Upside down enterprise funds, privatization, closures, unfunded capital needs, declining play, declining revenues, squeezed budgets – these are the issues consuming the attentions of golf managers, golf management companies, consultants and allied associations in the public golf realm right now.
That’s why the SCGA coordinated – and veteran municipal golf manager/consultant Dave Sams hosted – a “summit” of some of the municipal game’s leading minds at the Rose Bowl Operating Company’s 36-hole Brookside Golf Complex in Pasadena September 28.
“The SCGA recognizes that the degree to which the game’s traditional entry point suffers, the whole game suffers, particularly its future prospects,” said SCGA Director of Governmental Affairs Craig Kessler. “That’s why we used the SCGA’s 25-member Governmental Affairs Committee as the platform for bringing together some of the most experienced and accomplished professionals in the municipal golf world to see if we couldn’t distill a few positive nuggets of remediation from these muddy waters.”
With more than 150 years of combined experience in the public golf world, the assembled team spent the day dealing with every aspect of the current municipal landscape – the state of the economy, the rising fixed costs of water, energy, insurance, and labor, the declining incomes and equities of the game’s customer base, the heightened maintenance expectations of the modern public player and the collapsing tax bases of municipal governments. “A perfect storm of uncontrollable rising costs and declining incomes,” one participant called it.
The group lamented a bygone era in which municipalities viewed their municipal golf properties more for their recreational benefits than their financial ones and discussed ways in which that part of the municipal golf message might be rekindled. But in the final analysis, the participants recognized that at least in the short run the standard by which municipal golf programs are going to be judged is their capacity to operate without public subsidy – not a problem for regulation 18-hole courses in the region’s large urban cores, but a most definite problem once you get beyond Los Angeles and San Diego and once you begin looking at the 9-hole, executive and 3-par courses that do so much to introduce the game to new generations of players.
The conclave spoke in brutally candid terms. The members left satisfied that they had at least defined the scope of their shared problem – always the necessary first step in figuring out solutions. The second step: The group resolved to come together again soon to begin crafting some of those solutions.
We’ll keep you apprised of future developments.