20 Golf Inc. May/June 2017
lack of capital available for upgrading facilities,
which makes it hard to compete with privately
owned daily-fee golf courses.
“Public courses need to continue for the
originally intended purpose,” she said. “We’ve
seen in other cities how increased activity on
courses can act as a natural stimulus for those
Nowhere is that success more evident than at
high-profile munis, such as Chambers Bay Golf
Course in University Place, Wash., Bethpage
State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale, N. Y.,
and Desert Willow Golf Resort in Palm Desert,
Calif., where competition for starting times is
Since hosting the 2015 U. S. Open, Chambers
Bay, which is managed by KemperSports, has
had a big impact on the local community.
Pierce County tourism is thriving, and the
course’s net operating income has nearly tripled since 2012.
In the midst of the success, the course’s staff
decided 2016 was a critical year to embrace its
roots as a municipal golf course. They created
several programs aimed at attracting Pierce
County residents interested in golf, regardless
of their past experience or skill level.
To connect with the community and
improve their financial viability, some
municipal courses are working alongside
third-party management companies such as
KemperSports, which offers a variety of ser-
vices and long-term strategic plans for courses
to become positive forces in their communi-
In recent years, Desert Willow, which is
managed by KemperSports, has utilized the
management company’s customer service programs, its guest service training programs and
its online sales and management best practices
“These programs allow courses to have
their own individual identities without being
forced into one brand, so to speak,” said Bruce
Nation, KemperSports’ director of sales and
marketing. “As a result of our programs and
community focus, Desert Willow has returned
to its pre-recession levels of 2007 and 2008 in
terms of golf rounds and revenue.”
Home to two 18-hole municipal courses,
the Firecliff and the Mountain View, Desert
Willow is focusing on its nearby community,
offering loyalty programs and deals to its most
faithful customers through social media chan-
nels and an email database.
Another muni course enjoying fiscal success
is Rocky River Golf Club in Concord, N.C.
Ryan Brickley, director of golf, said one of his
goals when he arrived at Rocky River in 2010
was to get city officials to reinvest in the property, which opened in 1997.
He persuaded leaders to replace the bent-grass greens with Bermuda to minimize
turfgrass problems during the hot summer
months. In addition to decreasing maintenance costs, the change has helped grow Rocky
But Kevin Gomillion, manager of Austin’s
Parks and Recreation Department Golf
Division, remains optimistic. He believes the
main issue is that the saturation of courses
in the 1980s and 1990s has not yet been corrected. But that should change soon, as the city
continues to grow.
“As the economy improves and disposable income increases, the rounds of golf will
improve too,” Gomillion said.
Rocky River Golf Club