The plan for reopening the Ray Richards Golf Course is still on course, according to Mike Pieper, UND’s Associate Vice President for Facilities.

UND, which closed the course in the fall of 2016 amid state budget cuts, has been working with Grand Forks’ Opp Construction to get the nine-hole course back to playing shape.

The areas of focus have been the irrigation system, the sand traps and rebuilding the greens.

The greens are a priority, Pieper said.

“Basically, we cut the top inches off and put new sand, leveled them off and replanted with seed,” Pieper said. “It takes most of the summer for the greens to grow in.”

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UND’s intent is for a soft opening of the course in the fall and the first full year of the course reopening is still slated for next spring.

Plans for the clubhouse remain up in the air, Pieper said. UND is considering a third-party vendor to run the food service.

UND is also in the process of finding an outside vendor to operate the course and undertake the general course maintenance. The hope is to start next spring with a multi-year contract in place with a vendor.

“We want to come out of the summer knowing who that’s going to be,” Pieper said. “I think it’s gone fairly well. We’re taking the time and investing in the greens because we feel, for the playability of the course, people want quality greens. If we can give them that, it’ll be financially beneficial moving forward.”

One hurdle is Mother Nature, Pieper said, because the region doesn’t produce the quality turf wanted for the greens.

“You have to seed it and wait for Mother Nature to grow it,” he said.

UND plans to reopen the Ray Richards driving range, chipping area and putting greens.

Conversations for additional, non-traditional use of the golf course continue, although nothing has been made official.

Those discussions have involved disc golf and cross-country skiing. With the clubhouse, a patio and sand volleyball court are among the possibilities.

Drone activity has been previously mentioned by UND as a possible use of Ray Richards. Pieper said the school is working with drone users on a couple of fronts.

“There’s the small, personal use stuff where they’re looking for areas to fly,” he said. “A lot of the public spaces like parks are closed to that. Now with some of the open green space on campus, we think we can provide some of that.

“There’s also drone racing, where they’ll set hoops throughout the course and fly on a digital screen. That’s more like having a golf tournament, working to set aside weekends to bring in drone teams from around the country.”

Plans for the Ray Richards Golf Course have changed over the last few years.

After closing the course in 2016, UND originally announced plans in June of 2018 to sell the land with portions of the profit put toward an endowment to fund the men’s golf program.

The family of the late Ray Richards, however, expressed displeasure with that plan and asked for the course to be reopened to fulfil the wishes of Richards. In response, UND announced plans in October of 2018 to reopen the course.

Richards, a UND alumnus, died in 1972. He donated the farmland near the intersection of DeMers Avenue and South 42nd Street to the university in 1962.