Time to tee off: MNGL open to the public
Rainy, cool weather gave way to sunshine and warmth just in time for the first public golfers this year to tee off Friday morning at Mississippi National Golf Links.
The course was shuttered last year — except the driving range — as the city of Red Wing debated its future. But the Lowlands re-opened Friday for public golf and the Highlands should be playable within a week or so, head golf professional Nathan Gale said.
The opening came after months of work to get the course up and running.
“It was basically like starting a new business,” said Gale, a Hastings native who studied professional golf management at Ferris State University. “The building was empty.”
The operation needed everything from new carts and equipment to computers and phones, Gale said. He started work in February.
MNGL superintendent Randy Juliar has been working on the course and determined the Lowlands were ready for golf, Gale said.
Other work still is ongoing, including getting the restaurant up to code and prepared to serve food. That probably will take a while longer, Gale said. Local restaurants will be able to offer catering there, he added.
Still, the course is ready for the public, Gale said.
“We’ve got the essentials,” he said. “We’ll fine-tune as we go.”
There is a Red Wing resident rate for golf and specials in April, Gale said, and MNGL offers reciprocity. MNGL will offer lessons as well, and its four leagues will return.
The new website, www.golfredwing.com, includes an option for online booking.
The high school golf teams also will return to MNGL; the Red Wing girls play there and the boys will use the driving range, Gale said.
The boys are playing at Red Wing Golf Club, which opens to the public Wednesday.
‘Excited to be back’
Red Wing Municipal Golf Corporation President Robb Rutledge said the process to get the course re-opened went fairly smoothly.
“Since we signed the agreement with the city, things have been going well,” Rutledge said. “We’re just excited to be back.”
Rutledge said RWMGC raised more than the required $400,000, including donations from many Red Wing residents. There also have been volunteers helping to get the course ready.
“I think the message is people want the golf course open,” Rutledge said.
The City Council decided to keep the course closed last year as it debated what to do with MNGL and while it was involved in a lawsuit with former course operator Wendell Pittenger, who closed MNGL in 2012. The suit was settled in the fall of 2013.
Local nonprofit RWMGC was the only respondent to the city’s request for proposals to run the course. The entities worked to ultimately hash out a five-year lease agreement that includes financial contributions from the city that decrease each year.
RWMGC signed an agreement with the city in December to manage MNGL and then worked to fundraise and get the site ready for a spring opening.
While golfers can now play at the course, Rutledge said there will be a grand opening event later this spring. But he encouraged the public to come out to MNGL now that it’s open.
“We invite everyone, not just golfers, to stop by,” he said. “It’s your course.”