MIDDLEBURY — After nearly 47 years of operating Sims Oak Hills Golf Course, the city of Elkhart is looking at closing or selling it.
Mayor Dick Moore said last week a Michigan man expressed interest in buying the 18-hole course.
The course is located more than a dozen miles from city limits on S.R. 120 near Middlebury.
The city agreed to acquire the course in 1965 when Ernie Sims gifted it to the city in exchange for $1. A plaque at the clubhouse commemorates the Oct. 30, 1966, transfer of ownership.
A decision to part with the golf course comes at a time when city officials are faced with budget deficit for 2013.
The property is run by two full-time employees and six to eight part-time employees who work between five and 12 hours a week, according to the city.
The facility does not use tax dollars. The golf course’s budget is based on fees. This year’s budget is $255,721.
The city constructed a deck and an open air pavilion a few years ago with money gained by selling two adjacent properties. Remaining portions of that sale were put into a fund that has been used to help sustain the course, Moore said.
“I don’t know of a time that I can recall that it ever made enough to sustain itself in a given year,” Moore said.
The reserve fund has been dwindling “and we’ve come to the end of that this year,” Moore said. “We can’t keep doing it. We’ll probably have to close it at the end of this year if we don’t sell it.”
Scott McMurray, general manager of the golf course, said he was disappointed to hear about the course’s uncertain future when he was informed Saturday. He said he’s worked hard since joining the facility in October 2010.
McMurray said he thinks the course has been hurt by the economy, but declined to comment further.
The course was constructed in the early 1960s.
The course has hosted countless tournaments over the years and has remained popular with some golfers.
Eric Miller, a Bremen resident, played a round Saturday. He said he plays the course a few times a year.
“It’s definitely one of the more challenging,” Miller said. “If you’re a good golfer at another course and you come here, it tests you — just because of the terrain.”
Moore said he believes only about 20 percent of the users are Elkhart city residents.
Moore said he’d also like to see the city part with Elliott Park and Boot Lake Nature Preserve. He said he hopes Elkhart County’s parks department would acquire both properties.
Elliott Park is west of the city. The nature preserve is north of the airport.
“Being outside the city, I think its time to unload those things if we can,” Moore said.