Solutions for Cedar Rapids golf woes

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Larry D. Sharp, guest columnist

Cedar Rapids Municipal Golf Course management need to look no further than their neighbor in Waterloo at the Irv Warren Memorial Golf Course to discover the changes which need to be made at our city courses.

The Golf Pros should be independent contractors rather than employees with paid benefits, which is their current status. As an independent contractor they would pay a percentage of their income or set fee to the city course. This would help get our payroll percentage to 40 percent or less than the city course gross income. This is a must to be profitable.

They should promote more parties. Currently the club houses have very few interior tables. Most space is taken up by merchandise. One has to wonder if the return is worth the expense for the floor space and staff time. How competitive can the city course be against retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Nevada Bobs, etc.? Golf balls, tees and products on consignment should be sufficient. Use more space for tables and chairs to encourage people to stay, relax, have lunch, enjoy a soda.

Sell advertising space for every hole. With our four 18-hole golf courses, that would be 72 advertising opportunities. If we could get only $200 per-hole for one year that is $14,400 in new income. Also, how about ads on the score cards. 10 small ads at $300 each is another $3,000 a year income. Then there is the Tournament Scoreboard. Properly laid out should have space for 10 sponsors at $400 each for another $4,000 income per course.

All four courses’ fairways and greens watering system is provided by well water, except Twin Pines which does not have a well so they have to pay the city approximately $50,000 a year for their water (One city pocket to the other, but still shows as an expense for the golf courses). Twin Pines should have a well for its water supply for the fairways and greens.

Additionally we need to get more competitive with our prices. Upon checking with St. Andrews and Airport National, I found a vast difference in the cost. As an example, Cedar Rapids Municipal golf courses, on Wednesday 11 a.m. for 18 holes with riding cart is $39, while St. Andrews is $23.54 and the Airport is $22. It is hard to understand how these entities, who pay property taxes, make a profit every year and the city fails to do so. For $39 the city courses should give a small bucket of balls for the driving range as part of the price as an incentive to play the city courses.

Back to employees with paid benefits, there is no need for full-time help inside the clubhouse. They should all be part time. Many people would love to have a part-time job at a golf course working 3- or 4-hour shifts. The only full-time help needed would be the greens keepers.

At the Meadowridge Golf and Driving Range we had two arcade games which were quite profitable. The city may want to work with a local arcade vendor and have two or three machines at each course. The course would receive a percentage of the income from the machine with no out-of-pocket expense to the city. This would be something for the golfer to do on those days when it’s a little too cold, windy or an unexpected rain shows up. Or when they are just waiting for their tee time.

The Squaw Creek campground is right next to the Gardner city golf course. Offer incentives, like two-for-one buckets of balls for the driving range, to the campers to encourage them to come over to the course. They could rent some of the golf course clubs.

The miniature golf course idea is very good. There is plenty of room in front and to the side of the Twin Pines clubhouse. This would be the best location because of the proximity to Kennedy, Xavier and the Transamerica office complex. The city could ask the Iowa State landscape architect students to take this on as a class project for ideas on different layouts.

Consideration should again be given to sell the 3.04 acres at the northwest corner of the Twin Pines course. The only change necessary if this toke place, would be to relocate the tee pads on Hole #15 and Hole #16, plus small change of #15 fairway. This could be at the buyer expense. At a projected sale price of $10 to $15 a square foot, this should be hard to pass up. That would pretty well cover much of the past loss the city courses have experienced, plus pay for a well at Twin Pines.

• Larry D. Sharp is the retired owner of the Meadowridge Par 3 Golf Course and Driving Range in Cedar Rapids. Comments: (319) 310-2689; larry@larrydsharp.com

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