The proposed reimagining of Madison’s nine-hole Glenway Golf Course into a multi-use community park faces just one more hurdle before the earth movers can get started.
The city’s Board of Park Commissioners unanimously endorsed the project Wednesday evening, recommending that the Common Council give final approval next week.
The project, a gift to the city from golf course developer Michael Keiser and his wife Jocelyn, is estimated to cost as much as $750,000. Keiser approached the city last year and offered to provide design, expertise and construction oversight at Glenway, a popular course on Madison’s near west side.
Keiser’s father, Mike, developed the revered Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon and, more recently, the award-winning Sand Valley Golf Resort in Adams County, which Michael Keiser and his brother Chris now run.
The plan calls for rebuilding all nine greens, widening fairways and incorporating trails for non-golfers. In addition, a team of soil scientists and landscape architects are making changes that would reduce chemical and water inputs at the golf course while increasing natural plant areas that would not require maintenance. Keiser and city parks officials have talked of making the property available to neighborhood groups on Sunday afternoons, an idea inspired by the venerable St Andrews Golf Club in Scotland, which doubles as a picnic ground on Sunday afternoons.
“What this’ll do is provide an updated golf course that is usable for a wide (variety of groups),” said Theran Steindl, golf operations supervisor for the city. The new Glenway will be “a real community asset rather than a golf course alone.”
Construction will close the course for 2021, which will result in a revenue loss to the city of some $200,000, the Finance Committee was told earlier this week. But the city expects revenue increases in future years will pay back the lost revenue.
Parks Supervisor Eric Knepp told the commission that public reaction to the plan has been overwhelmingly positive. In perhaps a nod to Madison’s reputation for contentious debates on development projects, he added, “I didn’t know it just took to redesign a golf course to unify Madison.”
Keiser, who participated in the virtual meeting, said Madison regularly appears on lists of best cities to raise a family. Golf is a great use of city land, he said, but “parks are meant to be common space.”
Knepp said the proposal shows promise of getting even better. He said a major golf equipment manufacturer is willing to make a donation that would significantly help with maintenance at the new Glenway.
“It picks up steam,” he said of Keiser’s gift.
The proposal now goes to the Common Council on Tuesday.