Golf course may move into black

For the first time since Dunedin bought St. Andrews Links, it is expected to make money.

By Tamara El-Khoury
Published July 21, 2007

DUNEDIN - For the first time since the city bought St. Andrews Links five years ago, the golf course is projected to make more money next year than it spends.

The city plans to bring more money to the golf course by increasing fees and selling more merchandise, food and beer.

Bought from private owners in 2002 with the county splitting the $1.15-million bill with the city, the 28-acre, 18-hole golf course off Alt. U.S. 19 was bought to keep the green space free from development.

Since then, the city has spent more than $300,000 improving the golf course, including resurfacing the parking lot, adding nets and making the restrooms accessible to people with disabilities.

Though the proposed budget projects the public course to make $5,211 in operating revenue in 2008, it is still operating with negative reserves of $268,598.

The reserves came from transfers from the general fund and fees from city recreation users, said Assistant City Manager Harry Gross. City officials expect the golf course to eventually make money that will replenish those funds.

The gap is wide but closing.

"We're going in the right direction," Gross said.

In November, when golf season picks up because of cooler weather and arriving snowbirds, the city plans to increase fees 10 percent. Currently, it costs $15 to play a round. Buckets of golf balls for the driving range cost $4 to $10.50.

The fee increase is projected to bring more than $70,000 in additional revenue to the course next year. The proposed budget also shows an increase of 27 percent in clubhouse sales, which includes merchandise, lessons, clinics, food and beer.

And city officials plan to sell a lot more beer. The proposed budget shows a 120 percent increase - or $2,232 - on beer.

"We have seen an increase in participation here at the golf course, and that drives everything - more range sales, more food and beverage sales, more merchandise sales," said golf course general manager Paul Sylvester.

The projections - including a 30 percent increase in greens fees and a 27 increase in clubhouse sales - are ambitious, said Mayor Bob Hackworth.

"The golf business is just tough, and it's price-sensitive," he said. "Everyone is in competition for the same player."

Hackworth said he will scrutinize the projection when a consultant hired by the city to review the operations of St. Andrews Links and the Dunedin Country Club gives a report. The report is expected by next week.