Recently The Augusta Chronicle’s Opinion page featured a column by Bob Young (“Repurposing the Patch: City property’s future could lie elsewhere,” Aug. 18). His suggestion is to convert the city-owned property – which is presently and has always been the home on the municipal golf course, commonly referred to as the Patch – into a city park.
His is one of many opinions submitted by a variety of city leaders, golfers and other civic-minded people who think the city should not shoulder any financial responsibility for a public golf course, and that the course should support itself. However, this is unrealistic in this day and time. In the past, when privately run, the Patch did make money.
However, let us look at the reasons the Douglas family – who for many years leased the course – were able to make money.
First and foremost, during their tenure of leasing the course from the city the only other golf courses in the city proper were Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta Country Club and the Armed Forces Golf Club, now known as Forest Hills Golf Club. To play at these clubs required membership or being a current or retired member of the Armed Forces. However, these requirements excluded a vast number of less affluent or non-service-related golfers in Augusta with nowhere to play golf except the Patch.
Second, during those years the Patch did not use a lot of the financial assets on upkeep. It was playable but definitely not up to the standards of a private golf club.
Third, Ann and Red Douglas were kind and generous people who encouraged young golfers and allowed many students to play at no cost, and when these children became adults they became loyal dues-paying members.
Therefore, because of lack of competition, low overhead and maintenance cost, and loyal members the Douglas family made a profit. The Patch was needed in those days as an affordable access to golf, and even today with many courses in and around our fair city, it is needed today for those youngsters who have finished their tenure at The First Tee; those now taking golf as a part of physical education in public schools; and senior citizens, all who need an inexpensive, public-supported course to play golf.
Our city presently supports – through its Recreation, Parks and Facilities Department budget – many lovely parks and recreational activities. To name a few: Pendleton King Park; May Park; Riverwalk Augusta; and numerous baseball and football fields, basketball courts, swimming pools and water parks. In addition, city funds help support the Newman Tennis Center and the Aquatic Center. Also, we have the lovely trail that runs between the city canal and Savannah River that is visited daily by runners, cyclists and walkers. Also, there are lovely neighborhoods in Augusta and the beautiful GRU Summerville campus that host numerous runners and walkers each day.
Therefore, it does not appear that we need to spend taxpayer dollars developing another city park, because if the municipal golf course is lost to a park, the city will be sponsoring all sports and recreational activities except golf.
Norma Miller Ingram