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Repurposing Muni Golf - Pros and Cons (3 minute read) 

Reading the Green is a "quick hit" monthly newsletter sent by Staples Golf, a Scottsdale based Golf Course Architecture firm that works with Municipal stakeholders like you. Each month, we explore community focused topics all Municipal stakeholders should be keeping an eye on.

Community Golf Fan, 

Sadly, we've recently heard two more stories in as many days, of municipal courses that are in the process of closing for repurposing. As you know, we’re advocates of closure under the right conditions, but only after the owner has gone through the proper research and analysis to see exactly how poorly the course itself is actually doing. Click here to read about such golf course closure efforts. Our experience is however, once you dig deep into the financials, you’ll find it comes down more to perception, than reality.

Here are some of the reasons why: the cost of labor a city or county pays their employees to work at these golf facilities runs on average about 20-30% higher than in the private sector, but for good reasons including increased benefits. Additionally, these facilities tend to have larger percentages of their revenue funneled toward city fees in the form of "shared resources," which will remain regardless of whether the course closes. Municipal golf facilities are also paying higher costs year over year for water, and power- but so are the privatized courses.

While local government operated facilities do have a few more challenges, we'd argue that it's offset by its benefits to the community. Every time a municipal course closes, opportunities for would-be-new-golfers to learn the game also closed. We’ve underscored this more than once, but no other sport teaches patience, disciple, integrity, etiquette, etc., etc., quite like golf, and giving kids a great reason to get outside has never been more relevant than today.

Hands down the “local muni” is the lowest barrier to enter on the facility front thanks to both affordability and general accessibility. In what we believe to be a telling example of
what-could-have-been at Palmer Park Golf Course in Detroit (closed last year), 3,000+ kids came out to see Tiger Woods for a free golf clinic roughly 20 years ago. The bottom-line is: golf needs these types of facilities to function properly.

It won't be too long before we see another one of these stories, but we'd caution you to believe that it's as cut-and-dry as it's made out to be. In making the hard case for exploring alternatives to closure, more municipal golf facilities will battle through these uncertain times.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Many municipal golf facilities are often in better shape than they appear

  • Operating expenses for these golf courses come with inherent disadvantages

  • The closure of municipal golf facilities result in lost opportunities for youth development

  • Muni golf facilities located in urban areas will always be the most vulnerable

Please remember, we’re around to answer any questions you might have on this topic, or anything else regarding your community golf course! You can send us an email by clicking here, or feel free to give us a ring at the number below.

Until next time,

Andy Staples, ASGCA

About Us
Staples Golf is a nationally renowned golf course architecture firm, known for its signature development vision, Community Links. Community Links is a paradigm shifting approach with regards to how a golf course fits into the community. It includes re-branding, resource conservation, community involvement, new player development, among others.
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