Brian and Marlis Hansen, owners of Top O’ the Hill Golf Course in Sylvan Lake, are looking forward to their last season of owning the course, as they’re putting it up for sale this spring.
The course has operated as a family-run business for the past 31 years. Brian and Marlis were the second generation to own it, and have done so for the past 24 years, with Brian’s parents being the first owners seven years prior, Marlis Hansen said.
She said her husband’s family bought a little acreage in the 1960s, then eventually worked to convert it into the golf course. In 1984, they opened the golf course, and it has been in operation ever since.
“Brian and his dad and a few of his dad’s good friends worked a number of summers turning it basically from a pasture into the golf course,” Marlis Hansen said. “So they did it all themselves. There wasn’t an architect or a golf course design company or anyone hired.”
Even though the golf course is family owned and operated, the Hansens are motivated to sell as they want to move on to their next endeavours, which could include working in the winter and taking time off in the summer.
Marlis Hansen said that for as long as she and her husband have been married, the two have owned summer businesses, and owning the golf course right now means shutting it in the winter and working hard to run the place and serve customers in the summer.
The Hansens live on the golf course, but have bought a cabin in an area near Petro Beach. She said their goal is to take advantage of, and enjoy, summers at the lake rather than at the golf course. Selling the golf course they have owned for the past 24 years will be a life change for the Hansens, but one they are ready to accept, as Marlis Hansen described her husband as a “water bug.”
“He’s really missed out on being able to take advantage of the lake,” she said. “He was a water skier and a sailor and all those things.”
She added she doesn’t know who will buy the golf course or what will happen to it, but she said she would love to see it purchased by someone who will continue it as a golf course. She understands, however, that the land could be used for other development.
“The golf course industry has been in a slump for some time,” she said. “It’s pretty difficult to make a living with a golf course these days. We have stayed as long as we have because we employ ourselves and family members. We work long days and we wear a lot of hats.”
Hansen said she has gone from being in the garden planting the flowers that adorn the course to being the chef that cooks the meals for a tournament. She said making a living in the golf industry is tough, but she would still love to see it continue in its founding roots.
“It’s a great place for families and beginner golfers,” she said. “But who knows — it could be purchased by developers. There’s quite a view up from the lake from this area, so it could be purchased for small acreages or something.”