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Twin Ports-area golf courses cope with tough economy

The early spring has provided a financial boost to area courses that have already been trying to find ways to cope with a tough economy.

Case in point: Poplar, Norwood and Botten's Green Acres golf courses.

Called the trifecta, if you buy a season pass at any one of those courses, it's honored at all three.

"It's a sign of the times," said Poplar club pro Paul Stein. "We can't be competitors. We have to work together for, A, survival, and, B, the good of the game."

And lately, the game has been good at Poplar.

Stein said popular Poplar has bucked a national trend that has seen courses fold under economic pressure. The course benefits from being in a pocket that often avoids Lake Superior's wrath.

"Over the last three or four years we've grown very strong, not just with the number of people out there, but with the revenues, too," Stein said. "We say, tongue and cheek, that it's always sunny and 70 degrees in Poplar, but we are fortunate to usually have better weather. It's the three 20s at Poplar: 20 minutes (from Duluth), 20 degrees warmer and 20 bucks for golf."

The idea behind the trifecta isn't new. After all, Enger and Lester Park courses in Duluth have had a shared agreement for years, but those are both run by the same city.

Now, if Poplar has a tournament, golfers can scoot over to nearby Norwood or Botten's, or vice versa.

Season passes are usually in the $300-$400 range. Stein said he pays $399 for his senior pass at Poplar, which includes cart and league play.

"People can't believe it," Stein said. "What a phenomenal deal. It's an interesting concept. When we come up with these harebrained ideas, we look at what's going to increase people, what's going to increase revenues, and what's going to get people golfing. And if you can cooperate, like we're doing, it's a lot better than fighting each other."