Overton Park Conservancy Explores Golf Course Management

By Bill Dries

The Overton Park Conservancy is considering a bid to run the Overton Park Golf Course for the city of Memphis.

“This is in the very, very preliminary stages,” said Tina Sullivan, executive director of the conservancy, which takes in all of the parkland at the Midtown landmark but currently not the nine-hole golf course, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, the Levitt Shell, Memphis College of Art or the Memphis Zoo.

“I can confirm that Overton Park Conservancy has submitted a proposal to the city to assume management of the golf course,” Sullivan added. “Our goal is to keep it open, keep it thriving, keep it affordable and keep it attractive to players at all skill levels. The park is as healthy as the entities in the park. We want the golf course to stay open and stay healthy.”

The conservancy runs the park under a 10-year contract with the city that began in 2012 and includes a set amount of city funding each year. The conservancy raises a much greater amount of private funding to undertake the management of the park and a capital improvements campaign that includes the completed Overton Bark dog park and new restrooms near Rainbow Lake.

The new, renovated Rainbow Lake playground is scheduled to open this spring. That will be followed in the summer by a new bicycle and pedestrian gateway at the East Parkway entrance to Overton Park.

The nine-hole golf course was the city’s first municipal golf course and because it is nine holes and not 18, it has often made the list of city golf courses considered for closing over the years.

The closings are usually pondered as the city leaders are in budget season and considering ways to match revenues with expenditures.

Last budget season, Overton was not among four courses closed for the winter. The council originally slated one of those four, the Links at Whitehaven, for permanent closure. But it reopened March 1 with the other three – Pine Hill, Riverside and Davy Crockett.

Sullivan said the conservancy is still working out how management of the Overton golf course would work.

“A golf course manager would report to the conservancy,” she added. “It would not be like a private, contracted operator.”