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Sharp Park And Others: The Fight For Muni Golf

Jaime Diaz does a nice job answering a question many have: who cares about the Sharp Parks, Goat Hills and Lions Muni's of the world?

I've heard the question asked and after reading Diaz's piece, the various governing bodies and other higher ups in golf might be a tad more ashamed that they've put so much money to lavish PSA's and First Tee funds instead of investing in these vital places that no longer can attract people to the game in their neglected state.

So when a muny, especially one with history in a big city, gets threatened, even the most escapist golfers can be roused. Instead of complaining about the greens and the drainage and range mats, they realize how much they’d miss the $30 green fee and all the camaraderie if it disappeared. They become attuned to how munys are about affordability and accessibility and diversity and being the best entry point for beginners and especially kids. Basically the spirit of St. Andrews. It’s a good exercise, especially if it translates to the kind of activism a beset muny needs to stay alive.

And this is a key point given what we've seen occurring on the local level:

Munys are vulnerable targets. City coffers are still recovering from the Great Recession, making the upkeep of golf courses seem less viable, especially when rounds are down. But because the golf lovers who are defending the munys know that if one falls, it could start a domino effect, they are fighting back with every asset at their disposal.

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Reader Comments (16)

The First Tee can be a very powerful part of the effort to preserve and enhance munis. This has been the case with our program in Newark, NJ at Weequahic Golf Course, and other sites in NY Metropolitan area. Weequahic is a great little 18 hole course, representing eighty acres of active green space right in the middle of the City that needed a plan. This Public/private partnership has led to investment in the course facilities and programs for hundreds of kids. Improved conditions, increased rounds/revenue and positive impact not just for golfers but the entire community. Everyone wins.
03.20.2017 | Unregistered CommenterEB
Played Rancho Park midweek on a visit to LA last month - 36 holes walking, something like $50 as a overseas visitor with a $15 replay rate. Loved it, plus the folks I played with - down to earth golf lovers. Sure, it needs a bit of TLC but it provided a wonderful golf experience, steeped in history from LA Open days. Will return next year most likely, only 20 mins from Santa Monica. Great muny I thought.
03.20.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPJB
One of the problems with Munis though, is that you have a city run entity competing directly with entities who pay taxes to that same entity. Frankly, I think there is a lot of logic to the idea that municipalities should not be in the business of running golf courses.
03.20.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPat(another one)
As the demand for golf courses declines, how does the private course operator who goes out of business feel about losing to a municipal course that pays no taxes or water fees and is supported by taxpayers?

BTW: First Tee is simply a feel good program for rich white guys who pretend that puling a kid out of a ghetto for a day at a golf course (which he will never be able to afford, or be allowed, to visit again) is a wonderful thing.
03.20.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBud
EB, congrats! Good to know the Tour's work and giving in NYC is going to something good. What have they spent there to date, if you know?
03.20.2017 | Unregistered CommenterCheeks
Pat & Bud--The parks and recreation department of Austin is the overseer of Lions Muni. and most muni's I know in Texas fall under the same type of umbrella. If swimming pools, tennis courts, baseball and softball fields are in the P & R juristiction, why not golf? Archery, even gun ranges, disc golf, and everything short of yard darts can have a turn qt it, and im MOST smaller towns, i not for the P&R there would be no 9 or 18 to go at.

Hospitals, schools, airports and everything else imaginable may be raan by a municipality, with private services ''competing''. When we go to San Antonio, Waco, Houston and other places, we go to play Munis, as 125 bucks is not in the cards for some of us to go 18. And some of the tracks are damn nice!

First Tees can be good or so so depending on the local management- but the post by bud is total BS. Bud has never been to a first tee event or evwer has wandered to ''the other side of the tracks, right Bud? Now tell us how wrong I am. Be a ''feel good;; white guy.

Or you could actually help.

03.20.2017 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
03.20.2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteven T.
Certainly tried in my tenure to bring national attention & support for Sharp Park GC. Had the environmental side won, they weren't going to stop in No CA, nor would they stop in attacking the munis. They had all of golf everywhere in their sights. Some apparently saw Sharp Park as only a regional issue. As for 1st Tee, its one of many great programs for kids. Readers are urged to take a look at Youth on Course, now in 14 states, and The First Green program, among them.
03.20.2017 | Unregistered Commentergolfdinosaurrr
When a muny is run by a city and run like a business then better outcomes result. A nearby city-run muny improved the golf carts and golf cart maintenance and storage which increased rounds played most likely due to an improved golfer experience. They now sell out for golf outings more than in the past.
03.20.2017 | Unregistered CommenterGutta Percha
Good story but for years Golf Digest, Golf World, etc., have lived - and continue to live - in the world of elite golf. These guys rarely play a muni track, preferring the like of Pine Valley and Winged Foot. An obnoxious GD editor played TPC Sawgrass a couple weeks ago. What was wrong with the local Jax muni? Where is GD's lit of Top 100 - or even Top 50 - Muni courses?
03.20.2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Pike
Hey Dig. Why does the CEO of First Tee take home a salary of $620K? Or the COO take home $330K? Donating their time to help kids?
03.20.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBud
This attack on golf as a public recreation activity has happened in Phoenix. The City had a study done to compare public subsidy of swimming, and softball golf on a per user basis. It turned out the golf subsidy was about $11 per round, softball was about $28 per player and swimming was $42 per user. This didn't stop golf from being a target for reduction. As a result the City entered agreements on 2 courses, Maryvale and Papago with Grand Canyon University and ASU respectively, to manage the course. The result was much needed investment in the courses buy the reality is the City will lose more money this way but it gets political cover. Oh and the rates have gone up at both courses to more than the City's remaining courses. In fact Papago isn't really a muni price anymore. I expect this will continue to happen as local politicians try anything to distract the public from their long term budget issues- defined benefit retirements.
03.20.2017 | Unregistered Commentermunihack
@munihack PHX Muni rates work for me as I buy a resident play card. For example:

Note that rates are lower for seniors such as myself and even lower in the summer.

Don't forget that Aguila is another quality course.
03.20.2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteven T.
munihack - if the average player plays 10 subsidized rounds at $11 each then it is $110 per golfer which is a comparable metric to those you offered for softball and swimming.
03.20.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPABoy
Learned to play on a mini. Grew up playing at a club. Both are great and vital to the game. 1st tee stuff gets a little heavy handed. Do we need 80 commercials per hour showing the future of the game is all minority girls? It's like every college and university starting a girls golf team for Title IX revenue offsets. Women's game gotten better the last 20 years from it? Debatable.
03.20.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMark
Growing the game might be running up against the law of diminishing returns. The traditional core of the game was golf club membership of doctors who can golf mid-week, and the other well-to-do. The next demographics were weekend enthusiasts and work leagues. Efforts to expand golf participation now have to tap into average folks who do not have 5 hour blocks of time for recreation. I would guess that the average visit to Top Golf doesn't last more than two hours, same as a movie, same as a restaurant meal, same as almost every other common contemporary recreational activity.
03.22.2017 | Unregistered CommenterGutta Percha

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