Innovative Ideas to Improve Your Golf Course's Bottom-Line.

(5 minute read) 

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

Community Golf Fan, 

One of the most daunting things when it comes to implementing crucial and necessary initiatives at golf facilities, is figuring out where to start and what the priorities should be. Often however, the more beneficial question to be asking is who can get these initiative over the finish line? Finding this motivated agent of change could be the difference between wallowing over the improvement approach for multiple years, and seeing the necessary improvements come to life.

We’ve decided to highlight our Top 5 Agents of Change, and the positive impacts these individuals have had on their golf facilities and communities.

John Ashworth - Goat Hill Park

There’s a small golf course in northern San Diego County that until recently, was by all accounts slated for redevelopment due to its desirable property. It’s called Goat Hill Park, and was originally built in the 1950’s. This fate was a non-starter however for local golf apparel powerhouse John Ashworth.

Having seen his childhood courses disappear to these very same circumstances, he, with some friends, decided to do something about it. Ashworth rallied some prominent buddies to help promote the Save Goat Hill initiative, and began putting pieces in place to keep the course from become the area’s newest strip mall. He was successful, and with the massive outpouring of community support, secured the land lease in 2014 which was up for renewal.

The following year, Goat Hill Park closed for a few months for much needed irrigation repairs, as well as other improvements funded through community-based initiatives and local volunteer support. Much more on the Goat Hill Park story can be found by clicking here.

Bo Links and Richard Harris - Sharp Park

In 2009, discussions were heating up on closing down the Sharp Park Golf Course, a 1932 Allister McKenzie designed muni for the City of San Francisco. While the course had certainly suffered from deferred maintenance, as tends to be the case with many municipal golf facilities, it remained a favorite for the local golfers for its likeness to the links courses of Scotland, its affordability, and its rich history.

Litigious eco-activists however would soon be suing the City, claiming the course was contributing to the extinction of two regionally endangered species, not to mention an anti-golf sentiment that was gaining steam amidst a struggling economic recover. In fact, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2011, voted to close the course 6-5 but was vetoed by then Mayor Ed Lee.

Two local golf enthusiast turned public golf advocates, Bo Links and Richard Harris, knew they needed to take a stand in order to preserve and rejuvenate this historic course. They started an ambitious initiative called Save Sharp Park when the course first became threatened, and encouraged other golf enthusiasts to get involve when and wherever possible. Through their dogged pursuit of raising awareness, circulating petitions, creating strategic alliances, battling litigation, securing permits, and hosting fundraiser after fundraiser, Save Sharp Park has turned a hotly contentious issue into a successful Cinderella story. Click here to learn more about Sharp Park.

Mayor Steve Leary - Winter Park CC

The Winter Park Country Club in Winter Park, FL, had all the makings of a historic golf course that might have ceased to exist long ago, if not for the tight-knit community surrounding it, and a driven Mayor that refused to let it die. The small course was built in 1914, and golf equipment technology had superseded its traditionally appropriate length decades ago; the course was falling apart to boot. So, in 2015, Mayor Leary put together a Task Force that would analyze the property in order to understand what could be done.

After many months, the Task Force reported that with a little bit of funding, and the right guys for the job, the Winter Park course could become a viable product again, and one that focused on the community. That’s all the Mayor needed to hear, and the project was a green-lit to find the money needed to achieve approval.

Mayor Leary laid out the vision to his constituents and to the City’s Commission, and everyone was on board. The course opened in 2016 and has received rave reviews for it’s challenging playability, and a process that involved community input and volunteered participation. Click here to learn more about Winter Park Country Club.

Mike Cirba and Joe Bausch - Cobbs Creek GC

As you know, time, weather, and extenuating circumstances are the enemies of old golf courses. This too is the case of Cobb’s Creek Golf Club, a 1916 golf course built in west Philadelphia. Originally, the public course attracted many big names such as Ty Cobb and Joe Lewis, and was an integral course for the integration of African-American golfers. Flooding was always a persistent problem, and during WWII, the Army stationed an anti-aircraft battery to protect the City.

Fast forward to 2007, after decades of minimal upkeep and differed capital improvements, Cobbs Creek was in rough shape. According to local golf enthusiast Mike Cirba however, a few notable things hadn’t changed; a fascinating history and the backbone of a once phenomenal golf course. Mike and his fellow golf enthusiast buddy Joe Bausch, decided to do more research, and convinced themselves that the story of Cobbs Creek, and the vision they had to restore it, was worth sharing with whomever would listen.

Word got back to the City of Philadelphia, who agreed to entertain their dream, *if* they could get the funding required to turn the course around. Well they did, and this past July, the City of Philadelphia approved of their efforts, and has leased their foundation the course at an annual cost of $1. Click here to learn more about Cobbs Creek.

JJ Murphy – Rockwind Community Links 

The story of Rockwind Community Links in Hobbs, NM, may be one you’ve heard of, but the behind the scenes workings rarely make it to the forefront. The original municipal golf course, Ocotillo Park, opened in 1955 adjacent to a WWII Army Airfield. By 2012, the course was your typical dilapidated track in need of serious renovation, but the City of Hobbs was only looking for a new irrigation system and a 9 hole beginner course.

When Staples Golf began working with the City in 2013, it became apparent that an opportunity to do something beyond their upgrades should be seriously considered. After having already conceptualized the Community Links vision for another muni course in New Mexico, the pieces were in place to sell this game changing vision; enter JJ Murphy, former City Manager for Hobbs.

Once we explained to JJ the potential Ocotillo Park had to do something extraordinary for the Hobbs' residents, he was 100% on board and began selling the vision of a completely new golf facility built not just around golf, but around the community. He got the Mayor to back it, and then the city council. Were it not for JJ’s all-in support and leadership in the early phases of Ocotillo Park’s planning phases (now known as Rockwind Community Links), our hands would have been tied to the City’s smaller scope of work, and a true community asset would not have been possible. Click here to learn more about Rockwind.

Honorable Mention, Andy Johnson – The Fried Egg

Andy Johnson is the founder and curator of The Fried Egg golf blog, which has exploded over the past few years to become an influential voice in shaping a new conversation around the potential of golf, particularly public golf. There are multiple examples of how he’s directly impacted a facility by highlighting what’s happening at the course, its greater context within a historical perspective, and the impacts it’s having (or could be having) on the area’s golfers. 

Part of what’s so unique about what Johnson is doing with his approach, is in looping in the younger generations on a topic that very few could sincerely appreciate; golf course architecture

Here's What You Need To Know:
- Most troubled courses face the same issues
- These issues can be addressed well before closure is a serious option

- Proper long-term planning is crucial for all courses
- Saving a golf course often comes down to a single, driven individual
- Municipal golf facilities play an important role in promoting the game of golf

Timing is Everything

We realize more often than not, everything comes down to timing, so when you're ready for us, we'll be ready for you and your golf course!

Please remember, we present webinars at no charge to stakeholders who oversee facilities looking to improve. If that's of interest to you, please tell us about your golf course by clicking here.


Andy Staples, ASGCA


PS- If you haven't gotten a chance to read our Community Links White Paper on Municipal Golf in America, you can download it here!

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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