The unprecedented reinvention of Madison’s nine-hole Glenway Golf Course into a park accessible to other users can begin.
The Common Council unanimously agreed Tuesday night to enter into a formal donor agreement with golf course entrepreneur Michael Keiser and his wife Jocelyn, who have offered to donate the funds required to redesign the course to create a multi-use space. The donation has been estimated to be as much as $750,000.
Keiser and his team of course architects, environmental consultants and others have created a master plan that calls for building nine new greens, reducing the amount of land that needs intensive maintenance, creating bike and walking trails and incorporating turf grass varieties and natural plants in order to reduce chemical inputs and water usage.
Construction is expected to begin in April. The golf course will be closed for 2021, which will cost the city some revenue, but parks officials expect that will be made up over time after the new Glenway is open.
At a public hearing before the vote, only one resident expressed opposition. Craig Brown argued the proposal has moved so quickly through the committee process that there has been insufficient time to consider its long-term implications. He also argued that golf as a pastime has been declining in numbers and said, “I would argue that golf is inherently elitist” and could never be an inclusive activity.
Sue Shapcott, a Madison golf instructor, spoke in support, as did Daniel Steinbring, a Black Madison resident and avid golfer who said there are already golfers of color who overwhelmingly support the plan.
“Man, this is again a really great opportunity to revolutionize this course,” he said.
Eric Knepp, Madison parks supervisor, said the goals of inclusion and diversity would be helped by the plan, which would allow non-golfers to use the park. It would also benefit The First Tee of South Central Wisconsin, which introduces golf to youths, and a proposed caddie program would offer employment opportunities for teenagers of all races. In addition, leagues aimed at more diverse groups can be offered.
The Master Plan envisions a putting green that would be free and open to the public, and certain times could be set aside for non-golf events on the course. Even things like movie nights at Glenway would allow other users to enjoy the park.
“Almost all of the feedback we’ve gotten has been positive,” he said. “Right now it’s a golf course, eight months a year. A lot of folks don’t golf and we want to give them an opportunity to (enjoy) this park.”
Keiser, whose father Mike created the high-end and bucket-list destination golf resorts at Bandon Dunes in Oregon and Sand Valley in Wisconsin, said recently that such luxury courses have a place, but that the future of golf depends on shorter, more accessible course like the one he proposed to rebuild at Glenway.