Green Golf Partners present findings, future options
BY KEVIN BONESKE
Rhinelander’s Golf Course Advisory Committee received its final report at Tuesday’s meeting on the business review that took place this year at the city-owned Northwood Golf Course, which has accumulated losses over the years of its operation in excess of $1 million.
The full City Council agreed in August to take $10,000 out of the general fund to have the consulting work done by Green Golf Partners, with $5,000 having been payable upon execution of the agreement and the other $5,000 payable within 30 days of the final presentation to the committee.
The CEO of Green Golf Partners, Matt McIntee, appeared before the committee with two others from the company, which was directed by the city to review the course’s current management practices to see if they can be altered to achieve efficiency that would allow financial stability, review and discuss the impact of a possible third-party management and its associated financial and local impact, and also look at the possibility of the sale of the course.
Though the company did not recommend a specific course of action for the city to pursue with the golf course property, the report presented to the committee stated the Northwood Golf Course, at the direction of the committee, “needs to immediately develop a plan of action.”
“You’ve got to commit to a structure,” McIntee said. “You’ve either got to say, ‘We’re going to keep it the way it is, or keep it the way it is and change some things, or we’re going to hire somebody, or we’re going to seek new owners.’ To me, those are, without question, your choices.”
McIntee noted from the report there are no guarantees with pursuing the possible options, though “the only guarantee is that if the city proceeds as in the past, they can expect similar results.”
In addition to the report finding the overall financial performance of the course needs to improve, if the city would retain the property, the report also found the service and perception of the course to be in need of improvement.
As for the option to sell the property, the report found a “reasonable assessment of value” ranging from $500,000 to $750,000 could be expected, given the market for golf courses presently being limited, though there would be interest in the Northwood Golf Course because of its quality.
The report described the Northwood Golf Course as “one of the best municipal golf courses in the state,” but it also noted the course didn’t have a marketing plan in place and recommended developing one for 2018.
Surveys of both the patrons and the committee were also included in the report.
When the patrons who responded to the survey were asked what could be done better at the course, their responses included improving the bunkers, being more friendly, being more welcoming, better communication, more of a friendly environment and better food service.
The committee survey noted golf management is a key issue with the conditions at the course being a huge asset. However, the survey also found the golf operation to be poorly run and in need of a change. The weaknesses identified in the survey included poor management, the food and beverage department, lack of marketing and cohesion between the golf operations and food and beverage, and an unwelcoming perception to the public.
When committee members had the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the Green Golf Partners presentation, Alex Young asked about whether the Northwood Golf Course would continue to lose money being a city-run course.
“With the capital expenditures that you guys have identified – the irrigation, things like that – this thing’s never going to be cash-flow neutral, much less cash flow positive for the city,” Young said. “If we’re going to retain the thing as a city golf course, it’s going to be an ongoing loss that we’re going to subsidize. Is that accurate?”
“That’s accurate,” said McIntee, who also noted he believed the Northwood Golf Course could, on an operational basis, break even or possibly make a little profit in the future, though the cost of the capital improvements would exceed that.
McIntee said different things could be used to offset the cost of a municipal course’s capital improvements, such as a municipality having a capital surcharge or conducting fund-raisers.