Golf course committee wants more information

A brainstorming session of a committee formed to find a way to make the Augusta Municipal Golf Course profitable again without privatizing it concluded with members saying they need more information.

Committee chairman Bill Lockett, an Augusta commissioner whose district includes "the Patch," told Recreation & Parks Director Tom Beck he wants to see the course's profit/loss statements from the past five years, and committee members said they want financial information on other municipal golf courses.

"If any of them are making money, we need to see what they're doing that we're not doing," Lockett said during the group's first meeting.

He also said the city should look into marketing the course better by reaching out to seniors and retirees, for example.

"Government has a responsibility to provide certain things for its citizens," he said, "and I think in this case a public golf course is one of those things."

Beck said golf courses across the country, public and private, are having trouble making ends meet, and the problem is that profitability seems to have peaked in the early 2000s, about the time Tiger Woods' popularity peaked, and it's been tapering off ever since. Now, Beck said, it's impossible to raise fees to a level that defrays costs but is still affordable for the Patch's customers.

The commission's 2010 budget included $155,200 for the city course, which amounts to six months' funding. City Administrator Fred Russell cut funds for the past six months of the year in one of several measures that balanced the budget, recommending that the commission consider privatizing the course.

Commissioner Joe Bowles, a longtime advocate of privatization, is the committee's vice chairman. Other members of the Augusta Municipal Golf Course Study Committee, chosen by Lockett, are Keven Mack, Leroy Rogers, Tom Walter, Barbara Green and alternate Gwen Pollard.

Also present at Tuesday's meeting were interim course manager Ed Howerton; Kathy Hamrick, Augusta State University's special coordinator for academic and master planning; and Lockett's District 5 predecessor, Calvin Holland, who isn't a committee member but sat at the table offering input and suggestions.

Holland, a member of the Patch, said he opposes privatization because he fears it could lead to higher green fees.

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