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Second phase of Lakeview Golf Course's master plan receives green light, as project makes it into budget

As part of phase II, the back nine of the 18-hole golf course will undergo major renovations and become a par-71 layout, dropping down from the existing par-72 setup.

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A green sits along the Lakeview Golf Course.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — While Phase II of the Lakeview Golf Course master plan was on the chopping block, the project made its way into the city’s 2023 budget.

With the council’s decision to agree on a funding package for the $558,000 project, the back nine of the 18-hole golf course will undergo major renovations and become a par-71 layout, dropping down from the existing par-72 setup.

Council member Dan Sabers has been one of the biggest advocates of making phase II of the golf course master plan happen. Although Sabers said some of the phases included in the entire eight phase golf course master plan are “wish list” items that are unlikely to ever materialize, he dubbed phase II as an essential project to enhance Lakeview Golf Course for years to come.

“Even if you stop at phase II, you’re going to have a good golf course,” Sabers said at a late September budget work session.

Sabers said phase I and phase II go hand-in-hand. With phase I being funded and on pace to begin this month, he said it “makes no sense” doing phase I without phase II.

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“It’s got to be all or nothing. If you make a new green on 11, you take No. 12 out of play … There’s no way you can cut anything out,” Sabers said.

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Action from the 2022 Class AA Boys State Golf Tournament on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, at Lakeview Golf Course.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

The second phase was initially estimated to cost $494,108, but inflation sent cost estimates up to $573,000. Phase II is part of a $3.6 million master plan project to upgrade the city-owned course, but City Administrator Stephanie Ellwein noted that inflation could alter that dollar amount.

Phase II was proposed to be nixed from the 2023 budget. A repayment into the city’s health insurance fund is being used to help cover the costs of phase II.

While the council agreed to include phase II in the 2023 budget, council member Susan Tjarks requested Lakeview to fulfill its commitment of paying the city back for the new fleet of golf carts that recently rolled in. The loan for the golf carts amounted to $100,000.

“I remember when they got the golf carts that the intention was they would pay it back, and I think it’s a disservice to the general public who may or may not be golfers to not expect that money will be paid back,” she said. “They are getting a heck of a bonus this year. I would at least like to see if they could pay this back.”

Council member John Doescher backed Tjarks’ request to keep the golf course on the hook for covering some of the costs for the new fleet of golf carts.

“Susan had a good point that non-golfing residents want to know they’re making an effort to pay back,” he said.

Sabers indicated the golf course will be committed to paying off some of the money needed to fund the replacement of golf carts.

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“In the past we’ve always done three- to five-year paybacks. The golf board has no intention of not paying back,” Sabers said.

As for the timeline of the next phase, Lakeview Golf Superintendent Jason Gunnare said construction of phase II would span roughly a year. The construction schedule he provided to the council had a start date in August with work taking place until around June or July the following year.

The golf course would remain open during construction, but a temporary green on the last hole would alter the layout for an extended period of time.

“I’d start mowing it down next year to make sure it’s a puttable surface. It wouldn’t be a full-fledged green, but it would be something to get us by,” Gunnare said.

Gunnare responded to calls for raising rates at the golf course as a way to help fund future improvements, which he said is a delicate process.

“You don’t want to raise rates significantly until the product is done. There is room to increase rates, but you have to be careful because if you raise it higher than what the market will bear, then you’re losing members and players. You have to be a little careful,” Gunnare said.

Lakeview master plan coverage...
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A plan to fund the work in 2023 would need to become a priority for city leaders, with the plan calling for altering five key holes on the course's back nine.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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