Four Augusta commissioners got a first-hand look at conditions at Augusta Municipal Golf Course Wednesday and revealed plans that could involve Paine College in the course’s comeback.
Closed a week ago when negotiations with a private firm fell through, the city-owned public course reopened Monday under city management, offering free rounds through the week but no golf cars or refreshments.
Their golf bags on pull-carts, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles and commissioners Joe Jackson, Wayne Guilfoyle and Corey Johnson joked about one another’s swings, some sipping beers as they played four holes together.
As they played, City Administrator Fred Russell, Paine golf coach Herman Belton and Brandon Brown, Paine vice president for institutional advancement, talked business in the clubhouse.
“We’re negotiating some opportunities,” Russell said he’d been made aware of Tuesday in a meeting with Paine President George Bradley. The opportunities could bring “stability and expertise” to the course, Russell said.
The historically black college’s golf team currently plays at Jones Creek Golf Course, “but golf is golf,” Belton said.
The deal involving Paine would be short-term, “possibly until the first of the year,” Johnson said. “It would give us some time to see before we lease it back out.”
Belton, a golf pro, would “be on loan” as interim course manager, Jackson said. “He’s excellent. I would support that.”
Russell previously estimated it would take up to 40 days to issue a request for proposals from firms interested in running the course, known to most by its nickname, “The Patch.”
Built in the early 1920s, the public course operated for decades under the management of Red Douglas, for whom its clubhouse is named. Since consolidation, however, city recreation staff haven’t been able to break even and the course typically operates at a loss.
Bowles, an advocate for city government to get out of the golf business, said last year’s loss was more than $200,000.
“Just breaking even would be a plus,” Johnson said of the next few months. “We’re the capital city of golf, we should have a course for citizens to play,” he said.