A lot has changed since renowned golf course architect Robert Trent Jones designed the Chaska Par 30 nearly 50 years ago.
Housing now surrounds the municipal golf course; the holes have slightly evolved over time; and the number of rounds played has steadily decreased, from 30,000 a decade ago to 17,000 annually.
Members of the nonprofit Learning Links want to rejuvenate interest in the old course with a new design, while keeping its original creator in mind.
Plans call for the Par 30, at 1207 Hazeltine Blvd., to be completely redesigned by July 2020 to better serve seniors, youth and people with disabilities. Officials hope that the effort would not only draw more people to the course, but also help the city complete much needed maintenance.
At a meeting on Monday, June 24, the public got a first look at the redesign in the Chaska Event Center.
The nine-hole course would be upped to 10 holes, and a new clubhouse would be built off of Hazeltine Boulevard, which would increase its visibility to passersby, according to Benjamin Warren, a golf course designer.
The holes would be placed in a way so golfers would be aiming toward the start of the next one and away from houses — increasing safety.
A big part of the design is making sure beginners feel successful on the greens, while still attracting more experienced golfers, Warren said at the meeting.
Though some of the holes will be shorter for beginner golfers, the eighth hole can be made tougher. Golfers will be able to tee off from the eighth and use the ninth hole for that game — making it longer and more difficult.
In addition, the course is designed to hold less water, solving drainage issues on the site, and there would be walking paths for nongolfers to use.
“We designed it to be a community asset,” Warren said.
Warren and his company, Artisan Golf Design, was commissioned by Learning Links to design the course to be more accessible to those with disabilities, said Eric Snyder, who works as a consultant with Learning Links.
City Administrator Matt Podhradsky said he was impressed with Warren’s background. The golf course designer had studied Jones in college and extensively read through his work at Cornell University.
Jones also did the original design for the nearby Hazeltine National Golf Club, which has hosted a number of big tournaments, including the 2016 Ryder Cup and, most recently, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
The Par 30’s new redesign would honor Jones’ original plans.
“It’s been changed since the original opening 50 years ago,” Podhradsky said. “I think (Warren) is trying to keep a lot of the signature elements by making it more practical for people to play.”
“It’s definitely a piece of history,” he added.
The total cost of the project is estimated to be around $2.1 million to $2.4 million, according to Snyder. That’s less than the $3 million price tag the group presented to the Chaska City Council last year.
“A lot of the credit for the reduced costs goes to Benjamin. The course is sustainability and minimalist based,” Snyder said, adding the group would have to obtain less materials for the course. “The design is focused on using what is there.”
Learning Links has received nearly $1 million since it started fundraising last year.
That includes $500,000 that the city of Chaska has committed to the project, from funds it has been saving for capital improvements on the course.
Construction on the project is slated to start April 2020 and the course would reopen in mid to late summer 2021 in time for the course’s 50th anniversary, Snyder said, adding that the new turf needs 10 months to grow.
“With any of our facilities, the more you can make it accessible and add programming to have a wider group of people — it has an impact on usage,” Podhradsky said.
For the city, the project would update the 50-year-old irrigation system; build a new parking lot; and fix storm water and bunker issues.
Currently, the city rents a parking lot, which ends up costing about $14,000 a year.
“Over time that becomes a huge expense to the Par 30 ... That ends up being a large cost to the facility,” Podhradsky said. From our perspective it’s simple to put that fund towards the project because we’d have to do it anyway.”
Besides a better design, the project also creates opportunities for new programming on the site for beginner golfers, according to officials.
The last $1 million the nonprofit needs for the project doesn’t have to be in cash. Services and materials can be donated toward the project, or companies could give discounts, said Snyder.
The public will have opportunities to comment and see the design in the next few weeks, he added, noting Learning Links officials plan on meeting with the Lions and Rotary clubs.
“This is a shared vision between Learning Links and the city of Chaska,” Snyder said. “It’s a benefit for the community and I’m hopeful and optimistic we can (raise the funds) in the time we have.”