Local municipal golf course makes Tiger Woods-esque comeback
On a day better known for chocolate and flowers, golf balls were in the air on Valentine’s Day at Plymouth Township’s Hilltop Golf Course — and the once-financially-floundering facility’s parking lot was close to 75% filled.
Crazy-good news for usually-frigid mid-February at a facility that just a few years ago was struggling to lure golfers in mid-June.
As recently as 2018, Hilltop was annually costing the township approximately $100,000 to run. In 2022, three years after Anthony Moscone Ventures (AMV) took over management of the 18-hole course, it netted a surplus of $141,000 — with that amount projected to rise to $160,000 in 2023.
Robust turnaround for former money pit
The reasons for the turnaround are numerous — from improving the overall condition of the course to raising greens fees from $18 for 18 holes to an average of $32.99 (still incredibly reasonable in southeast Michigan).
“Golfers like change and we’ve improved the course cosmetically, taking down dead trees, improving the greens, things like that,” said Hilltop General Manager Mark Schwartz. “The feedback we’ve heard has been tremendous. We’re getting a lot more repeat customers than they did a few years back, so that’s always a good sign.”
Schwartz said Hilltop has evolved into a hotbed for leagues and outings.
“We’re booked out with leagues Monday through Friday,” he said. “Everything from house leagues to co-ed leagues.”
Hilltop’s improvements are expected to continue to roll as smoothly as a downhill putt as longterm plans are in the works — but not approved yet by township leadership — to add an outside eating area with lighting, heating stations and a fire pit; and the enlargement of the course’s modest-sized putting green.
Cosmetic changes throughout
The course’s clubhouse has been renovated, and underbrush and dead trees have been removed across the sprawling layout to make it more enjoyable to play for people like Jemail Saleh, who made the 30-minute trek from Dearborn on Valentine’s Day to play a late-winter round at the 96-year-old venue.
“We always have a great time playing this course,” said Saleh. “Hilltop is more of a challenge for me, I feel, than most others. A lot of courses are flat and straight; this course has a lot of hills, so you’re constantly going up and down, left and right.”
The Plymouth Township Board of Trustees approved a five-year contract in 2019 with Troy-based AVM to operate the course.
Factors leading to more rounds
The course hosted 21,518 rounds in 2022 — a robust number that can be attributed to decent weather, improved course conditions and the expansion of hybrid work options.
One feature Hilltop has eliminated was the awarding of $1,000 for golfers who recorded a hole-in-one on the par 3 ninth hole.
“We were working with a third-party vendor on that and it wasn’t working out,” said Schwartz.
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