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Dispelling some golf course myths

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POSTED August 22, 2009 2:55 a.m.
People who play golf in Manteca realize they have a very good golf course to play  because we who deal with the public on a daily basis hear it all the time. Golfers tell us our rates are very reasonable, the condition of the course is consistently good, it’s an enjoyable layout, and customers are treated well.

Even the majority of people in Manteca who don’t play golf, believe the course is an asset to the community. Thousands of rounds are played annually by local juniors and seniors alike, the course attracts businesses that have chosen to locate here, and the course serves as a permanent greenbelt and wildlife habitat within our city limits.

Now the purpose of this column is to dispel some of the myths concerning the golf course which has given some individuals ammunition to unfairly criticize the facility.

The biggest and most damaging myth is that the golf course loses money and is a burden to the taxpayers. The facts are that the golf course has always generated enough revenue to cover 100% of operating and maintenance costs plus pay 90% of the cost of the land and the construction of the entire facility.

Now in all fairness, it is true that approximately 10% of the cost of building the facility has come from the general fund over the years, which is taxpayers dollars. However, this has been the choice of past City Councils dating back to 1966. If these past City Councils so chose, they could have imposed small periodic increases in user fees just as they have done with other departments such as water and refuse, but did not do so for various reasons, which will be the topic of a future column.

Now in this economic budgetary crisis our city is facing, our current City Council has wisely chosen to make some fee adjustments which will increase annual revenue substantially. This along with a major loan being paid off in several months which was for the clubhouse facility, will make it possible for that 10% general fund subsidy to end, for the golf course to pay the city any interdepartmental fee’s it incurs, and for some needed capital improvements to be made to the course.

Another myth, which has to do with capital improvements to the course, is that the irrigation system is old and must be replaced. Nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, the irrigation system we now have has been constantly maintained and improved over the years. It does the job. Now, would a new $2 million state of the art irrigation system do a better job? Absolutely yes, but not that much better. Even if the city had $2 million to put into a new system, the down time, resulting in loss of green’s fee revenue, plus the cost of the system, would not be worth it. It simply would not be cost effective.

One more myth which has to do with golf course capital improvements, is that the 18 greens (the putting surfaces) are old and must be rebuilt. Again, this is a major misconception. Some of our greens are 43 years old and if property maintained through aerfication, verticutting, and the application of fertilizers and fungicides, they will be good for another 43 years.

This is where it is very important that our city decision makers, both current and future, never try to save a few dollars by cutting back on maintenance costs. If the condition of the course starts to decline, so does the income of revenue decline.

The Manteca Park Golf Course is certainly a good one for the golfers to play and by clarifying some of the myths which have surrounded the facility for years, the golf course operation can become more understandable for golfers and non golfers alike.
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