The city’s three public golf courses, Emeis Golf Course, Duck Creek Golf Course, and Red Hawk Golf and Learning Center, which cost $352,000 annually to operate, have not broken even or turned a profit in eight years. Rather than cutting expenses, the city council hopes to bring in more rounds through specials, punch-card incentives, and lowering fees.
Davenport, Iowa’s solution to the golf fund deficit is to better plug the city’s three publicly owned courses and not cut expenses, the Davenport-based Quad-City Times reported.
“We’re not selling a golf course,” Alderman Rick Dunn, 1st Ward, said. “We’re not getting rid of a golf course. We’re not letting go of any employee.”
It costs the city $352,000 to operate Emeis Golf Course and Duck Creek Golf Course, both 18 holes, and Red Hawk Golf and Learning Center, a nine-hole course. But the courses have not broken even, let alone turned a profit, in eight years, the Times reported
The last time the golf fund’s cash balance was in the positive range was in 2007, when it had $200,000. A year later, the balance nose dived, ending 2008 with a $500,000 deficit. It has not crawled out of the red since, requiring the city to shuffle money from other funds to make up the loss. Last year saw the golf fund with a $400,000 deficit, which was an improvement from the eight-year deficit low of $800,000 in 2013, the Times reported.
With those numbers, last year’s City Council talked about eliminating a golf course or two and trimming expenses by combining golf professional duties at the two 18-hole courses, Emeis and Duck Creek. That did not happen, the Times reported.
At Saturday’s discussion, with a new mayor and a few fresh faces on the council chiming in, cutting expenses was not even on the table. Davenport Finance Director Brandon Wright is pinning his hopes that a small uptick in rounds last year at Duck Creek will continue, the Times reported.
“We’re not breaking even, but more golf is happening,” Wright said. “We’re taking a look at that. And we’ll make sure expenses line up with revenue.”
Aldermen realized Saturday they need more spiked shoes on the greens if they ever hope to make a profit again. Across the three courses, the number of rounds played dropped over the past decade. About 110,000 rounds were played in 2005 compared to about 65,000 rounds last year, the Times reported.
Duck Creek led the three last year, with 27,000 rounds played, which was an uptick from the 25,000 rounds played the year before. Emeis used to be the most popular of the three five years ago, hosting 32,000 rounds of play compared to the 25,000 rounds it hosted in 2015, the Times reported.
Lowering fees could bring in more golfers, according to Alderman Ray Ambrose, 4th Ward. “If we’re going to increase rounds, we need to drop our fees,” he said. “If we have the lowest fees, we’ll easily see a major increase. Government works by raising fees to make up a difference. If we drop fees, we’ll be a destination.”
Davenport’s fees are about on par with its closest neighbor. It costs $22 to play 18 holes at Emeis and $20 at Duck Creek during the week, with weekend rates a little more and odd-hour rates a little less. A singles pass for the season costs $890 at Emeis and $840 at Duck Creek. A couples pass costs $1,500 at Emeis and $1,400 at Duck Creek, the Times reported.
Discussion Saturday included offering specials and punch card incentives to golfers during low-traffic hours, the Times reported.