Years of city government missteps, and more recently an ice storm, continue to plague Augusta Municipal Golf Course, the historic but scrappy city-owned course.
The inch of ice deposited last month took down dozens of trees and thousands of limbs at “The Patch.” Ira Miller, the course manager since the fall retirement of Ed Howerton, said staff quickly pushed the debris to the sides of fairways and cart paths and had 11 holes reopened within days.
Membership, however, has declined at the golf course since a private management fiasco three years ago. Miller said the course has 35 memberships compared with 180 in 2011.
That year, after the course had run for years at a loss and became the subject of a subcommittee’s study, the Augusta Commission voted to lease it to a private firm owned by Scotland businessman Brian Hendry and Savannah businessman Michael Kistler.
After the firm abandoned its lease and left several employees unpaid, the city turned the course back over to city employees, who have run it since then.
After two more efforts to lease the course to private firms failed, commissioners rejected an offer from First Tee of Augusta to merge and share resources. First Tee’s bid, offered by its chairman emeritus Paul Simon, was rejected again recently when commissioners authorized a new request for proposals from private companies.
Classic Golf Management, of Marietta, and Cypress Golf Management, of Orlando, Fla., met the bid requirements, but no finalist has been recommended.
Members and guests played 800 rounds last weekend, Miller said, and Richmond County’s middle school golf program has been using the course every Thursday.
Miller said the course is getting ready for Masters Week.
“We’ve overseeded the greens, we fertilized the greens and they’re really looking good,” Miller said. “It’s coming back; it just takes time.”
Like most area courses, it will raise rates for Masters Week he added.
“We did take the prices up just a little bit, $30, with a cart,” Miller said.