I’m on a committee looking at ways to try and improve our muni (Gypsy Hill in Staunton, VA). It’s 18 holes - originally 9 holes that were built about 100 years ago, and expanded to 18 about 50 years ago. They must have mixed the routing together, because “the turn” is after 14. There’s no driving range, and the land is extremely hilly - I almost never play there because I find the layout to be pretty awful. The course is in the middle of a fantastic park, and it seems that all of the flatter land is used for the playgounds, ball fields, pool, pond, etc.
There’s no driving range - just a small practice green. Rounds have trended down for the last 10 years, from the 10,000 or so range steadily down to the 6-7000 range for the last few years. The cart fleet is 20 years old and they’re limited on tournament size because so many carts have died.
The course doesn’t even come that close to covering it’s operating expenses, much less service the debt on the irrigation system. This by itself isn’t a deal breaker - it’s a municipal course after all. However, it seems to be getting harder and harder to get the (increasingly political) city council to view it that way. The course has been on the chopping block for years.
We’re a town of about 20,000 nestled in a rural county. There is another privately owned 18 hole daily fee course in town that’s also been barely hanging on for years, as well as an 18 hole country club that seems to be doing okay. The neighboring town of the same size (about 15 minutes away) also has an 18 hole private club. I don’t see how our area can possibly keep that many golf holes occupied.
I’m the radical of the group - most of the committee seems most interested in trying to just improve operations - i.e. somehow get a new cart fleet, a modern POS, and revise the pricing model. I didn’t grow up here, so unlike the rest of the committee I don’t have any emotional ties the course. I’d like us to consider reducing the footprint of the golf course itself and change it from a (in my opinion) lousy 18 hole course into more of a golf “facility”. Perhaps sell off one corner of the property adjacent to a neighborhood for real estate development. That might net enough to pay off the irrigation system. Convert another section into a driving range, and get creative with the middle section. Maybe a par three course, maybe a mix of holes - let the topography decide what can best be done. Install some really nice bike racks for the kids and fill up the range and course up with a junior program. I really think this could get a lot more bodies on the property, making it a true amenity for the community.
I’m curious if anyone knows of some cities that have successfully done anything like this. If so, how did they get it done politically? It’s easy to find articles about localities that have tried propping up their courses for too long, then they just get completely closed down. I’ve also ready about places that already seem to be where I’d like to see us go, but I don’t know what the path is to get there.