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The purpose of a municipal golf course

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POSTED September 3, 2009 2:14 a.m.
People who play golf pretty much know there are three different types of golf courses. However, those of you who don’t play golf might be under the impression that all golf courses are alike. In actuality, the three categories of golf courses are so different as night and day.

One category of golf facility is classified as a “Country Club.” These golf courses are actually owned by the members, of which there are typically four to five hundred, and all members share in all operating, maintenance, and capital expenses. Only members and guests are allowed to play these courses.

A second category of golf facility is the privately owned, public golf course. These facilities are typically owned by private corporations or individuals, are open to the general public, charge higher than average fees, and generally exist to make a profit for the owners.

These two types of golf courses are very popular nationwide, fill a need for many golfers, but are the reason why golf has been labeled by some as a rich man’s game.

Now we have the third type of golf facility, the “Municipal” or city-owned golf course (or in some cases county owned.) Our Manteca Park Golf Course is in this classification. The purpose of this type of facility is to provide recreation for the community. As a matter of fact, our original founding fathers’ bronze plaque is mounted in the entry of our clubhouse and is inscribed with the statement, “Dedicated to the People of the Community for Their Enjoyment.”

Cities set Green’s Fees (user fees) at as low a rate as possible so that as many people as possible can afford this type of recreation, keeping in mind revenues must be sufficient to cover expenses. As a matter of fact, if the golf course is classified an “Enterprise Operation” by the city, as is ours, cities cannot legally charge higher fee’s for the purpose of making a profit. This is true of other city “Enterprise Operations” such as refuse, sewer and water departments.

Unfortunately, many Municipal Golf Courses nationwide fail miserably. Their facilities deteriorate due to either poor management or budget cutbacks, resulting in fewer customers and less income, often resulting in the increasing of rates which becomes counterproductive, resulting in large General Fund (taxpayer) subsidies to keep them open.

What it takes for a Municipal Golf Course to be successful and self sufficient is a four way team which communicates and works well together. The critical and first part of this four-way team is comprised of the city leaders (city council members and city manager) who are responsible for making the very important decisions such as rate schedules and who will actually make up the other three parts of the team. The maintenance department, food and beverage department, and golf professional services department are the three who deal with the day-to-day operation of the facility and it is imperative that these individuals are dedicated to the facilities’ overall success.

I would put our four-way Municipal Golf Course Team in the top 5% nationwide, not because I am a part of the team, but simply based on reputation and results. Can we improve? Certainly, we not only can but must continue to do so. In our current city budget crisis, the golf course must be 100% self sufficient, requiring no General Fund support. Our four-way team, by continuing to improve and work together, can keep our golf course a model facility which when compared with other golf facilities.
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