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What’s going on with Louisville’s Golf Courses?

Louisville Metro recently listed a Request for Proposal for Management, Operation, and Maintenance of Louisville’s public golf courses.

  • A selection committee consisting of city officials will use the RFP process to select a partner who will take over maintenance of the identified golf courses.  
  • This means that outside golf agencies would step in to maintain, improve, and operate the courses, saving Louisville Parks & Recreation over $1,074,000 in annual net losses, funds that could be spent in better ways to maintain the city’s 120 parks.
  • The RFP Deadline is October 15, 2019.


  • Golf courses are expensive and labor intensive to maintain. Metro Louisville maintains 10 Golf Courses; only three have turned a profit over the last two years while losses have increased by 281% since 2017.
  • Louisville is not unique. Since 2003, there has been a 20% decline in the number of golfers nationwide, according to the National Golf Foundation. Prior to 2006, there was a 20 year expansion cycle where golf course supply grew by 44%. In short, the number of available courses exploded at the same time the sport began to see a decrease in play.

How will this impact our Olmsted Parks?

There are four golf courses within the Olmsted Parks system that are up for bid in the RFP:  

  • Cherokee Golf Course (52 acres)
  • Iroquois Golf Course (125 acres)
  • Seneca Golf Course (190 acres)
  • Shawnee Golf Course (167 acres)

Olmsted Parks Conservancy supports outside groups approved by Louisville Metro to maintain golf at Iroquois, Seneca and Shawnee parks.

  • Strategically anchored in the East, West, and South ends, these parks meet the geographic diversity requirements that Louisville Metro is looking for in the RFP. Keeping these courses open offers golfers a public course option in each corner the city.
  • We are interested in collaborating with the chosen partner(s) for these three courses and will advocate that the course and associated programs offered continue to meet the needs of the community. Olmsted Parks Conservancy would volunteer to take ownership of these courses and re-purpose for park space if an outside firm wishes to transition this property into something other than a golf course.

In our proposal to Louisville Metro, we are recommending that the Cherokee Park golf course, which has generated a net loss of $413,800 over the past 6 years, be repurposed into parkland by Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

Why Cherokee Park Golf Course?

While it’s historic, it’s not a part of the park’s original master plan and isn’t sustainable.

  • Cherokee Park was built in 1891, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted himself. The current golf course property was part of Cherokee Park originally and included in Olmsted’s earliest design. When golf was introduced in Cherokee Park in 1900, the Olmsted Firm strongly urged the Board of Park Commissioners to reconsider. The city proceeded with the golf course, installing the 9-hole course in 1900 and briefly expanding to 18 holes in 1915. In 1934, the course reverted to  9-holes because a new 18 hole course was slated to open in Seneca.
  • The golf course property is steeply sloped with narrow fairways. It is not an ideal topography for a golf course property, and we believe it would be better utilized as a public park.
  • Cherokee Golf Course is the oldest municipal course in Kentucky, and one of the oldest in the nation. Our recommendation to remove golf from such a historically significant site was not made lightly, but its operations are not sustainable.

The operating costs have routinely exceeded revenue and usage has been decreasing for over 6 years.

  • The course has operated at a significant net loss ($413,800) for at least the past 6 years, dollars that we believe could be better spent on maintenance for other parks that serve communities in need. The course has experienced more than a 51% increase in losses since 2017 and is on track to lose $110,000 this year.
  • We believe, due to the high cost of operations and low volume relative to other parks in the RFP, that a viable bid for Cherokee Golf Course is unlikely.

There are other alternatives for public golf nearby with comparable fees.

  • Seneca Golf Course, which has generated $735,200 in net revenue since 2014, was installed in 1935 and a few miles from the Cherokee Golf Course. Seneca is a better designed golf course, and as a result has 54,000 rounds played in a year, 260% more rounds than at Cherokee (15,000).
  • On the other side of the park, is Crescent Hill, another 9 hole course.
  • Furthermore, there are many other well-maintained semi-private courses in the area that are great options for play.

The area currently housing the golf course would be great land to give back to city residents.

  • If chosen, our first step would be to create a Master Plan for the Cherokee Park golf course area and collect plenty of input so we can marry historical intent for the park with the needs of current park users.

Tell us What You think!

Your voice is important. Whether you’re a loyal golfer, or a regular park user – we want your perspective and feedback to help us craft an RFP response that meets the needs of our people. Help us dream big!

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