Is Golf a Business or Service?
By mustang6560 on 6/28/11
Should a municipal golf course be run as a business to make money or should it run as a service to the community?

This is the very question the City Council of Houston, Texas is trying to answer.
According to the auditor, three of the four city-owned and operated golf courses lost money in the five-year span examined. Brock [Park Golf Course] lost an average of $462,000 a year. The course hosted only about 64 players a day. That means the course lost $19.74 on each round, according to the auditor.

"Twenty dollars per day per golfer in Brock Park could be better spent elsewhere in our park system," District C Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck said.
I'm torn on this particular issue because part of me thinks that maintaining public golf courses is very much a service of a community that should be supported by the taxpayers. However, it's hard to justify supporting courses that lose money year in and year out.

I'm an advocate of the semi-private business model. Let those who want to join a course pay a monthly fee and give them some perks like scheduling weekend tee times a day before the general public, 25% off merchandise in the pro shop, free range balls, etc. Then, let the occasional golfer pay a nominal fee to play whenever they want.

It's no secret that the golf industry is hurting and it's not simply because of the global recession, granted it sure didn't help anything. Less rounds are being played annually, private memberships are down and most importantly, more golf courses are closing than opening. When you think about it in those terms, it's hard not to think it's the duty of the Houston City Council to find the funds to keep Brock Park and the other public courses open. The average golfer is not a member of a country club, so if a community stops financially backing municipal courses, how is the next generation of golfers going to be introduced to our great game?

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photo by dalechumbley

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