Category Archives: Business

Chandler Park Golf Course

Revenue is Up 27% at Detroit’s Public Golf Courses

Motor City Magic: Here’s One Reason Why.

by Abbey Hart for Golfdom (Reprinted by National Golf Foundation August 2019)

The Motor City’s four major courses — Rackham, Palmer, Chandler and Rouge Park — have been graced by both local and famous golf lovers, including Motown legend Smokey Robinson and heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, who played in Detroit golf leagues 50-60 years ago.

In recent years, the story of public golf in Detroit hasn’t been so rosy. Until 2017, the courses were managed by a company under a short-term contract. The result was a lack of investment leading to dying greens, bunkers crowded with weeds, poor drainage, flooding, worn-out clubhouses and pavilions — and a sharp drop-off in golfers.

These conditions weren’t going to fly with Angie Hipps, contract manager for Detroit’s General Services Department, which oversees the golf courses.

Hipps isn’t a city employee bent only on managing money and resources — she cares about course conditions. She was the first female greens superintendent in Michigan when she worked at Rogell Golf Course, a former city golf course, from 1989 to 2005, before the venue closed in 2007.

The city enlisted the help of the National Golf Foundation (NGF), which investigated conditions at each of the city’s four golf courses. The resulting 152-page report was eye-opening for city officials for its hefty price tag: $15 million to repair all four locations.

There was one other thing Hipps noticed: “Most of the problems could be solved with basic agronomy practices,” she says, which indicated to her that getting the right turf professionals in place was key to saving these beloved courses.

The city opted to close Palmer Golf Course, situated in Palmer Park. (The park also houses the private-membership Detroit Golf Club, which in June hosted the Rocket Mortgage Classic to much fanfare.)

Turning its attention to the remaining three courses, NGF recommended a bridge contract with a management company to help raise the quality of turf and bring golfers back. The city chose North Carolina-based Signet Golf Associates, headed up by owner Peter Dejak, and the city allotted $2.5 million across all three courses to start improvements.

The bridge contract with Signet lasts until March 2020, when the city will move toward an extended long-term contract with a management company.

Signet receives an upfront management fee to handle the financials, but the city reimburses it for all expenses, including maintenance crew salaries and equipment. The city has final say in all purchases, management and superintendent positions and improvements. Hipps’ days often are spent crisscrossing the city, visiting the courses and meeting with superintendents, course managers and city officials. She and Dejak keep in daily contact about the progress of each course.

Dejak is a former superintendent, with stints at Augusta National, Atlanta Athletic Club and Pinehurst National. He began Signet in 1995 with golf construction and management services.

“What I find here is that I’ve never seen a group of courses that are more community oriented,” Dejak says. “The individuals that go to these courses, they really take ownership like it’s their local neighborhood. Some municipalities are like that, but this area even more so.”

It was a tough transition when Signet came on board. “The people who came (to the courses), they weren’t happy because it wasn’t what it could be,” he says. “Now, everyone’s given such great support. You’re driving the course, they’re high-fiving you, and it’s really neat.”

To oversee the management alongside Hipps, Dejak handpicked a big name in Detroit golf to become the director of golf for Signet: Karen Peek, LPGA — the first African-American LPGA professional in the United States. Peek draws on her own experience as a golfer in Detroit, starting out with her first lesson as a teenager in Palmer Park in 1960 and spending more than 30 years as a golf pro in the Detroit area.

The partnership between the City of Detroit and Signet was forged, but this year’s golf challenges posed a different problem — a snowy winter followed by relentless spring rains.

Still, since Signet began improvements in 2018, revenue is up 27 percent over all three courses from last year.

Now that the golf season is in full swing, here’s how the courses began to rewrite their story.


Detroit golf courses wrap up $2.5 million in improvements

Detroit wants golfers to give its courses a mulligan.

Article by Ken Nagl, Crain’s Detroit Business CRAINSDETROIT.COM (March 27, 2019)

Around this time last year, City Council had just scrambled to keep the courses from closing amid talks to cut losses and potentially sell them. A bitter split with previous operators, coupled with years of underinvestment, left the golf courses in less-than-stellar condition.

As spring commences, and the city finalizes $2.5 million worth of much-needed improvements at its three courses, officials are promising a new chapter. First, they need to remind people the courses are open for business.

“The resounding message that we’ve heard was, ‘Oh, you guys are still open?'” said Karen Peek, director of operations for North Carolina-based Signet Golf Associates, which was contracted by the city last year to run its courses. “I said, you know, we are very much open. We look forward to outstanding course conditions this season.”

Chandler Park, on the city’s east side, has opened on warm weather days for the past couple of weeks, while Rouge Park, on the west side, opened Sunday. Rackham, spread across land in Huntington Woods, is open year-round during fair weather. Palmer Park, a former course on the north end of the city that had been in decline for many years, was converted to a public park last year.

Management is trying to bring back the courses to adequate repair and at least break even from a financial standpoint, said Brad Dick, general services director for the city. Revenue last season was just shy of $2 million, with around $2.8 million of operating expenses. Projected revenue this season is $3.2 million. That would be a comfortable margin for the city, allowing it to pay the bills and maintain the assets, Dick said.

“We’re trying to get the word out that we’re open again,” Dick said. “We had to start from scratch.”

Compared to last year, they are off to a running start. League player registration — a key source of stable revenue — is up from last year at all three courses, Peek said. Chandler added 60 golfers to reach 280 total; Rouge added 70 and is just less than 300; and Rackham is at 550, up 50 from last year. Peek expects those numbers to keep ticking up as the city promotes its courses via e-blasts, social media and other advertising.

In total, Rackham recorded 34,000 rounds played last year, while Rouge and Chandler had around 21,000 each. Expectations this season are to hit 45,000 at Rackham, and 30,000-35,000 at the other two.

“Our projections are very aggressive,” Peek said. “I think we will see double-digit growth from a percentage standpoint.”

The city expects the capital improvements to drive that growth and improve the image of the courses.

The largest investment has been made at Chandler Park, which had been troubled by burned-out greens and tattered fencing along I-94 for years. A new $800,000, digital irrigation system is almost completely installed and expected to keep the course green this summer, while another few hundred thousand dollars went toward new fencing.

Most of the rest of the investment was poured into Rouge Park with several new bridges throughout the course and a $190,000 pavilion in the works. An additional $250,000 will be invested to replace fencing around the course, as well, Dick said.

Chandler and Rouge are still undergoing vegetation removal and turf improvement, as well as drainage enhancements and tee renovations. Rackham received some minimal clubhouse repairs, but as the biggest moneymaker of the trio, the course had not been neglected in years past like the other two.


Tempest Golf Club

Tempest Golf Club considered Top New Course in Texas!

13 new course debuts you’ll want to see in 2018.

Brauer-designed Tempest Golf Club #12 on this year’s list.

2018 is finally upon us, and while we’re a long way removed from the go-go golf course construction boom of the 1990s and early-oughts, a number of exciting courses are set to burst on the scene this year. Here are 13 new layouts to consider as you plan your golf travel in 2018.

Tempest Golf Club in Gladewater, Texas sits on the site of the former Southern Hills Country Club, but architect Jeff Brauer’s finished product will bear no resemblance to its predecessor. This private, family-oriented facility is located about two hours east of Dallas. Read More

GOLFADVISOR by Tim Gavrich, Senior Writer (Jan. 8, 2018).

New Tempest Golf Club Begins to Take Shape

New Tempest Golf Club Begins to Take Shape.

Brauer-designed track aims to be the top course in East Texas.

Gladewater, Texas (Oct. 12, 2017) – The site for the new Tempest Golf Club in East Texas was made for a great golf course and the team assembled by owner Joe Bruno is well on its way to fashioning Mother Nature’s gifts into one of the region’s best and most challenging places to play the grand game.

Tempest Golf Club is a stunning parkland-style course taking shape on the site of the former Southern Hills Golf Club, a mile and a half off I-20 two hours east of Dallas and 45 minutes west of Shreveport, Louisiana. Parts of the new course are being grassed now, with the goal of opening for play in July 2018.

Brought to life by Arlington, Texas-based golf architect Jeffrey D. Brauer, Tempest Golf Club takes advantage of dramatic Piney Woods topography with its dramatic rise and fall of almost 200 feet, incredible core golf vistas across as many as five holes in the routing’s lower confines, and a pair of holes that play across a four-acre freshwater lake.

It will be easy for golfers playing Tempest Golf Club to believe they are in the rolling hills of North Carolina rather than a short drive from one of America’s major metropolitan areas. Brauer is noted for his ability to turn even the most banal or difficult tract of land into a fun and interesting golf course, but here he was given a great canvas and is bringing out the best of it.

“We have always had the stated goal of being the best course in East Texas and the site allows us to accentuate what the land gives us,” said Brauer, whose previous designs include the Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, Texas, as well as The Wilderness at Fortune Bay and The Quarry and Legend Courses at Giants Ridge, and Superior National Golf Course, in Minnesota, all of which are highly awarded.

“Mr. Bruno has spared no expense giving us everything we’ve asked for, but the canvas itself just needed to be brought forward with a playable routing,” Brauer added. “Mr. Bruno’s architectural projects have won awards – he understands good design, and he is known for demanding the very best, which set the tone for the project.

“With a tweak here and a mound or two or a bunker there, we have been able to bring out the flavor and reveal the best things about the site. It will be a remarkable golf course and fun to play over and over again.”

Bruno, a New Orleans-based attorney, originally developed the course and its surrounding neighborhood as a gift to his children and grandchildren. After years of struggling financially with the project, Bruno made the decision to take a mulligan on both the golf course and the community, eventually adopting the philosophy of putting the golf course first.

“The former course was not well received, was losing money and had become a nightmare in its operation,” Bruno said. “I was ready to give up on the situation, but I walked the old course with Jeff, who was like a kid in a candy store. He was so enthusiastic and excited about the chance we had to make something special that I totally bought into his way of thinking and our collective vision for what was possible here came together.”

Tempest Golf Club will be carded at 7,068 yards and play to a par of 36-36–72. The first six holes are routed over the footprint of the old course but the rest are completely new, built on land previously reserved for residential lots. The putting surfaces will be turfed with Champion G12 bermuda, perfect for the climate of East Texas.

Brauer said that golfers will find the sixth, the 11th, and the 12th holes to be Tempest Golf Club’s signature offerings, but only after great debate because every hole is solid and has little features that sets it apart.

The sixth hole (a par 5) uses the same corridor through the woods as one of the course’s existing holes but was transformed by moving more than 30,000 cubic yards of earth, removing the previous blind areas and creating a wonderful downhill vista.

Brauer was surprised that original course’s designers didn’t use the large tree-lined pond that now borders the 11th hole, a 450-yard par 4. He now considers No. 11 one of the best challenges on the course, especially from the back two sets of tees, which ask for an angled carry over the water.

The 12th hole had originally been earmarked for housing but its footprint was ultimately too steep. Now, that corner of the course has been turned into a dramatic, downhill par 3 on which the golfers traverse a creek on a wooden bridge between tee and green.

The 10th and 18th holes occupy what was an overcrowded mix of holes 7, 8, 16, and 18 and set the stage for a dramatic beginning and end to the back-nine.

The course and its renovated and expanded 7,500-square-foot clubhouse are being constructed by Signet Golf Associates of Pinehurst, North Carolina.

“Every day I’m on site here I see something else I like about the course and what we are fashioning from the palate nature has provided,” said Peter Dejak, one of Signet’s founders and principals. “Jeff has done an amazing job in his routing, and as the shaping of the holes become more evident and grassing continues, I see the subtle features coming into play that make all the difference between a good golf course and a great one.”

The price tag for the new course and its amenities will end up being more than $7 million, an unwavering sign of the dedication and commitment Bruno and his team have for the project and its ultimate success.

Brauer, the former president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, also designed the three top-rated public courses in Kansas: Firekeeper, Colbert Hills Golf Club, and Sand Creek Station. Among his more than 100 design credits are the La Costa Resort’s two courses in Carlsbad, Calif. (renovation), Gaylord Springs at Opryland in Nashville, TN, and Avocet Course at Wild Wing Plantation in Conway, SC.

He has won three “Best New Course” awards among his other honors.

Tempest Golf Club will be challenging for the best players, with tee locations that will make it playable for men and women of all levels- and junior golfer-friendly.

“I don’t believe in designing tough courses,” Brauer said. “Neither potential members, average golfers, or even millennials who will eventually support this course are enamored with extremely difficult tests of golf, although that philosophy was embraced and seemed true in the past. I am taking advantage of the site to design for moderately challenging, intensely interesting and beautiful golf.”

The clubhouse balcony will have views of seven golf holes and will include corporate meeting space, a 200-seat banquet hall and an expanded The Tavern at Tempest restaurant.

The course will have extensive practice facilities and there are plans for casitas for stay-and-play or time-share options, and a pool. All signs point to a true destination golf course and unforgettable golf experience.