A full house was on hand for a presentation on the Gardner Golf Course at city hall on Aug. 7. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
A city council work session on the topic of the Gardner Golf Course was held on Aug. 7 prior to a regular council meeting. Council and a full house of patrons heard a presentation from golf consultant, Jim Keegan.
Keegan began by saluting to the previous leaseholder.
“The Pruitt family, Curt and Jim, have provided a recreational amenity to the city, in which the city’s investment has been nominal,” said Keegan.
He said that 30 years with no investment was unique for cities with municipal owned golf courses around the country, many of which are losing hundreds of thousands a year.
He said the Pruitts’ had gotten caught up in the contraction of the golf industry over those years.
Keegan said he has toured over 4,000 golf courses. He recently visited Gardner Golf course and shared his review.
“It’s probably the second worse course I’ve ever seen, of all the courses I’ve seen, in terms of conditions,” he said, citing a course in Hawaii as worse.
He listed all the problems a previous study has revealed – greens and turf in extremely poor condition, structures that need to be condemned and demolished, and a complete new irrigation system which needs to be installed are among the major items.
The irrigation system replacement alone will have a price tag of around $750,000.
In addition, to bring the course to competitive levels, many trees need to be removed, and power lines need to be buried.
All the golf carts, mowers and other course equipment needs to replaced – it is only of scrap value.
“You’re basically starting over if you buy the golf course,” he said.
Keegan did note that the course does have one big advantage over most other courses – and that is that it has a free water supply, coming from Gardner Lake.
“If you were paying for water, that would automatically be a dis-qualifier right now,” he said.
Keegan estimates it would take a six to eight million dollar investment to bring the 18 hole course up to levels that could compete with other area courses.
That is without building a clubhouse which would be expected.
Keegan cited supply and demand statistics and nationwide trends of the golf business and how they applied to this case.
He said the course could not stand on its own in this marketplace – so that brings the question of if it is important enough to the community for the city to subsidize it? If so, how?
Keegan discussed a long list of options to restoring all 18 holes.
The city could let the golf course become history, and turn the property into a park – or they could sell the property to developers.
Another option would be to focus on making nine holes playable and add attractions such as miniature golf, zip lines, skate parks, batting cages, dog parks, food vendors and/or other family friendly attractions.
Many of those ideas would likely mean seeking third party partnerships, or perhaps another long term third party lease arrangement.
Would it be a good site for a community center?
Keegan said there are the three questions council needs to answer.
Is there a compelling need to have a golf course? If yes, is council willing to provide capitol to the golf course? If yes again, then is it going to be 9 or 18 holes?
Keegan said he personally thought nine was the answer, but added he was a golf expert, not a municipal parks and recreation expert.
He suggested a study needs to be done to determine best use of the land in context of Gardner’s long term vision for parks and recreation.
“There was a sports study that could have been done for $100,000, that was dismissed, but I’ve reached out to professional accredited parks and rec firms, and for less than $20,000, they can come in and do a complete analysis of the alternative uses of that land, as it fits as part of your master plan that was developed in 2001, and it would make sense before you reach a decision,” Keegan said in conclusion.