(Photo by Veronica Weber/Palo Alto Weekly)
While the course that was rebranded in 2018 from the former Palo Alto (Calif.) Municipal GC has seen a surge in rounds under a new management contract with OB Sports, weaker than expected merchandise sales and accessibility difficulties during weekdays have kept revenues 6% below projections. Green fees based on dynamic and tiered pricing have generated the desired revenue support for operating costs.
Since it reopened to the public in May 2018 after a two-year closure, the reconfigured and refurbished former Palo Alto (Calif.) Municipal Golf Course, which was rebranded as Bayland Golf Links under a new management contract with OB Sports (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/palo-alto-calif-municipal-gc-reopen-ob-sports-baylands-golf-links/), has seen a healthy surge of players and plaudits, the Palo Alto Weekly reported.
Revenues, however, have remained below the city’s projections, the Weekly reported—a function of weaker than expected merchandise sales and the difficulty of getting to the course during weekday commute hours, according to city staff.
Overall, revenue targets for Baylands Golf Links fell about 6% below projections, according to a report that Palo Alto’s Parks and Recreation Commission received on December 10, the Weekly reported. OB Sports operates the course’s Baylands Cafe under a lease, so food-and-beverage sales are not factored in the golf course’s operating budget.
In accordance with the renovation plan approved by the city, the reconfigured golf course design was developed to enhance wildlife habitat, improve wetland areas and reduce usage of potable water, pesticides and maintenance labor for turf and landscaping, the Weekly reported.
When the course reopened, green fees were based on “dynamic pricing,” with rates fluctuating depending on the time of day, day of week and demand. Additionally, green fees were tiered with Palo Alto residency, Bay Area residency and visitor rates. The combination of both dynamic and tiered pricing has resulted in strong green fee revenue to support operating costs, the Weekly reported.
“The dynamic pricing is the key factor in maintaining our revenue stream,” Lam Do, a Superintendent with the city’s Open Space, Parks, and Golf department, said in reviewing the report for the Parks and Recreation Commission.
The report noted that 54,619 rounds were played in fiscal year 2019, higher than in each of the three years prior to the course’s closure, the Weekly reported The former golf course had shown a steady decline in rounds played, dropping from 46,527 in 2014 to 42,048 in 2015 and 35,354 in 2016.
Overall tee time utilization for Baylands Golf Links is now at 72%, compared to 56% for local municipal courses, the Weekly reported. Baylands’ management team is trying to further improve utilization while walking a fine line between getting more people on the course without compromising pace of play, the Weekly reported.
From July to September 2019, the Weekly reported, weekend utilization of the course was 81%, while weekday usage was at 67%. To not impact the pace of play on the weekends, Do said the city would like to see increased utilization during the weekdays, when there is more availability.
But the challenge of weekday play comes from dealing with commuter traffic, the Weekly noted, with the course is situated along the U.S. Highway 101 corridor and players usually having to deal with traffic congestion either on their way to or from the course.
Player residency on the new course consisted of 80% from Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, the report said, with Palo Alto residents making up 27% of golf rounds played, compared to about 13% on the previous course.
To promote more golf play, OB Sports is now offering its LinksCard membership program at a discounted rate and also offering certain tee-time slots for non-members at discounted rates, the Weekly reported.
After Commission member Jeff LaMere raised a question about repurposing the clubhouse’s sales space for other uses, such as an educational space or socialization, Do said the club’s management team is working to make better use of the space for everyone, and also looking at bringing in more traffic through golf teaching simulators.