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Fate of Normandy Oaks Golf Course Discussed: Close It? Sell It?

The financial viability of the golf course is simply unsustainable, according to City Manager Don Johnson.

Royal Oak High School uses Normandy Oaks for its golf teams. Credit: Judy Davids
Royal Oak High School uses Normandy Oaks for its golf teams. Credit: Judy Davids
Normandy Oaks Golf Course, one of Royal Oak's two nine-hole municipal golf courses, may not open this summer.

City Manager Don Johnson told members of the Royal Oak City Commission he will recommend they approve the closing the golf course this year.

Johnson made his announcement at Saturday's strategic planning session as part of his presentation on parks and recreation goals and planning. The financial viability of the golf course is simply unsustainable, he said.

"If we open, we'll probably have to subsidize it," Johnson said. "The long-term decision we have to make is whether we sell it."

The city manager described golf as a dying sport that is not embraced by the younger generation. 

"The plus is there is probably the potential to bring in from its sale enough to complete everything in our our parks and recreation master plan," Johnson said.

The $6.7 million master plan includes a splash park and community center with a pool, said Stewart Meek, assistant to the city manager.

"It includes pretty much everything people asked for, except for a downtown park," Meek said.

The value of the golf course is somewhere in the neighborhood of $14-18 million, according to Johnson.

"The greater density allowed, the more it's worth," Johnson said.

"If you sell (Normandy Oaks) and the result is world-class municipal parks as a result...that is major," said Royal Oak Commissioner Sharlan Douglas.

Should the city close Normandy Oaks this summer it will have to decide whether or not to maintain it as a golf course or simply keep it from being an eyesore.

The city has a provision in its ordinances that states the land has to be maintained for recreation use, according to the city manager.

"The only way we could do anything else or sell it would be to put it on the ballot," Johnson said.

Mayor Jim Ellison reminded staff that Normandy Oaks is used by Royal Oak High School golf teams.

"When they find out we're going to close it, they are going to be in trouble and we need to be prepared to have an answer," Ellison said.

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Bill January 20, 2014 at 07:27 AM
Over the weekend was the story about selling under used parks. Now they want to sell Normandy Oaks. What is this - management by sale?! "We don't know how to manage it, let's just sell it!" Apparently Royal Oak is for sale...
Mike Ripinski January 20, 2014 at 10:47 AM
There are approximately 30 million golfers in the US according to the National Golf Foundation. All of the major USGA amateur championships saw a record number of entries in 2013. After a few years of declining participation ( 2005 - 2011 ) the number of rounds played has leveled off and may have increased in 2013. Sales of golf equipment has increased in the last 2 years. ......Hardly a " dying sport" Mr Johnson. Instead of drooling over the possible one time $$$$$ fix for parks and other city services, you should consider the effect on our overall city image and quality of life. I am very disappointed in your comment.
Lynn M. January 20, 2014 at 11:28 AM
How bad is it I have lived in Royal Oak for 5+ years and had no clue the city owned two golf courses? However, I can name a couple of parks that need their tennis courts repaired
Pbrzez January 20, 2014 at 12:02 PM
Unbelievable. Here we go again. Does the city understand, no selling of green space? If the golf course needs to close, so be it but do NOT sell the park land to the highest bidder! This is our small piece of paradise in an urban area. As a disabled person, I wish I could enjoy the golf course, but I still can enjoy the park. Maybe turn it into walking trails which could also be shared with electric scooters. The golf park benches could be utilized along the path. What ever is done KEEP IT GREEN!
kaboom10 January 20, 2014 at 12:15 PM
Sell it to a tax base increasing venue. Therez more than enuff city parks. I, for one, would like to see more police on the streets. More city services would also be nice as it took forever for the city to clean up after a storm and forever to get to a tree that died.
Frank Sopata January 20, 2014 at 02:58 PM
In my estimation the city never promoted "The Little Course that Could." It could have been marketed better. I got the impression the city didn't know what to do with it from Day One.
Brett A. Hermance January 20, 2014 at 07:43 PM
I didn't even know there was a golf course there! Smh
Wm. Allen January 21, 2014 at 09:59 AM
I agree with Pbrzez, many of our City leaders aren’t getting the message that most of us want to keep the green space that we are so fortunate to have and to pass that green space on to the next generation as it has been passed down to us. Although I’m not a golfer, I’m not sure golf is a dying sport. I’m also not sure that printed books are also doomed, as was mentioned in the Barnes & Noble discussion, before the City Commission decided to give a private company some parking spaces so that the State of Michigan would give this private company $375,000 to push our anchor retail store out of Royal Oak. But if the golf course needs to close, perhaps a park with walking trails or Frisbee golf could be an option. I’ve never played Frisbee golf, but it does look like fun. This trend towards losing our retail stores, parks and other green space is very sad.
kpn January 22, 2014 at 11:38 AM
-Give us a course worth playing would be the first effort to get more folks out. Normandy has always been the red headed step child. RO Golf Course has been on a decline as well the past several years time to pick it up over there also. -Make it a RO City Center with a pool, athletic fields, ample parking, state of the art gym and weight room. Membership fee to belong, etc. City residents only and make sure to police those efforts to keep the place desirable.
The Duke of Royal Oak January 22, 2014 at 02:43 PM
Once you sell a park or golf course you cannot get it back. If the city commissioners would stop micro managing the downtown and yes, there is more to ROYAL OAK than the downtown, perhaps this selling off city assets would stop. It is obvious that the reason the golf course is under utilized is because of POOR management. There has been a management problem at Normandy Oaks the past few years. The lack of leadership by the city commission on this issue is unacceptable. How about cross country skiing in the winter???? Think outside the box commissioners!
The Duke of Royal Oak January 22, 2014 at 02:46 PM
With the up and coming retiring baby boomers and the recommendations by the medical community of more physical activity, I feel the city leadership is uninformed and ignorant of current information. Please get with it city leaders and stop the SELL OFF mentality!
Laura Harrison January 22, 2014 at 11:13 PM
Duke, great idea. They had cross country at the 13 Mile course about 25 years ago. Great exercise! And the equipment could be rented. I think it fell off when we had a couple mild winters. The city could sure cash in this winter. And they could add an ice rink. there is enough room.
Bob January 23, 2014 at 09:17 AM
I would rather keep all the parks and eliminate one of the two city owned golf courses. Why do we have two?

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