Meadowbrook and Hiawatha Golf Courses remain closed after heavy rain

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July 15, 2014 // UPDATED 12:28 pm - July 23, 2014
By: Ben Johnson
Alicia McCann
Ben Johnson

Meadowbrook and Hiawatha Golf Course remain partially flooded and closed from this year’s record-breaking rainfall.

The courses have been closed since a torrential downpour dumped more than four inches of rain on the Twin Cities metro during the morning of June 19, driving every single one of Minneapolis’s lakes and Minnehaha Creek to a record high water level.

“We can’t even measure the water levels because our sensors are underwater,” said Park Board Superintendent Jayne Miller.

Hiawatha is in better shape than Meadowbrook, which still has up to eight feet of standing water in some spots, but even before the June 19 storm the maintenance crew at Hiawatha struggled to keep its back-nine holes dry and open. Hiawatha’s driving range did reopen July 2.

Miller lamented the timing of the closures, coming in a year when the Park Board had a successful start to a long-planned revamp of its golf customer service and course maintenance. According to Miller, revenue was up at both Hiawatha and Meadowbrook before they were flooded.

“It’s awful to see them like this,” she said after a recent Park Board meeting. “With all of the bacteria and fungus the standing water creates we’ll almost certainly have to start over and replant a lot of these holes. The grass underneath is dead.”

Miller said the silver lining in the flooding is that a long-term closure could allow maintenance crews to overhaul problematic sections of the courses in one shot, instead of having to complete repairs and upgrades piecemeal over several years.

The flooding comes at a critical time for Minneapolis golf. Last year the Park Board hired a Colorado-based golf consultant to help reassess its struggling, unprofitable golf program, and in February the consultant delivered a critical, sharply-worded report.

The report estimated it would take an investment of $34.5 million to get each of its seven courses back up to ideal condition, an unrealistic amount of money for an organization that has a roughly $75 million yearly budget and a golf program that until recently had paid for itself.

In April commissioners signed off on a few short-term improvements, $150,000 for new maintenance equipment and the new customer service training program while they considered more controversial long-term solutions over the summer. Those options include closing, repurposing or leasing out some of the courses to third-party management.

Meadowbrook was cited as the course with “the greatest potential to thrive” in the report, which cited its championship-level design and affluent neighborhood demographics. Meadowbrook is owned by the Park Board, but actually resides partly in Hopkins and partly in St. Louis Park.

For now maintenance crews at the Hiawatha and Meadowbrook are stuck trying to maintain areas unaffected by the flood while patiently waiting for the rest of the course to dry out.

“These days the only people who come to the course are talkers, gawkers and dog walkers,” said Meadowbrook employee Mark McDonald.