Two Huron Hills Golf Proposals Submitted

At the Nov. 4 Ann Arbor city council meeting, Stephen Rapundalo (Ward 2) announced that the city  has received two responses to its request for proposals (RFP) regarding the Huron Hills Golf Course.

One proposal, submitted by a group called Ann Arbor Golf, calls for operating Huron Hills as a public, 18-hole golf course via a new nonprofit entity, the Herb Fowler Foundation of Huron Hills. The structure would be similar to the Leslie Science and Nature Center, which was previously a city entity and is now a nonprofit. [.pdf of nonprofit proposal]

The second proposal was submitted by the local firm Miles of Golf. It proposes moving the business to the Huron Hills site. The current 11 holes on the south side of the Huron Hills property would continue to operate as a golf course. The first 7 holes on the north side would be converted to a golf center similar to the current Miles of Golf operation at Carpenter and Packard roads in Pittsfield Township, with a teaching center, a practice facility (driving range), and a retail shop. [.pdf file of Miles of Golf proposal]

The two proposals will be evaluated by a review committee. In addition to a recommendation from that committee, the proposals will also be reviewed by the city’s golf advisory task force, the park advisory commission and city council. The city council will make any final decision about whether to accept either of the proposals. For previous Chronicle coverage, see “Potential Bidders Eye Huron Hills Golf.”

Section: Govt.


  1. By Bob Martel
    November 5, 2010 at 2:50 pm | permalink

    I’m not sure that an 11 hole golf course will be of much interest to anyone who is at least half-serious about golf.

  2. By Marvin Face
    November 5, 2010 at 3:47 pm | permalink

    I am very excited about the Miles of Golf proposal. Creating a nine-hole course and three-hole practice course on the 11 existing holes south of Huron River Drive plus a practice range (with no netting and no lights), short-game practice areas, and retail operation of the 7 existing holes north of Huron River Drive would be great. I think it would be used much more than now. Juniors, seniors, etc would have a great place to play, it would be easy to access from UM, the UM Medical Center, and downtown AA. I also like the idea of dedicating 7 acres to project grow, maintaining the other sports (namely winter sports), and tying Gallop park into it in some way. Miles of Golf is a quality local business that is known nationally and could really make a positive impact on HH.

    Please read the proposals before commenting here. I think you will be pleasantly surprised, especially with the Miles of Golf proposal.

  3. By Marvin Face
    November 5, 2010 at 4:06 pm | permalink

    I have now read the other proposal to operate HH as a non-profit and I’m not sure I can find much to recommend.

    Remember when the city issued an RFP for the development of the roof of the Library parking structure and a couple of local activists cobbled together a rag-tag proposal to make it a park but their “proposal” had no detail and even less thought? Remember that they had just put it together to stop “development”? That’s the feel I get from this proposal. It seems like nothing but the status quo. It certainly wont make me use the facility more and i certainly cant see how it would financially benefit the city. It’s not so much a vision forward but a nostalgia trip back. It has the feel of local activists gathered in a living room (one that likely overlooks HH) concocting something that would appeal to the “Ann Arbor demographic”.

    The non-profit organization is not set up and I don’t trust that a group of local homeowners who just want to save their local park to do anything to manage this asset anywhere close to what the City does now.

    I just don’t see much to the non-profit proposal.

  4. November 5, 2010 at 8:09 pm | permalink

    What’s the finances on each proposal. Which one brings the most $ into the City?

  5. By DrData
    November 5, 2010 at 8:14 pm | permalink


    Have you ever played at Huron Hills? If you have you’ll realize the back 9 is the short course with lots of doglegs. It is a great course for someone with a 150 yard drive; otherwise not so much. The front 9 has the longer, but fairly boring holes.

    And, it would be 2 practice holes and 9 holes, not 3 + 9. Are the practice holes 8 & 9? 8 is one of the more difficult holes on the original front 9 – a great hole to warm up on. Not.

    Finally, Miles of Golf is a good local business. If I were them I’d be thrilled that I could move a driving range, sales facility on really valuable land that under normal circumstances would never be used for that purpose.

    And, if it fails, oh well. It will become a park?? And, the back 9 will too as you can’t really have a golf course without the rest of the operations on the other side of the road.

    I don’t disagree with your read on the other proposal, but I’m not too excited about Miles of Golf at Huron Hills.

  6. By Marvin Face
    November 5, 2010 at 10:42 pm | permalink

    So, OK Drdata. I have played HH numerous times and I gotta say those starter holes north of Huron River Drive are total dogs. The holes to the south are much better holes. I agree they are short which would make for a good learning environment for juniors and a nice seniors course.

    I know there are only eleven holes to the south. I would imagine that they would all be totally reworked by a golf course architect brought in by Miles to make 9 good holes and perhaps three training holes (like one par 4 and two par threes).

    I’ve been playing golf since I was a kid and have been a USGA member and rules volunteer for 15 years. I want to see golf grow in AA. I just dont see the need for two 18-hole courses in AA. Especially since one (HH) is such a poor test of golf. If it were turned into a different type of golf facility that augmented the great 18 at Leslie, I think it would improve the overall experience for AA golfers.

  7. By W.R.
    November 6, 2010 at 12:30 pm | permalink

    I like Miles of Golf, but I love Huron Hills, and I despise the Miles of Golf proposal.

    In essence, Miles of Golf will receive a unique and beloved public asset, and in return for what, agreeing to maintain half the course and keep it open to the public?

    I see great benefit to Miles of Golf’s private business, but I don’t see how defacing Huron Hills and leaving us with half a course benefits the public– it would damage local golf, not advance it.

    If the Miles of Golf proposal goes through, I personally may very well lose more than half a golf course. I fear it will leave such a bad taste in my mouth, I would lose my favorite driving range and pro shop, Miles of Golf, in addition to both halves of my favorite course in Ann Arbor.

    Also I have a different view of Huron Hills than Marvin. I play Leslie and other area courses, and everyone who is a serious golfer will agree that Leslie is the “superior” course. Yet Huron is where I prefer to play because of the vibe. It’s simple and cheap, unpretentious and laid-back.

    It’s a place where you can take children, and non-serious, casual golfers. Something I would never consider doing at Leslie.

    I strongly believe one of the reasons Leslie is such a gem, and recognized as one of the top municipal courses in the USA, is because we also have Huron Hills to meet the needs of beginning and casual players. And now that it’s becoming more widely-known that Huron Hills has carts, perhaps it will appeal more to seniors.

    Huron Hills is the “people’s course” in Ann Arbor. Let’s keep it that way!

  8. By DrData
    November 7, 2010 at 11:06 pm | permalink

    A few comments about the two proposals:

    The non-profit proposal works because they get rid of the “city overhead” and re-classify/offer a lower salary to the golf supervisor. Their labor costs drop dramatically.

    Miles of Golf does the same. Taking on Huron Hills only adds $95,000 to their payroll; they don’t mention this means a pay cut to the Huron Hills supervisor.

    Not sure how the golf course maintenance drops by about $50K with the non-profit group.

    The biggest hidden factor in the the Miles of Golf proposal are the hidden/unspoken costs. They will build a new 11,000 sq ft facility; tear down the old clubhouse; construct a new clubhouse on the back nine; and reconfigure holes 8 and 9 into 3 holes.

    These are pretty costly items whose costs are not mentioned. Is this a joint venture with the city or does Miles of Golf take on these expenses? It seems to me that we’re talking about a million dollars give or take a 100,000 or so.

    The other ideas of how to use the rest of the front nine or good – community garden; croquet; tie-in with Gallup, etc. They can afford to be generous as they are getting a monster-upgrade to their current location.

  9. November 8, 2010 at 8:34 am | permalink

    I am a neighbor to Huron Hills and I favor the non-profit approach because once the decision to reconfigure the golf course is made there will be no going back. However if we try the non-profit approach and it fails we can always try something more drastic.

    The Kalamazoo Municipal Golf Course is managed quite well by a not for profit organization. We should try it at Huron Hills.

  10. By Tom Whitaker
    November 8, 2010 at 10:09 am | permalink

    I have to agree with Mr. Nelson in terms of trying the least invasive approach first.

    The non-profit proposal seems to have more financial detail than the Miles of Golf proposal. Did the City not release all the financial information from the RFPs? There is a phrase in the MOG proposal about the City being left with the debt, should the venture fail. This would tend to imply that they are expecting the City to either issue bonds, or financially partner in some other way. The City would also be risking the permanent loss/alteration of a significant portion of the present course.

    Like the proposed hotel/conference center downtown, I don’t believe it is the role of government to prop up private, for-profit businesses–whether it is directly, or by giving them access to taxpayer-backed financing. If a business model is feasible, then it should be able to stand on its own two feet and get financed without government intervention. I look forward to seeing more details on this.

  11. By A.N.G.E.L. XIX
    November 14, 2010 at 7:16 pm | permalink

    A few observations.

    The City is entrusted to maintain the public parks system for its
    people. Sure, the City could pimp their greens for beaucoup bucks and then maybe even lower taxes after building an even denser A2 metropolis with such a quicky profit.
    But because the people really, really enjoy their parks, they demand that the City not sell any of them without voter approval first.
    So, the City figured that this ‘not sell’ commandment from down low really means that it is okay to ‘lease’ the parks for commercially-generated revenue.
    Purposefully maneuvering to negate the public wish is not a good indicator of future resident survival which really, really does depend upon some governing trust.

    Miles of Golf is a commercial enterprise. Their business is golf-ware retail, club fitting, and driving range practice. They contract with Kendall Academy to provide training services.
    Foremost in the Miles of Golf bid, Kendall is an important asset. Yet Kendall was explicitly not to be included in the City contract with Miles of Golf. If Kendall is their biggest selling point,
    why not make it binding?
    The biggest selling point of Ann Arbor Golf is, well, Ann Arbor golf.

    Two of the three Board members of Miles of Golf are subordinates to the third, the owner.
    The Board members of Ann Arbor Golf are a very accomplished and diverse array of local individuals.

    Miles of Golf does not have any experience running a golf course. Their purpose is to make money. They can still survive without any golf course in this town.
    Ann Arbor Golf does not have the stated expertise either. Their purpose is to promote the game of golf. They cease to exist without any golf course in this town.

    According to its banker, Miles of Golf cannot afford more than a few $100k for the estimated $3.2 million building costs required for their move in 3-5 years. So how does sinking deeper into City debt by $3 million improve public finances ?
    There is little mention of the City taxes which must be fairly paid as any other commercial competitor to Miles of Golf has to do. As a taxpayer, do you care ? As a free-marketeer, do you care about your government playing market favorites ?
    Ann Arbor Golf is a non-profit. They will operate Huron Hills in a value balance.

    The endorsements in the Miles of Golf bid by UM and A2PS personnel have been retracted by their respective institutions.

    If the City wanted to make money from Huron Hills, they could erect windmills on the back 11, solar panels on the front 7, and a tollbooth on the Huron Parkway out front.
    Or, they could continue to sell the unique life-value that people come to Ann Arbor, or live in Ann Arbor, for.

  12. By Scott
    November 17, 2010 at 12:02 pm | permalink

    @Stew Nelson – I would assume that Mr. Nelson is in favor of the Non-profit proposal, he is named as one of the professionals willing to participate in the running of this venture. [link]

  13. November 17, 2010 at 5:45 pm | permalink

    Although I obviously do not agree with all the comments, it is nice to see that people are reading the proposals and are seriously thinking about what should happen to Huron Hills Golf Course. There are a couple of clarifications I would like to make.

    Regarding missing information from both proposals, the City requires that the proposals be sent in two sealed envelopes. One envelope has the proposal without the bid prices and the other has the bid prices. The one with the bid price has not been opened by the City so no one but the bidder knows what the bid is at this point. The reason for this is the City wants to evaluate the bids at face value before knowing the pricing. Anyway, that is why these details about the bid are missing from both proposals. Eventually the bid pricing will be known.

    Regarding Miles of Golf references, the City requires that each bidder supply 4 industry and 2 financial references. A.N.G.L.E. XIX’s post above says that two of the Miles of Golf’s reference letters have been pulled from their proposal. The reason they were pulled is that an individual who is part of the Ann Arbor Golf committee of neighbor making their bid sent letters to all of our industry references that the references considered threatening. We contacted our references and offered to have them removed from our proposal. The references that were pulled were from Andrew Sapp, the Michigan Golf Coach. The university has a policy that was not clear to Andrew that the university does not take positions on city matters. The other letter that was pulled was from Titleist not because of the person who made the recommendation but because of the legal department did not want to get involved. Angle said that a letter from Steve Rodrique, the Pioneer Golf Coach, was pulled. This is not accurate, Steve’s reference remains a part of our proposal as does the letter from David Graham the director of the Golf Association of Michigan. We are replacing the two references that were removed from our offer with other references.

    If you are interested in Miles of Golf’s thoughts on the future of Huron Hills, here is a link: [link]