Golf Course

Q&A with Rice Lake Golf Course board president

Rice Lake Golf Course
Former Garner-Hayfield-Ventura student Grady Umbarger chips onto the green during 2A sectionals in 2016 at Rice Lake Golf and Country Club in Lake Mills.

A couple of weeks ago, the Rice Lake Golf and Country Club based in Lake Mills asked the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors for assistance in reducing its property taxes.

When the story initially came out, there were some inaccuracies.

To correct those, the Summit-Tribune reached out to Hagen in a Q&A format.

Q: Why does the country club need the help of the county to pay its taxes? How much does it owe?

A: The Rice Lake Golf & Country Club Board of Directors is trying to be proactive to address our tax burden, hoping to get our property taxes reduced, more in line with other privately owned courses in North Iowa. Annual property taxes are $18,646.

Q: When did the problem start? When was the last time the club was able to pay its taxes?

A: The entire golf industry has seen a decline in revenues for about the last 15-plus years. We have continued to pay our property taxes, and as a board, we continue to look for ways to be fiscally responsible to our members and stockholders. Our goal is to be able to reinvest back into Rice Lake in order to maintain the player experience at Rice Lake Golf & Country Club and continue to be recognized as being the best course in North Iowa and southern Minnesota.

Q: What do you put the value of the land and club at?

A: The most similar golf course to Rice Lake in the North Iowa area is Northwood, both rural courses. Northwood is a nine-hole course with approximately 72 acres with similar outbuildings. Northwood Country Club is assessed at $293,562 and annual property taxes are $3,610 a year. Rice Lake Golf & Country Club is approximately 136 acres. Our assessed value is $892,261, the highest of any golf course in North Iowa that I could find, and our tax burden is $18,646 a year. We feel if you were to double Northwood’s numbers that would be a fair comparison for Rice Lake. We have more information on other clubs’ assessed values if needed.

Q: Do you offer memberships? If so, how has your membership been trending over the last several years? Are you getting more or fewer memberships?

A: The Rice Lake Outing Club was established in 1922, and when the golf course was added the name was changed to Rice Lake Golf & Country Club. It has always been a member- and stockholder-owned. I believe most Midwest golf courses are experiencing a decline in memberships and revenues.

Q: How about tee times from the public? Have those been increasing or decreasing?

A: The golfing public in North Iowa and southern Minnesota view RLGCC as one of the best courses around, and we have been able to maintain healthy tee time bookings from the general public. Year to year total tee time bookings will fluctuate based on our weather in North Iowa. When Mother Nature is in our favor and we can start the season early, we see a positive trend in bookings. On the opposite side, if we have a long winter or rainy season, then we have seen a slight decline as most courses do.

Q: What will happen if the county does not help?

A: The Rice Lake Golf & Country Club Board of Directors is trying to be proactive to address income and expense issues before they become a huge burden. We will continue to be fiscally responsible as a board to ensure our members, stockholders and the general public have the best course to play in North Iowa. Many courses over the year have been turned over to cities and counties to run, and that has taken them off the tax roll. We continue to be strong, and our mission is to always provide our members, stockholders and the general public with the best 18-hole course in North Iowa. Our board and staff are dedicated to providing the best golfing experience to our members, stockholders, and guests and look forward to being considered one of the premier golf courses in North Iowa and southern Minnesota for many years to come.

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