By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN Those who enjoy golfing at the local course will be welcomed by new faces this spring when they hit the greens for their first round of golf.
Howard Lake Greens, which was developed in 1994, and has been operated by Ed Lahr and his siblings, has been sold.
The new owners, Jeff Carlson of Independence, and Paul Hockert of Ham Lake, have renamed the golf course The Greens of Howard Lake.
Hockert enjoys deer hunting and everything outdoors.
Carlson is an avid golfer, and describes himself as “an average bowler, ping-pong player, and below average at ice fishing (at least according to his son Oscar), and a lover of all sports.”
Both men enjoy snowmobiling, hanging out with buddies and “talking smack” on the golf course, “usually not backing it up.”
Carlson and Hockert were looking for an opportunity to find a public course with untapped potential.
The fact that the Howard Lake golf course was in a small community appealed to both Carlson and Hockert, as they are looking forward to getting to know their neighbors and the community members who enjoy golf.
Because an 18-hole course can, at times, be very time-consuming, the new owners liked the idea of owning a 9-hole course.
When presented with the opportunity to purchase the Howard Lake Greens, “We saw a beautiful tract of land and tons of potential,” Carlson said.
They were attracted by the beautiful Howard Lake, as well as the residential and commercial makeup of the community.
“We feel that Ed designed a fun and challenging course, but one in current need of updates and improvements,” Carlson said.
The new owners are seeking input for ways to improve and update The Greens of Howard Lake for “the rebirth of a golf course.”
Customers come first
“Through our website, we are taking a unique approach to course ownership,” Carlson said. “We offer the community an opportunity to have some say in what they want in our golf course.”
Recognizing that customers will be their biggest asset, “We know the course will prosper only if we are successful in engaging our community and getting folks to the course by providing good value,” Carlson said.
Although they are not planning to hire staff until February or March, one thing they know for sure is whoever they hire will be of the highest quality and understand that the customer is their greatest asset, Carlson said.
“They will be upbeat and energetic always welcoming. While some people may feel the art of customer service is a dying breed, we intend to prove that wrong,” Carlson said.
The new owners’ goals are to create a fun place to gather and socialize, and have some fun playing a great game of golf.
Improvements to the course
Over the winter, the new owners have been busy gutting and making updates to the clubhouse.
Some features of the new, improved clubhouse include Wi-Fi Internet access, a 58-inch plasma television, a new beverage counter, and comfortable seating.
“[There will be] ample reasons to come before, or stay after a round [of golf] to relax,” Carlson said.
Quality rental clubs will be available for customers who do not own their own set.
Merchandise will also be available for purchase at a reasonable price for customers to show pride in their community, Carlson said.
For the course itself, “First and foremost will be the elimination of all weeds from the course, which is the easiest part,” Carlson said.
A renovated driving range, with new golf balls, will offer customers a good opportunity to work on their game.
There are plans to raise a few tee boxes, and firm up both tee and green surfaces with the help of the newly hired talented and enthusiastic grounds crew, Carlson said.
“Improving the greens will take some time, but is something we are committed to do,” Carlson said.
Sand traps and bunkers are expected to be added over time, he said.
The new owners plan to have a variety of fun leagues, with periodic tournaments.
Weekly grilled food and beverage specials will be offered following league play to enjoy in the outside seating area, Carlson said.
To offer input to the new owners of The Greens of Howard Lake, visit the website at www.greensofhowardlake.com. Prices and league sign-up will also be available on the website in coming weeks.