City officials said “it’s too early to tell” the future of the National Trail Parks and Recreation District’s golf courses, but figures show less people are playing this summer than when the links were self-sustaining.
Last fall, the board established a three-year plan to help the golf courses become self-sufficient and keep Reid North, Reid South and Snyder Park Golf Courses open. The board has the option to reevaluate the plan after one year.
The city spent $175,000 in 2011 and $170,000 in 2012 to cover deficits at the golf courses.
As of July 20, the courses had 23,861 rounds of golf played this year. The number surpassed the rounds played at the same point the last two years by over 2,500 rounds, but Snyder Park was closed a portion of that time due to poor course conditions.
When the courses were self-sustaining, the courses saw 28,963 rounds in June 2010. In 2009, the courses had 30,260 rounds played.
“We’re still down, but we’re doing better,” said NTPRD director Leann Castillo.
“(The board) needs to see progress to keep moving forward,” Castillo said. “We’ll see how it shapes out this year. We’re a little under where we’ve been, but we’ll see where we end up. Nothing will be decided until we get through this season.”
The organization is working to win back the confidence of golfers who went to other courses after Snyder Park was closed for four months last year to allow the greens to heal.
“It’s going to take us some time to get that back,” Castillo said.
This year, Reid Park has had 15,190 rounds played on both courses, while Snyder Park has produced 8,491 rounds.
NTPRD board president Maureen Massaro said the weather has played a role in the rounds being down this summer, which has been the case will all outdoor activities. It’s too early to predict what the future will bring, Massaro.
“It’s hard to know, but what I can say is that the golfing community is pleased with the progress that’s been made,” Massaro said.
Castillo said new techniques for maintaining the courses are being used by new superintendent Chris Flick, and it is starting to show.
“We’re seeing a difference,” Castillo said. “We’re hearing a lot of good things from the community.”
City commissioner Kevin O’Neill said he’s heard nothing but positive things about all three courses. He said he believes the weather is a key factor in the number of rounds being down.
Tim Grieser, NTPRD golf professional, said the golfers are pleased with the recent improvements.
“I think we’ve turned the page and we’re headed in the right direction,” Grieser said.
Dan Price, the president of the Springfield Golf Association, said the conditions have improved “vastly.”
“We’re getting people from Dayton and Columbus to play,” Price said. “It’s starting to get better, and that’s what people want.”
Last year, the city earmarked $50,000 of its $1.1 million subsidy for golf course improvements. The money has been used to purchase sand for sand traps and make other improvements, Castillo said.
The courses recently cut staff positions which saved between $140,000 and $150,000 per year.
Castillo said the board will likely resume discussions on the future of the golf courses in October.
Castillo said the courses have also seen increased business from out of town due to new marketing strategies through print, digital and television mediums.
A recent deal on Groupgolfer.com allowed golfers to purchase an 18-hole round with a cart and a bucket of range balls for $15.
Over two days, 366 rounds were sold at Reid Park, while 176 rounds were sold at Snyder Park. The deal produced at least $8,100 in revenue for the courses.
“It brought us some income, but it also got us out there,” Castillo said. “We saw some great returns on that … Hopefully they’ll have a positive experience and return to our courses.”
The board also recently discussed the possibility of building a banquet hall at the golf courses to compete with other courses for large outings. The courses currently use an outdoor shelter house to feed golfers after outings.
The facility could also be used to bring in revenue during the off-season, hosting events like weddings and birthday parties.
“In the long run, it would be great,” Grieser said. “In the short term, we’re focused on course conditions and bringing morale back to the golf courses.”
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