Chaska is planning to build a small public golf course that will be welcoming to just about anyone — golfers with disabilities, newbie golfers, wannabe golfers, kid golfers, lower-income golfers and even skilled, seasoned golfers.
The new course will be on the site of Chaska Par 30, a standard nine-hole course operated by the city of Chaska. Construction of the renovated course, also called Chaska Par 30, is scheduled to begin next year, with opening expected in late summer 2021.
On the redesigned course, people who use wheelchairs or have other disabilities can golf — and socialize — alongside those who don’t. Instructors will be available to teach adaptive golfing techniques. The course will also make the game more accessible to inexperienced players and people who otherwise could not afford to play. Organizers hope it will draw people from all over the metropolitan area.
“We feel everyone should have an opportunity to play the game of golf,” said Susan Neuville, a board member for Learning Links, the Chaska-based organization steering the project and collecting donations for it. As a newbie golfer herself, married to an experienced golfer, Neuville said, “I know what it feels like to be on the outside of golf.”
The Chaska City Council agreed this week to split the cost of the $1.5 million project with Learning Links, which has already raised about $400,000 and hopes to collect its remaining $350,000 share by the end of the year.
To a casual observer, the new Chaska Par 30 will look like any other course, said Benjamin Warren, the architect hired to design it and a native of Scotland, where golf is believed to have originated.
Standard courses have raised tee areas and large sand traps that can be hard to access for people with mobility limitations. Those features will be easier to navigate at Chaska Par 30. And the course’s rolling topography and hollows planted with native, pollinator-friendly grasses “are fundamentally compatible with an adaptive course.” Yet experienced golfers will still find it challenging, he said.
“Interesting golf doesn’t need to have lots of hazards,” Warren said.
The 30-acre course is near the private membership Hazeltine National Golf Club but not affiliated with it. The city also operates the 20-year-old Chaska Town Course, a public 18-hole course where admission is $45 to $75, the higher price for people who don’t live in Chaska. Admission at Chaska Par 30 will be $10 for children and $20 for adults, although fees will be lowered for those who otherwise couldn’t afford it. Alongside the course will be a large putting green that anyone can use, free of charge.
Because it’s shorter than a standard 18-hole course, Chaska Par 30 won’t require a great a time commitment. It won’t even require a wardrobe of collared shirts and dress pants; many golf courses have dress codes prohibiting jeans, but Chaska Par 30’s code will be “come as you are.”
“There’s a lot of intimidation for a new person to take up golf,” said John Kellin, head golf professional at the Chaska Town Course. “We want to eliminate that.”
The course can also serve as a model that can be replicated in other locations around the country, said Eric Snyder, a Learning Links interim executive director and consultant.
The project has been in the works since 2014. The current Par 30, almost 50 years old, was due for about $500,000 of updating on its irrigation system and parking area. Organizers saw an opportunity to spend a little more and build something new, with wider appeal.
Census data indicate that 57 million people in the country have disabilities. About 20 million of them want to play golf, according to E.Q. Sylvester, chairman and founder of the Illinois-based U.S. Adaptive Golf Alliance. Interest in golf among the general population has faded in recent years, he said.
“The golfing world is not paying attention to the potential new market of disabled golf,” said Sylvester, himself an avid golfer and a triple amputee. By offering adaptive instructors and inclusive courses, he said, Chaska Par 30 is “one of the leaders” in the country.
Golf can be especially healthy for people with disabilities, Sylvester said, adding, “You’ve never seen so much smiles and happiness with people who never thought they’d be able to play golf before.”
Katy Read • 612-673-4583