Billy Casper Golf took over operations of the town-owned property in November, when renovations to the clubhouse and golf course began.
The East Hartford (Conn.) Golf Club officially reopened June 10 under the management of Billy Casper Golf, which was hired last year to revive the ailing town course, the Hartford (Conn.) Courant reported.
“The biggest challenge we’re finding right now is changing the perception or even getting people to come back even one time. It’s a big battleship that’s starting to turn,” said Ryan Phelps, regional director of operations for Billy Casper.
Town officials said the clubhouse and golf course fell into disrepair under the previous manager, MDM Golf Enterprises. The 100-acre course was overgrown with weeds when Billy Casper took over in November, Phelps said. Ceiling tiles in the clubhouse were loose, and the downstairs locker room and bathrooms were moldy, the Courant reported.
“The building itself was essentially dilapidated, completely run down,” Phelps said.
The town invested $70,000 for improvements to the clubhouse and golf shop, including mold removal, new carpeting, ventilation and a repaved parking lot, Finance Director Michael Walsh said.
Another $765,000 was invested in a fleet of new golf carts, lawn mowers and restaurant equipment, all of which will be repaid over five years with revenue from the golf course and the restaurant, the Courant reported.
Under its contract with Billy Casper, the town will pay the company $81,000 to run the golf course in the first year, with a 3 percent increase in each subsequent year. The town has the option to reconsider the contract after three years, depending on revenues, the Courant reported.
The golf course is expected to lose $160,000 a year over the next three to five years, a cost for which the town is responsible, Walsh said.
Renovations to the clubhouse and the grounds started in November, Phelps said, but a majority of improvements to the turf have been made in the last six weeks, the Courant reported.
“I think that golfers who played us when it first opened this spring versus now would be extremely surprised at what’s happened in the last six weeks because the grass has started to grow and a lot of the equipment has showed up. It’s getting exponentially better each week,” Phelps said.
East Hartford purchased the golf course, formerly known as Long Hill Country Club, in 1972 with federal and state money. Town employees ran it until 2009 when, faced with increasing loss of revenue and a decrease in play, the town leased it to MDM. The company improved the facility during the first three years of their contract, but neglected the golf course during the last two years and failed to pay rent, Walsh said.
The town terminated its contract with MDM and eventually hired Billy Casper, the Courant reported.
“MDM scared a lot of long-time East Hartford golfers away and it’s Billy Casper’s job to attract those golfers back,” Walsh said.