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The new maintenance building is the biggest improvement at Hudson Golf Club in a decade, according to golf course superintendent Troy Johnson, left. He's with club president and manager Jon Hanson. Photo by Randy Hanson

Going Semi-private: Hudson Golf Club to change policy next year

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business River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Jon Hanson is looking forward to 2011.

This has been a year of transition for the Hudson Golf Club, says the club's president and general manager.

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"People will be able to see more of the finished product next year."

Hanson's family bought the golf club at the beginning of April. A few weeks later, Hanson Bros. Golf Holdings LLC also acquired the River Falls Golf Club.

As part of the $3.6 million deal for the formerly member-owned Hudson Golf Club, the Hansons agreed to maintain it as private club for 2010.

Next year, it will be semi-private, Hanson said in an interview last Friday.

"The vision I have for Hudson is one of inclusion of everybody in the community," he said. "People are welcome here. It's a place where anybody in the community can afford to either come and eat with their family or enjoy a round of golf."

The course will be reserved for club members during certain hours and days of the week. But outside of those hours, the public will be able to play the 18 holes for a fee of $49. Seniors 62 and older will get a 20-percent discount.

Tuesdays and Thursdays until 2 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays until 1 p.m. are the tentative times that will be reserved for members-only play.

The rates for a silver-level membership, allowing unlimited play during the months of June, July and August, will be $1,650 for a single golfer, $2,150 for a couple and $2,450 for a family.

A gold-level membership will cost $1,900 for an individual, $2,450 for a couple and $2,750 for a family. Gold-level members will get two complimentary rounds of golf at the River Falls course and be able to schedule tee times up to two weeks in advance.

The platinum-level membership for $2,950, plus $350 for each additional family member, allows unlimited play at both the Hudson and River Falls courses. The member also gets a locker at one of courses for no additional charge and can schedule tee times up to three weeks in advance.

Junior memberships (for golfers under 18) are available for $350.

Twenty-somethings (ages 21-29) get a 10-percent discount on memberships, and seniors, a 20-percent discount.

Hanson said rates already are down significantly this year because members are no longer required to spend a minimum amount on food and beverages or pay maintenance fees.

A membership cost more than $4,000 in 2009, Hanson said, and the price was higher than that in 2008.

Some discontent

Not all of the current members of are happy with the move to a semi-private club, Hanson acknowledged.

"For me, the biggest challenge is moving from a member-owned course to one that is owned by a company, or by a single family," he said. "It's a change for some people -- and probably that member-club feel for some is gone."

Later in the conversation, he added: "If that's what people are looking for -- a country club atmosphere -- that isn't going to be at Hudson going forward. It's a golf club. It's for people to come and golf and enjoy themselves, and to be a place for people to meet and enjoy the facilities.

"If they are looking for an exclusive place that is not open to everybody, they're going to have to go somewhere else."

Hanson said he doesn't have anything against private clubs. He just doesn't think a private club is a good fit Hudson.

"If it was, it would have been successful," he said. "It never would have become a financial issue."

The golf club was reportedly having trouble paying its debt when the membership voted nearly unanimously to sell the facility to the Chris Hanson family of Hammond.

Chris Hanson, Jon's father, was the founder of Douglas-Hanson Co., which the family sold in 2006 to Loparex USA.

Jon's sister, Debbie Delander, is the chief financial officer for Hanson Bros. Golf Holdings.

His older brother, Doug, will manage the River Falls Golf Club after he retires from his job with the Federal Aviation Administration in six months. He's now a supervisor in the air traffic control tower at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Returning members

Hanson said the majority of current members are pleased with the direction the golf club is headed. He expects 90 to 95 percent of them to renew their memberships next season.

"The course is among the finest in the Twin Cities area. It's a beautiful facility. It's a fair price we're offering," he said, justifying his optimism.

He's also hoping to lure back some former members who were priced out when the course became a private club.

"If you're living in Hudson, this is a much nicer facility and nicer course" than some of the outlying courses that former members fled to, he said.

Prospective members are allowed to play 18 holes this year during off-peak times for the fee of $49.

Improvements

New maintenance facility has been built to house mowing equipment, and a second, even larger, maintenance building is under construction.

Hanson Bros. also has invested $200,000 in new equipment for the Hudson course.

The Hudson clubhouse will be remodeled in the fall. Planning is under way to upgrade the locker rooms, the lower level lounge and the pro shop.

A 147-inch television screen that retracts into the ceiling is being installed in an upstairs dining room. It will be available for viewing college and professional football games on Saturdays and Sundays.

The club is also sponsoring bus trips to Minnesota Vikings games.

"I hope to keep this place busy throughout the season," Hanson said. "We're going to do some things to generate some interest and excitement through the winter."

Nick Meurett, the sous chef at Mama Maria's Italian Restaurant in North Hudson for the past 15 years, took over as the golf club's kitchen manager on July 1.

Since then, the food has improved greatly and his headaches have declined significantly, Hanson said.

He said he's still talking to the owners of a well-known Minneapolis restaurant about coming to the golf club.

"It's still possible that they'll come here," Hanson said. "I think if they do it will be on a scaled-down version of what the original plans were."

He said the restaurant owners had wanted Hanson Bros. to make too big of an investment for the potential return.

"I'm 100 percent committed to providing very good quality food here at an affordable price," Hanson said.

He said he'd like parents to be able to bring their children with them to the golf club to dine.

You can learn more about the Hudson Golf Club online at www.hansonbrosllc.com or by calling (715) 386-6515.

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