Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thursday 7-24

As many of you know, I am an avid golfer. And that is why it pains me so much to see the demise of public golf courses here in the Fox Valley. As you likely know, the City of Appleton is looking at selling Reid Municipal Golf Course--as it continues to lose money and the city can no longer afford to subsidize it. Those of us who see the money numbers for Lakeshore Municipal Golf Course in Oshkosh know it hangs on a delicate edge as well--as it is burdened by debt incurred a few years ago to fix drainage problems on the course.

As someone who has railed against the foolish spending of public dollars I really have no choice but to side with those who question the use of tax dollars to subsidize a golf course. The muni course was a product of the early part of the century--when the game of golf was growing in popularity--but access was limited to those who could afford to join country clubs. To open up the game to everyone, cities and counties built their own courses--and were able to make money on the venture.

Over the years, entrepreneurs have built public access or daily fee courses that don't require membership--and don't receive public financing. Those course tend to be more expensive than the munis--but the quality of the course tends to be higher as well. That competition has left public course in a tough spot. To keep their niche, they need to keep greens fees low--but then that forces cuts in maintenance--which usually leads to poor conditions and fewer people willing to play there. That further cuts revenues and creates a death spiral for the course. Another complicating factor is that fewer people are getting into the sport.

Appleton and Oshkosh are not alone in this situation. "Golfweek" magazine had a cover story on "Municipal Courses in Crisis" just a couple of months ago. The issue discussed the mass closures of public courses across the country--as cities and counties could no longer justify the cost. Some munis are getting facelifts in hopes of bringing golfers back--but most continue to languish.

So if area golfers want to keep those public courses open and worth playing, they need to make sure to get out there and play. It probably wouldn't hurt to bring along three friends as well.

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