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Nicklaus-Designed Bear Trace Rebounding Financially

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Four Jack Nicklaus-designed 'Bear Trace' golf courses are close to breaking even a year after being taken over by the state, Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Fyke said during budget hearings Monday.
Gov. Phil Bredesen called it a 'success story' that the state has been able to draw golfers to the courses abandoned by Houston-based Redstone Golf Management in December 2005.
Redstone declined to maintain its operating agreement for the courses located on state parkland as a $2 million debt service payment was about to come due last year.
Fyke said increased marketing and lower green fees have helped revive the courses.
The Legislature in 1993 authorized $20 million worth of general obligation bonds to develop the golf courses in existing state parks. The courses are located at the Harrison Bay, Cumberland Mountain, Tims Ford and Chickasaw parks.
Critics said the courses weren't more popular because they were located in rural areas based on politics instead of more accessible areas. The Chickasaw course, for example, is 20 miles from Interstate 40 in the state Senate district of Lt. Gov. John Wilder.
All but the Chickasaw course are now paying for themselves, Fyke said, but together the four courses will have up to a $250,000 deficit this year.
Fyke said the woes at the Chickasaw course may be in part due to extra maintenance and repair needed there compared with the other three courses. But pressed by Bredesen on what the biggest problem at the course is, Fyke said: 'I'm afraid it's location.'
'We inherited the Bear Trace, but the decision was made to keep them open and try to operate them at break even,' Bredesen said. 'And it sounds like they're almost there.'
Bredesen suggested that the Chickasaw course could eventually be shut down if its performance does not improve.
'I'll certainly given them another year to try to get close to break even,' he said.
The state also operates eight other 18-hole golf courses.
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