In the January issue of Parks & Recreation, Richard Singer and Forrest Richardson, ASGCA offer eight suggestions for improving municipal golf courses.  According to Singer and Richardson, the success of municipal golf courses is vital not only to the stability of the game, but also to its growth.  Municipals offer low-cost rounds that are essential for attracting beginning and developing golfers. In their article Put the Swing Back in Your Game: 8 Tips for Improving Municipal Golf Courses, the authors suggest that public golf courses have suffered over the past few decades from an abundance of competition – often the result of an oversaturated market that saw too many courses built too quickly – and often in less than ideal locales.  However, Singer and Richardson provide an eight-item “checklist” that may help some struggling facilities turn things around.  Below is a synopsis of their eight suggestions.

Eight Tips for Improving Municipal Courses:

  1. Imitation and Big Budget Mentality – Simply stated, it is important to follow the examples of past success stories and avoid the pitfalls of failed course development projects.  For golf courses to be successful financially, they need to be viewed as “assets.”  If possible, conduct an investment analysis.
  2. The Competition – Golf courses are competing for entertainment dollars, which in today’s economy tend to be scarcer than before.  It is to the course’s benefit to maintain an adaptive and nimble operation system that can act and react to changing conditions.
  3. It’s Alive – Owners need to understand that a golf course is a living entity that requires not only routine maintenance and upkeep, but also eventual replacement and restoration projects.  The initial build is only a fraction of the cost for a course over its entire lifespan. 
  4. Lack of Planning – Fore-planning helps keep a golf course dynamic without blowing a budget.  Master plans are essential to maintaining a course over the long-haul.  Knowing when and where to make changes helps operators plan for future expenditures and save money.
  5. The Financial Equation – Having a master plan is only half the battle.  Operators and owners need to have advance knowledge and understanding of how ongoing maintenance and special renovations are going to be funded. 
  6. Delivering the Best Possible Product – Although a course may be limited by its financial restrictions and quality of land, a golfer’s experience at that course is also impacted by other elements such as customer service, effective management and pace of play.  These things are almost always within the control of management and should be valued highly.
  7. Management Format – Finding the right way to operate a particular course can have a tremendous impact across the board. It can help lower cost, improve quality and increase the course’s perceived (and even tangible) value.  Proper management is often a successful blend of tradition, necessity and policy.
  8. Developing New Customers – For municipal golf courses to be successful, they must appeal to beginning golfers, as well as seasoned players.  It is important that these courses have elements that pull in new golfers.

Those who would like more details on Singer and Richardson’s suggestions may read the entire article HERE.  For more information on course planning and design, please contact ASGCA.