In several of these postings I have been discussing the world of municipal golf, and the constant challenge to preserve the economic health of these vital community assets. As I travel around the country working as a golf consultant, I find more and more that the very existence of municipal golf courses is being threatened due to government budget challenges. More and more I hear the refrain – “why are we in the golf business at all?”
Municipal golf is very much a part of our industry and, I believe, a key component to the overall health of golf in the United States. Since the addition of Van Cortlandt Park at the turn of the 20th Century, municipal golf has played an important role in bringing golf to the masses and providing an affordable entry point for millions of people, especially juniors. The NGF believes that municipal golf still plays that role today, and we ask “how many golfers would there be today without municipal golf?” I myself am a great example of this having taken my first golf lesson as a 10-year-old at the Town of Ramapo’s Spook Rock Golf Course, and played my first full 18-hole round of golf at the Village of North Palm Beach’s North Palm Beach Country Club, both municipal golf courses.
But developing new golfers is only part of the story. Municipal golf courses help their communities in many other ways by demonstrating a community’s commitment to preserving open space, generating low-cost outdoor recreation for all citizens and helping to promote other residential and commercial development. Over the years I have often heard business leaders refer to the “keys” in identifying strong communities by looking at the libraries and municipal golf courses.
Challenges and Solutions
Municipal golf today faces growing challenges from many sides. First, there is pressure from golfers to retain discounted fees and maintain conditions. Second, there is pressure from City, County and State government leaders to sustain fiscal stability and not “lose any more taxpayer money.” And finally there is pressure from daily fee operators, many of whom believe municipal golf is competing with them unfairly.
As the NGF celebrates its 75th Anniversary, our organization is re-asserting our commitment to the health of public golf in general and municipal golf in particular. We believe that the continued health of municipal golf is providing help to ALL golf facilities, as muni golf provides a great “feeder” system to the industry to help increase the number of, and commitment from golf participants. We also recognize that the ideas and advice we give to muni golf operators can apply equally to privately-owned golf courses and vice versa.
As a part of the NGF’s commitment to the golf industry, this organization will be hosting a new Municipal Golf Institute (MGI) in 2011, to be held at the Oglebay Resort andConferenceCenterSeptember 6-9. This Institute, conducted together with the National Recreation and Park Association, will be designed to bring key golf industry leaders together to discuss the latest management practices to improve and strengthen operations, as well as gain a deeper understanding of the key challenges facing public golf.
I hope you will take the opportunity to go to the web page noted below and review the event for yourself. I am hopeful we will see many of you there later this year. http://institute.ngf.org/pages/default.asp.
I look forward to a great second half of 2011 and am hopeful that I am able to provide information and insights that can help your golf business continue to succeed, regardless of the “facility class” you may fall within.
See you down the road.