New agreement ensures future of 50-year old Lake Bluff Golf Club

After years of uncertainty, actions taken by the Lake Bluff Park District will ensure a "must-play" destination for Lake County golfers remains open.

Approval this week of a license agreement with GolfVisons Management Inc. means the more than 50-year-old Lake Bluff Golf Club will continue operating and result in $2.1 million in estimated savings for the park district.

The five-year renewable pact transfers day-to-day operation and maintenance to GolfVisions, which will assume the risk for potential losses. The resulting savings will be used for other park district needs.

"We can keep the golf course up and running, and it really helps the park district out - the operating losses were difficult to manage year by year," board President Rob Douglass said. "This just alleviates a lot of pressure."

During its history, the course on Route 176 and Green Bay Road has become a self-described "must play" public venue for its upkeep and amenities.

But running it presented continuing financial challenges, and how it fit into the district's future has been a long-running topic.

"This was an extremely difficult and lengthy process," said Ron Salski, the park district's executive director.

This year, details of the golf operations were shared at two public meetings with input solicited and questions answered. Residents also raised more than $118,000 in private funds to offset costs. The park district board on Oct. 29 is expected to discuss using those funds for clubhouse improvements.

The district received proposals from four management companies. Interviews were conducted, potential types of agreements explored, courses toured and meetings held with the company management to determine whether expected standards could be met, according to the district.

"The goal is that we have the same level of product that we've had over the years," according to Salski. "We just feel GolfVisions is a perfect fit."

At the same meeting the license agreement was approved, the district terminated food and beverage and management agreements with Billy Casper Golf. In that scenario, the district paid a fee to the company but assumed the risk for losses, Salski said.

GolfVisions operates 14, 18-hole and three, 9-hole courses in the Chicago area including Foxford Hills in Cary, Settlers Hill in Batavia, Midlane in Wadsworth, Bonnie Brook in Waukegan, Oak Grove in Harvard, Village Green in Mundelein, and Bittersweet in Gurnee.

"Our feeling is we're saving the course," said Tim Miles Sr., founder and chief executive of GolfVisions. "I'm an old-time player. I think I know what a good course is. This doesn't need any restoring or rebuilding,"

The license agreement calls for it to be operated as a "mainstream, competitively priced public golf course."

Miles said Lake Bluff will be cross-marketed with other properties, and he hopes to "sustain or improve" the number of rounds played at Lake Bluff.

The park district will receive 10 percent of any annual gross revenue over $800,000 although it is responsible for any repairs over $1,500 and equipment over $10,000, according to the agreement.

Shedding the golf operations resulted in a staffing reorganization. Seven full-time positions were eliminated, two redesigned and two full-time positions created, Salski said.

Park district weighs future of 50-year-old Lake Bluff Golf Club

The uncertain fate of the 50-year-old Lake Bluff Golf Club on Route 176 and Green Bay Road has been settled and it will remain open. Courtesy of Lake Bluff Park District
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