Mayor Ann Thane is proposing changes to the City Charter regarding the Golf Course Commission that will give her greater control over the municipal golf course, which she says could be generating more revenue.
“I’m concerned that we don’t have tight enough controls over the business aspect of running the golf course,” Thane said. “I had asked for information regarding their financial statements, minutes and strategic plans for the future, but have not received any information at all, so I feel it is time to take control of the situation.”
Thane is proposing changing the charter to allow the mayor to appoint members of the Golf Course Commission who will serve at the mayor’s discretion. Currently, commission members are appointed by the mayor but serve five-year terms.
Thane also wants the ability to establish fees for play, membership, cart storage, cart rental and locker rental along with approving contracts for a golf professional. Currently the Golf Course Commission establishes rates, handles contracts and oversees operations.
The commission presents its budget to the Common Council, updating members annually on operations. Alderman William Wills, D-4th Ward, said the council members have the ability to reject the budget, but they don’t because the commission members “do a good job making sure everything equals out.”
Thane contends the Golf Course Commission is not making any money and has been tapping its surplus.
“We have to understand why have they been bleeding money for the past few years and address that before this turns into an even greater cost for city residents,” Thane said.
According to golf course Superintendent Jim Derrick, the city’s public golf course is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, assets the city has. The course was designed by golf legend Robert Trent Jones.
Derrick said there are a few reasons why the course isn’t making money, including a large debt load and fee structure.
About $500,000 was invested in the golf course during the 1990s when the clubhouse got a makeover and the parking lot was repaved. Then, the commission bonded again for about $100,000 to repair or replace cart path bridges over brooks and streams that traverse the course.
Derrick said the commission also hasn’t been increasing greens fees over time. Amsterdam’s course fees are some of the most affordable in the region, Derrick argued.
“You have to raise your rates a little more often to keep up with the costs you incur, including fuel costs,” he said. “It takes a lot of fuel to mow 120 acres of grass twice a week.”
Derrick said a primary reason the course isn’t generating more revenue is an outdated practice. The course allows players to store private golf carts at the course and use them for free, he said. Private cart storage costs $350 per year and the course is currently storing about 200 of them.
Derrick said that, according to the National Golf Foundation, a typical golf course should be making $6 per person per round on a golf cart. Derrick said the course averages about 42,000 rounds of golf in a season and most of those players use carts.
The National Golf Foundation recommends that course not allow people to use their own carts, so most courses don’t, making Amsterdam’s policy unusual.
A round of golf at the course currently costs $25. A season pass is $650.
Derrick said he is meeting with Thane on Monday to discuss ways the course can increase revenues.
“We are not making nearly the amount we should be making and we have a number of capital projects but we just can’t do them,” Derrick said.
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Categories: Schenectady County