The city of Duluth has announced it is permanently closing Lester Park Golf Course after the 2023 golf season.
Chief Administrative Officer Noah Schuchman said the failure to sell Lester Golf real estate, the COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse of the economy have made it “painfully clear” Duluth can’t operate two golf courses anymore.
Lester Golf Course, located to the northeast of the city and offering views over Lake Superior, is one of two golf courses owned by the city, the other being Enger Park Golf Course, which is closer to downtown.
The closure comes despite the sport seeing a resurgence in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with golf considered one of the safer leisure activities as indoor amenities shut down.
“When we continued to look at the financial impact of operating both courses, it became clear that the best way to keep a public golf course in Duluth is to recommend the permanent closure of Lester,” Schuchman said.
Lester Park was temporarily closed in 2020 because of COVID-19. The city says it will remain closed in 2021 and 2022 “due to cost.” But the golf course will reopen in 2023 for its final season while Enger Park Golf Course is closed for major renovations.
“Operation of both Enger and Lester is a $100,000 annual loss to the City’s budget, which results in cuts to the City of Duluth Park Fund. For comparison, $100,000 is the approximately cost to replace a modest playground. Operating Enger and Lester in 2021 and 2022 would have required the City to reduce its playground replacement program from two playgrounds per year to one playground per year,” according to Kate Van Daele, public information officer for the city.
In 2019, a task force found the future of Lester and Enger golf courses was in jeopardy because of an oversupply of golf options in Duluth, failing golf infrastructure and not enough city funds to fix both golf courses to today’s standards.
This city will be developing a plan to overhaul Enger Golf with a new club house, irrigation system, driving range and other upgrades for a reopen in 2024 after Lester Park closes.
“As outlined by the public golf task force, the City intends to preserve the original Lester Park Golf Course as protected park land and engage the community to develop a plan for how the space should be used and improved following the closure of golf facilities in 2024,” Van Daele said.