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Randy's Ramblings: We'll miss it when it's gone

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I can't help but think that the city will miss the Hudson Golf Club if it really does become a school site and commercial district.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I know I'll be a little sad to see it go.

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My love for the course in my boyhood hometown of Luck is the reason I'd feel the loss, I suppose.

It's been years since I've played a round of golf, and I'm ashamed to admit that I've never been on the Hudson course. A busy schedule, rising green fees and too many duffed shots are my excuse.

All of those were less of a problem in the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer of the late 1960s and early '70s.

Luck had, and still has, a municipal course.

It was built during the Great Depression and opened in April 1938. If I remember correctly, construction of the course was an early stimulus project and involved some help from the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Few showed up for the opening day, according to a short history of the course on its website.

A season pass was $40, I think, when I purchased my first one as a high school freshman or sophomore. I remember buying a used set of clubs from Jimmy Lawson and the pass, and paying $40 and $15 with money I made mowing lawns or working at Martinson's IGA store. I'm not certain that the pass cost more than the clubs.

The village fathers knew who the future adult season-pass holders would be if they kept greens fees affordable for kids. The school was in on it, too. If your parents weren't golfers, you were introduced to the sport in phy ed class.

Those were idyllic days to be a boy in Luck. We'd hit the links after a day of work at our summer jobs and cap off the round with a swim in Big Butternut. The beach was (and still is) across the road from the clubhouse.

I remember the clubhouse being referred to as the country club in those days, but we didn't have any stereotypical country-clubbers in Luck - other than a few of the visitors from the Twin Cities.

The Thursday men's night group included workers from the local wood products and metal factories, along with business owners, schoolteachers and a handful of professionals.

The women golfed on Wednesday afternoons and finished the evening with drinks and dinner at the clubhouse.

I don't recall what the women ate. I know the men usually had steak - T-bone, rib eye, sirloin or New York. My favorite duty with the grocery store was delivering food for the men's night dinners in owner Jim Martinson's pickup truck every other week. The men split their business between our store and Anderson's Fairway, the other grocery on Main Street.

Luck Golf Course, which was expanded to 18 holes in 1988, remains a gathering place and source of pride for the community, from what I can tell. Its website boasts 40 local businesses that are "scorecard sponsors." The Luck Community Club puts the golf course first on its list of village attractions.

The course, however, hasn't escaped the financial problems faced by many others around the country in recent years, including Hudson's.

I subscribe to the newspaper from the area where I worked before coming to Hudson 14 years ago, and have followed some of the debate over the course.

In 2011, the village subsidized golf operations to the tune of about $46,000, if I remember right. That amounted to close to $40 for each of Luck's 1,200-plus residents -- although the money came from the property tax levy. A subsidy of more than $60,000 is budgeted for 2012, according to a public notice in the newspaper.

Some folks don't like it, but for the past 73 years, the village where I was raised has decided that having a golf course is worth the public investment. I'm glad it has.

It doesn't seem right to me that a city like Hudson should be without a golf course. I understand some of the economics of the situation - the effects of the recession and competition from new, top-flight courses like Troy Burne, White Eagle and St. Croix National, plus less expensive courses such as Badlands and Kilkarney Hills.

I don't doubt the Hanson family's (no relation to me) sincerity in hoping to run a successful golf course when they bought the club a year and a half ago.

As has been pointed out, they invested a lot of money in improving the clubhouse and adding facilities. But after two seasons, the course reportedly has continued to lose money. I don't blame the Hansons for looking at other options.

Still, if the idea of developing the property falls through, I hope a way can be found to make the Hudson Golf Club profitable - which would require a healthy dose of community support.

It wouldn't bother me if the present cart storage building was the clubhouse. Golf has always been more about golf than the clubhouse to me. Retirement is in view. I'm thinking it would be nice to spend some lazy summer days on my new hometown course.

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Randy Hanson
Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.
(715) 426-1066
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