Golfers Ask County to Purchase Island’s Only Golf Course

Avid golfers this month started a letter-writing campaign to urge the Door County Board to consider buying Deer Run Golf Course on Washington Island.

However, Wausau-based Masgay Group, which operates Washington Island Biergarten, the small hotel and the golf course, said the property is not actively listed at this time. The course is scheduled to close for the season around Oct. 7, and though the lodging and dining businesses will continue, there are no plans to open the golf course next season, according to owner Mike Masgay. 

Masgay Group bought the course and updated the restaurant in 2022 for more than $600,000. Masgay said Sept. 22 that they haven’t listed the property for sale, but he and his group are always willing to listen to offers. He also said he’s willing to hear any creative ideas that can keep the course open in the future. He said other than that, he had no further comment.

The five letters from island residents (including one seasonal resident) were included in the agenda packet for the Sept. 13 meeting of the Door County Facilities and Parks Committee. The letters conveyed the basic message that if the current owners sell the 44-acre property for development, the residents would be stranded on a golf-free island with a slightly less desirable quality of life.

“Today I learned that the one golf course on Washington Island will not reopen next year and will again be for sale,” wrote golfer Tom Murphy in one of the letters. “I would ask that the county consider purchasing and operating it as a Door County park. I see no other way to save golf on the island. Golf provides much enjoyment to residents and tourists and truly adds to the quality of life on the island.”

Golfers Emily and Jim Drinan wrote that the county could own the course as “a break-even operation.”

Eighteen-year resident Jeff Squire wrote that “the island’s assets are finite and they need to be preserved.”

Golfer Gary Delzell wrote that if the island lost the course, it’s highly unlikely golf would ever return there. He noted that it’s impractical and logistically-difficult to leave the island by ferry and play regularly at another course.

Wayne Spritka, director of the Facilities and Parks department, said he could not comment on what county board members might decide. He said county committee members did not discuss the letters that appeared in their packet.

The county board member representing the island, Joel Gunnlaugsson, said as of Sept. 19, he had not heard that the course was closing. He said it is a private business, but suggested that golfers might pool their resources if it is indeed available.

While he didn’t comment on Deer Run, Spritka said the county also received pleas for help when Cherry Hills was on the block in 2015. Golfer and ex-Marine Jon Martell came to the rescue in that case and revived the Sevastopol course.

Spritka said when Cherry Hills was up for sale, county officials noted that Door County does not have a parks and recreation department. The county focuses more on preservation, natural resources, providing picnic areas and hiking opportunities at its two dozen parks.

The one golf course confirmed for sale in Door County is 27 Pines, and as of late summer, owner Tom Schmelzer said there’s still a course-ownership opportunity southeast of Sturgeon Bay available for any interested party or group.

As for any opportunity for a group to operate a course as a not-for-profit entity, that’s the case at many golf “clubs” nationwide. Locally, Peninsula Golf Association runs, maintains and reinvests proceeds into perpetually preserving and improving the golf facilities on the state park property.

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