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The King is Dead, Long Live the "King" - From Public to Private

By Mason Savage, A Spoiled Walk Contributor

The 10th and 13th Holes at the Royal - Photo by Mason Savage

There have been some rumbles for a while now about the Royal Golf Club (Elmo Lake, MN) and we now finally know the future of the course going forward. A MSP Business Journal article from this week revealed that the public golf course 'Royal Golf Club' would be heading towards a private golf course business model. The club has a goal of reaching 300 members willing to pay a $20,000 to $40,000 initiation fee. This Arnold Palmer and Annika Sorenstam design used to be called Tartan Park (private) before the duo redesigned the course and opened it to the public in 2018. It is the final course Arnold Palmer designed in his career.

There is a conversation about whether Royal Golf Club will succeed with this business model and the question of who is going to pay that initiation fee but that is one conversation I care not to have. Rather than discuss the merits of this course (I have already done so here), I want to highlight the underlying problem that will permeate into the general golf scene in the Twin Cities. The issue is that with this conversion to private, Royal Golf Club is now one less public course to play. The Covid bump that golf experienced is very real and tangible in the Twin Cities area. Courses are selling season passes at an all time high, driving ranges are always full and most importantly, tee times are scarce and far and few between.

The MSP Business Journal article mentioned that there would be 30,000 rounds of golf that would now be displaced due to the switch of Royal Golf Club going private. 30,000 ROUNDS!?!? The number is astronomical. The closest geographical areas/courses that will be affected by this are Loggers Trail and a slew of Woodbury courses. However, it is not unrealistic for the overflow of those places to spill westward into more metro centric courses, further exacerbating the lack of tee time issues that we have in the Twin Cities today. As a result, one or both of the following issues could occur. As was previously mentioned, tee times will be harder to come by. However, with this increase in demand, we could also see the increasing of greens fees. With inflation, the rising of costs to maintain a golf course and now the surge in demand we can expect to see, it is not unrealistic to think that a course could increase its greens fees to help curb some of that demand. 

The 18th Green with the Clubhouse in the background - Photo by Mason Savage

Regardless of what you think about Royal Golf Club as a course, it is a loss to the public golfing community in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul area. Even if tee time demand does not increase (which feels unlikely for at least some areas) and greens fees stay stagnant, the privatization of the Royal just means there is one less track for us to enjoy the game we love. Maybe the course will shift back to public play in the future but in the meantime, we mourn the loss of a great Arnold Palmer and Annika Sorenstam design. 

Note: Royal Golf Club is set to host the first phase of qualifying for the US Open this coming spring. Get your game sharp and you could make a nice donation to the USGA to play it this coming year.

The Fifth Green at Royal Golf Club - Photo by Mason Savage


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