Council Approves Contracts For Six City-Owned Golf Courses Thursday, Feb 6 2020 

Louisville’s publicly-owned golf courses are all staying open at least for now.

Louisville Metro Council approved the six golf management contracts negotiated by Metro government during its regular meeting on Thursday. The government originally sought to negotiate contracts for nine public golf courses.

Metro Parks and Recreation will manage the remaining three courses Bobby Nichols, Crescent Hill and Cherokee until the city chooses an outside operator. A tenth golf course, Quail Chase, already has an existing contract which goes through 2024.

The city’s golf courses have struggled to break even in recent years, leading council members to raise greens fees to improve their chances of survival. Some were at risk of being shut down as Louisville enacted budget cuts last year. Further cuts will be possible this year in the face of rising pension costs if lawmakers cannot agree on new tax revenue.

Republican Kevin Kramer of District 11 was one of only two no votes on the contracts resolution. He repeatedly expressed concern that the failure to land contracts for the three outstanding courses puts them at risk.

“If we don’t have a pro in place at those three courses, it doesn’t guarantee their closure, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee their continuing in operation,” Kramer said.

In response, Democrat Bill Hollander of District 9, who represents the area including Crescent Hill Golf Course, pointed out that closing any course would require a majority vote from the council.

“They will open on March 1, the law requires that,” he said. “And the law also requires that they will continue to be in operation unless we vote to close them.”

The contracts reached by the city ensure a 55/45 revenue split between the government and managers based on mutually agreed projections. If those projections are surpassed, the split would drop to 50/50.

In a news release following the vote, Mayor Greg Fischer said he approved of the decision.

“This is a win-win for our city, our employees, our golfers, our pros and the taxpayers,” he said, according to the statement.

The winning contractors are:

  • Patrick Vadden for Charlie Vettiner Golf Course
  • Greg Basham for Iroquois Golf Course
    Tommy Betz for Long Run Golf Course
    Kevin Greenwell for Seneca Golf Course
    The First Tee of Louisville (Youth Golf Coalition Inc.) for Shawnee Golf Course
    Grant Hummel for Sun Valley Golf Course

Also on Thursday, the Council approved a non-binding resolution to transition city operations to clean electricity by 2030. The vote was 15 to 4, with Republicans casting all of the no votes.

Metro Council Approves Fee Hike For Struggling Public Golf Courses Thursday, Oct 10 2019 

The Louisville Metro Council voted Thursday to increase fees for public golf courses, most of which have failed to break even or make a profit in recent years. The ordinance had more than 15 sponsors, an indication of broad support across most of the council.

The measure raises base daily fees by $5 across the city’s 10 public courses.

It also allows the golf pros who manage the city-owned courses to adjust rates up or down in response to factors including weather and low demand, a process called dynamic pricing. They may also choose to close courses from December to February, except for Seneca, Vettiner, Iroquois and Quail Chase.

The ordinance also includes new quarterly reporting and transparency requirements.  The contracts for golf pros are currently opaque, according to the Courier Journal.

Lead sponsor Cindi Fowler (D-14), addressing a question from a Parks and Sustainability Committee meeting last week, said that she has signatures of support from more than 5,000 Louisville golfers who would be willing to pay the additional $5 a day.

“I think it’s so important that we try to do what we can to keep things as normal as possible in this budget crisis that we’re in,” she said.

The fiscal sustainability of the golf courses is key to their survival as Louisville faces an increasing employee pension burden, which could result in additional budget cuts in the future.

Council members voted 22 to 1 to pass the ordinance. Bill Hollander (D-9) voted against the measure. He is the sponsor of another ordinance that would let Metro contract with outside agencies to manage the courses. The city is requesting proposals from such vendors through Oct. 15.

Metro Council Could Raise Fees To Save Unprofitable Public Golf Courses Thursday, Oct 10 2019 

Most of Louisville’s 10 public golf courses are losing money. That’s why some of them were at risk of closure as city leaders considered cost-saving measures for this year’s budget. Now, officials are considering two options to keep the courses open.

The first, a plan to allow public golf courses to raise greens fees and adjust pricing based on demand, will likely face a Metro Council vote Thursday evening. That’s despite a deadline next week for a request for proposals from outside management companies that the mayor’s office put out in September.

The ordinance suggests raising daily fees by $5.

With employee pension costs expected to continue rising for several years, officials are looking for new sources of revenue in general. And raising fees could be one way to keep golf courses open.

At a recent Parks and Sustainability Committee meeting, chair Cindi Fowler (D-14) said she wants to keep golf in Louisville as close to the same as it is now.

“The green fees alone will raise $1 million,” Fowler said, calling it a conservative estimate. She said finding savings in maintenance costs could also help make up some of the losses.

A third-party report shared in August by the Louisville Parks and Sustainability Department showed that six of the city’s 10 public golf courses failed to break even or make a profit in fiscal year 2018. It said the courses lost more than $2 million that year.

081519 Louisville Parks and Recreation Presentation JUNE 7 Copy Copy (Text)

When asked by council member Bill Hollander (D-9) whether anyone has analyzed how higher rates would impact rates of play, Fowler said she did not know what the effect would be. Hollander is the sponsor of a different ordinance that would allow Metro to contract with outside management companies.

Jay Karen, the CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association, said the proposed changes are reasonable.

“It makes fundamental sense as a business to do that,” he said. “If they haven’t been doing it, then they’ve been missing out probably on revenue for years.”

He also said if the city decides to enter contracts with outside management firms, those companies could implement higher fees and dynamic pricing, just like what Fowler’s ordinance proposes.

“That’s what a lot of management companies do, that’s the expertise they’re hired for. So it’s just a matter of do they want to maintain full control or turn it over to a company that makes its living running golf courses,” Karen said.

The deadline for outside management companies to submit proposals to Louisville Metro is Oct. 15, 2019.