Amid steep financial losses, Hilltop Golf Course’s survival remains unclear as Plymouth Township Supervisor Kurt Heise considers forming a transition committee to examine what might become of the 18-hole course.

If elected officials choose not to renew a contract that expires in March 2019 with the golf course’s management company, Billy Casper Golf, Inc., the township would have to notify the company 120 days in advance.

While it doesn’t appear any decision is imminent, Heise and other township officials are increasingly concerned about golf course money losses that they say amount to about $100,000 a year. Moreover, officials say Billy Casper Golf has asked for over $1 million for walking paths, concession improvements, new golf carts and removal of trees that impede golfers.

“That is money we simply do not have,” Heise said.

It’s also unclear what would happen with a loan the township made years ago from the general fund to the golf course. With interest, that amounts to $540,000.

Heise’s remarks came as the township board Tuesday had a new round of talks about the golf course’s future.

Golf course officials have indicated they stand a better chance of reversing financial losses if they can get the money to improve the site.

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Hilltop general manager Aaron Spokaeski also has cited efforts to bring in more revenue with nine-hole night golfing; a spring craft beer outing; ushering in a soccer-like foot golf game allowing players to kick a ball toward holes; new evening leagues; a bigger push to promote beginner golf lessons; and rolling out a smartphone app to generate new business and revenue.

Heise said golf course officials “are doing the best they can with what they’ve got.” But, he said financial losses can’t continue.

Heise said the committee he is considering forming would involve township trustees and residents who would examine possible land uses for the site, if the township ultimately decides to shut down the golf course.

Trustee Bob Doroshewitz said the township should exhaust all efforts to determine whether the golf course can become viable before closing it. Trustee Chuck Curmi also cautioned that the latest discussion shouldn’t be interpreted as a death knell.

“We haven’t made a decision to close this facility,” he said, though he acknowledged it would be “a monumental task” to make the golf course profitable.

Heise offered one possible vision that would involve converting the golf course into a recreation area where residents could walk, jog, go biking and cross-country skiing, among other activities. It could potentially include walking paths, pavilions and other amenities.

“Golf course properties are being repurposed all the time for open space and green space,” he said.

To help pay for maintenance to that and other township parks, Heise floated the idea of selling the southernmost portion of the golf course, roughly from the clubhouse south, along with a so-called “triangle” of other land bounded by Beck, Ann Arbor Trail and Powell roads.

That area, he said, could be developed with about 30 single-family condominiums, while the Hilltop clubhouse could be converted into a restaurant and bar.

Heise estimated the township could get $2 million for the property — money he said could be put into a recreation fund to maintain parks. He said that could potentially be coupled with a nonprofit entity that could accept money from corporations and private donors.

Treasurer Mark Clinton, however, said residents have voiced opposition to him about more housing, amid concerns about issues such as worsening traffic congestion.

Trustee Gary Heitman suggested one possible use for the golf course could be to bring back the Fourth of July fireworks show that officials canceled last season, saying it was costly, too big for the Township Park neighborhood and caused public safety concerns.

The latest talks dovetail with plans by Plymouth Township and the city of Plymouth to develop a joint master recreation plan. By working together, officials say, the plan should increase the chances of securing state grant dollars for parks and recreation.

Local officials acknowledge Hilltop’s financial problems aren’t exclusive to that golf course. They say golf courses are suffering amidst a downturn in business and competition from private golf courses.

dclem@hometownlife.com

Twitter: @CantonObserver

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