading: Highland Park Golf Course

The entrance to Highland Park on Green Road in Highland Hills. Photo: Sam Allard/Axios

A legacy asset in Highland Hills is on the path to revitalization.

Driving the news: Cleveland City Council this week approved new management of Highland Park Golf Course, a city-owned 36-hole property that for years has struggled to attract golfers due to poor conditions.

Catch up fast: The Bibb administration signaled last year that it wanted to transform Highland Park into a "tournament ready" facility that competes for collegiate and professional events while celebrating its heritage as a trailblazing course for African American golfers.

  • The course was home to local Black golf leagues in the 1950s and '60s and hosted the inaugural PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship in 1987.

State of play: Council selected the Highland Park Golf Foundation over several others to take over the facility, in part because of a partnership with the golf management company Troon, which will handle day-to-day operations.

  • Troon manages Briardale Greens in Euclid, the Raintree golf center in Green and a handful of municipal courses in Cincinnati.

The intrigue: Councilman Mike Polensek said it was "beyond comprehension" that the city did not more seriously consider choosing Cleveland Metroparks, which previously transformed Seneca golf course from a city-owned mud pit to the most popular course in its portfolio.

  • Reality check: The Metroparks submitted a letter of interest, but not a full proposal.

By the numbers: Cleveland will provide $1.5 million to the Highland Park Golf Foundation over five years for capital improvements and $250,000 per year in management fees.

  • Yes, but: Once the course is profitable, its excess revenue will pay the management fees, and any profit beyond that will be reinvested for course improvements.

What they're saying: "This is a real hidden gem," Bob Flesher, who heads the Highland Park Golf Foundation, told Axios. "It's so smartly designed, and the land is spectacular. We owe it to Cleveland to restore it to what it can be."

What's next: The foundation plans to construct a driving range on the property to make the course more accessible to novice golfers this year.

  • And with the guidance of course architect Brit Stenson, the plan is to significantly lengthen the "Blue" course — the more challenging of the two 18-hole courses on the property — to bring it up to competitive standards for tournament play.

The bottom line: "At the end of the day, the goal is for these to be destination golf courses in the region," Flesher said.

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