Wild Oak Golf Course set to close, as owners discuss option of city acquiring private golf course

Jan. 15—MITCHELL — Wild Oak Golf Course is presumably shutting down, and it's sending concern through the residents who live next to the privately owned golf course.

Residents living in the housing development neighboring the 18-hole golf course were recently informed through a letter that the owners of Wild Oak are planning to close the course.

Dave Backlund Jr., co-owner and clubhouse manager of Wild Oak, confirmed a decision has been made to close the golf course on the east edge of Mitchell. Backlund declined to provide further comments about the future of the golf course and closure timeline, as discussions are in the early stages.

A letter obtained by the Mitchell Republic that was sent to members of the Wild Oak Homeowner's Association (HOA) surrounding the golf course offered several details as to why the group of Wild Oak owners — which includes Dave Backlund Sr., Backlund Jr. and Tom Walsh — decided to close the golf course.

The letter — signed by HOA members Tim Grivna, John Doescher, Ron Kogel and Dave Drake — states, Wild Oak owners "agreed they cannot continue to operate the course while losing money on a continuing basis."

A major concern neighboring homeowners have with the golf course shutting down centers around the impact it could have on their property values, the letter explains. Addressing concerns of property values, the letter goes on to state, "This is terrible news and affects all Wild Oak homeowners and our property values in a negative way."

Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson said a recent discussion took place between Wild Oak owners and a pair of city council members that entailed exploring the idea of the city acquiring the golf course from the Backlunds and Walsh.

Would the city be willing to purchase the golf course? And at what cost would the city consider buying the golf course? Those are questions the Mitchell City Council could soon consider.

While the council would ultimately be the governing body to decide a purchase of the golf course if Wild Oak owners put together a formal offer, Everson said he's open to hearing "more fully developed proposals" that would involve the city.

"We aren't looking to spend a lot of money right now with the list of other big projects we are focused on. I do believe the community as a whole would benefit from having two 18-hole golf courses running," Everson said.

Wild Oak has served as Mitchell's lone privately owned golf course for about a century, previously known as the Mitchell Country Club. Through the years, ownership has changed hands and improvements have been made to the course measures at 6,900 yards along Firesteel Creek. The course also includes a driving range, putting green, pro shop, clubhouse bar and a swimming pool.

When Wild Oak expanded from nine holes to 18 in 2004, it gave Mitchell two 18-hole golf courses. Over the years, the Backlund family has developed the land surrounding the golf course into a housing development.

More than 100 homes are situated along the golf course, and new homes continue to be built each year on the remaining open lots next to Wild Oak.

Mitchell City Council President Kevin McCardle is among the homeowners who reside in the neighboring development. He too is concerned of the impact the closure of the golf course will have on nearby property values.

While McCardle isn't opposed to considering options involving the city taking over the golf course, he said he doesn't support "spending a lot of money" to buy a golf course considering the city already owns an 18-hole golf course next to Lake Mitchell.

"If the city took it over, I wouldn't want to have to invest a lot of money into buying it. We already have a nice golf course. But I hope something can happen to keep Wild Oak running because it's also a nice course," McCardle said.

Doescher, a City Council member who lives in the Wild Oak development and sits on the HOA board, does not support the city acquiring the golf course without taking a thorough look into Wild Oak's financials and profit and loss margins.

"I am against it at this point. The city has a golf course we invest a lot into, and adding another would add more expenses," Doescher said. "To think about supporting the city taking it on, I would need to see the profit and loss margins and all the expenses vs. the income."

The city of Mitchell is in the midst of planned improvements to Lakeview Golf Course for 2024 at a cost of $670,300, which includes re-routing holes on the back nine of the course. That work is set to begin in July.