BAXTER -- The gallery at Pine Meadows Golf Course moaned as if watching a missed birdie putt on the 18th green.
Pine Meadows will remain a golf course for at least two years, David Mooty, president of Continental Golf Corp., said during a membership meeting Tuesday night at the course clubhouse. Then the 100-acre plot east of Mills Fleet Farm will be developed.
"Changes in the land around us -- with Kohl's now moving in, the office building across the street -- there's just a lot of building going on on this side of town," Mooty said.
Mooty estimated the land's worth at $1.5 million as a golf course and $3 million as a development.
"The meeting was good, especially to clarify the course wasn't a moneymaker," said Chuck O'Day, secretary of the Thursday night men's league. "It was good just to clarify things. It wasn't a lot more different than what we expected. It will be sad when it closes, but there are a lot of courses in the area."
Most of the membership understood the economics. Mooty told the group the course had not made money in many years. One factor was the increase in golf courses built since Continental Golf, a golf management company based in Eden Prairie, bought the course in 1994.
The Classic at Madden's (1996), Preserve at Grand View Lodge (1996), Dutch's Legacy at Cragun's (1998), Deacon's Lodge (1999), Eagles Landing in Fort Ripley (2001), Golden Eagle in Fifty Lakes (2001) and Bobby's Legacy at Cragun's (2002) have all tapped into Pine Meadows numbers.
Yet the membership still looked for a different resolution.
"I do understand the situation," said Dan Vickerman, a Brainerd resident and member at Pine Meadows since 1986. "What I don't understand is why Baxter, who's passing laws all the time about green space, is building soccer fields and parks that don't make any money when they have a golf course already built in town."
Dennis Ward punched a shot from the sand trap at Pine Meadows golf course this past summer. (Dispatch File Photo)
Before Tuesday's meeting, Mooty met with Baxter officials to discuss options for the property.
"It was more of a listening session," said Todd Holman, Baxter city planner. "Mooty was interested in what the city's plans were concerning roadways, zoning. We're rewriting our comprehensive plan and he was finding out about that. He didn't really say what he wanted to do. It was a fact finding and gathering meeting."
Holman said Pine Meadows is zoned single family residential (R1) or low density area. West of Pine Meadows the zoning is regional commercial (C2).
Mike Kearns of the Crow Wing County Parks Department said the county has no plans at this time to talk with Mooty concerning buying the course and creating a municipal course.
"That's not something we've discussed in any way," said Kearns. "If the people of Crow Wing County tell us that's something they would want we would move forward."
Mooty said he doesn't have a plan yet and it would be at least two years before any changes would be made.
"It's an opportunity for me to be creative and come up with concepts on a 100-acre property that will be, hopefully, something the people of Baxter will think very highly of for years to come," said Mooty.
"The ideas that we have and the concepts and how we see this golf course fitting into the (Northland) Arboretum or tying into the (Paul Bunyan) Trail and other aspects of the property need to make sense. Not only to Baxter, but for us as well."
Mooty said golfers wouldn't see a decline in the property, the building or the maintenance techniques.
"We own or operate four other courses as well," said Mooty. "Our reputation is very important to us. We are not going to do anything to have people think that we aren't putting all of our efforts into making this as good a golf course as we can."
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