Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Watchdog Report: There are several ways to cut the losses at the Town-owned golf courses

Over the past 4 years, many people have asked me what I thought the alternative was to the current golf situation in Oro Valley. As a council member, I often answered, “It doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what the People think.” Since I am no longer on the dais, and after watching this situation unfold all these years, I will now share my complete opinion.

You already know that I was never a supporter of the El Con golf courses purchase from HSL. However, we now own it and we must figure out how to reduce the financial drain that this purchase has saddled on the community. My comments will only deal with an alternative to golf, as I have never been opposed to the Community Center part of the purchase.

Whether we like it or not, we own the acreage and need to decide what to do with it as the current model has a proven history of not being sustainable.

Path to Sustainability
I believe that we need to return to the original 18 holes of golf and become strictly a municipal facility. Stop all monthly deposits made from members and make all golfers pay for the driving range. Paying for the range can easily be accomplished by purchasing a vending machine that dispenses both a large and small bucket of balls. Tokens for this machine can be purchased from the pro shop.

For those existing members who currently own golf carts, the Town can offer the following: For the first 12 months after becoming a municipal course, offer a reduced green fee ($10.00 - $15.00) to all those individuals that currently own carts if they chose to utilize their own cart.

Being a public course doesn’t prevent the current members from starting a “Private Golf Club.” Many other courses currently foster their own clubs. Being a member of the club will allow you to play with the club on certain days and get prime tee times. For example, let’s say the club plays on Mondays and Thursdays. The club’s representative would contact the pro shop 2 weeks ahead of the day and have them set aside x number of tee times (for example 16 tee times). The El Con would reserve 4 tee times (4 golfers per tee time) during a peak time. (Times would change depending on the season).

Having only 18 holes of golf will drastically reduce the water usage, maintenance requirements, and equipment leases. Try this for 12-18 months and see if the Town can sustain the losses.

There are a few additional items that should be considered
The Management contract must be re-bid. Troon is not in the municipal golf course business. Find a “National” firm (as required by the purchase agreement) to manage the course.

Close the Overlook Restaurant. The Garden Café and the beverage carts can meet the food/beverage needs of the golfers.

The holes not included in the original 18 would still have to be maintained in a manner that would not reduce the property values for those citizens that live along the courses. They would not have to be “over-seeded” in the winter, thus saving water, and very little maintenance would be required as cutting the grass would not be necessary in the winter. The Town should continue to fertilize and mow the acreage during the warmer months.

There will be a monetary cost in re-purposing the remaining holes to rid them of the sand traps and greens. This can be accomplished with Town personnel.
Editor’s Note: LOVE also received the following idea from one of our readers.

The answer to solve the money problem and keep all the neighbors happy is to simply lease one 18-hole course to the Men's club. They could set the annual dues to cover all the operating and capital improvements. In return, they have a private course with unlimited play and anytime access to tee times. Additionally, all property owners would continue to see a beautiful, well-manicured golf course. This could be a Win-Win for the Club, the adjacent homeowners, and the Town.