A McKendree University public, 18-hole golf course closed without notice Wednesday as school officials cited rising costs and declining interest in the sport itself.
A release from Lisa Brandon, the university’s director of media relations, stated the operating costs coupled with financial losses contributed to the closure of The Hills Golf Club in Lebanon — formerly known as Locust Hills.
The 109-acre property is located on Belleville Street. Officials purchased it in April 2012 for $1.4 million, the release stated.
“When we bought the golf course, it was good for the community and the university,” the school’s president Dr. James Dennis said in the release. “For four years we have invested in it to the extent that we have been able, making renovations to the course and clubhouse. Despite capital investment improvements, working with individuals from other courses and with a consulting firm, we have not been able to make it a profitable venture.”
We are not putting the golf course on the market at this time; however, in the future, we would entertain a sale of the site if one were tendered.
James Dennis, president of McKendree University
University officials doubled the size of the Lebanon campus with the 109-acre purchase — which is nestled in a residential area. A limited liability company was formed to oversee the course’s purchase and operation. Dan Dobbins, president of that LLC, noted that declining participation in the sport among young people is a trend seen nationally.
“Across the country, many small golf clubs are struggling to remain open,” Dobbins said in the release. “All of these factors and the need for substantial improvements to the course to increase player revenue created an untenable situation.”
The grounds will not be sold immediately. Officials say there are no plans as of Wednesday, and the land will continue to be mowed and maintained.
Dennis said in April 2012 possible additions to the land being considered were tennis courts and a baseball field.
“We are not putting the golf course on the market at this time; however, in the future, we would entertain a sale of the site if one were tendered,” Dennis said.
The release stated the Refuge Family Grill can decide whether to stay open or not.
“We are open as of now. I’m in negotiations on whether that will remain or not,” the grill’s owner Brad Krueger said Wednesday afternoon.