A recent study to determine possible future uses of the 105-acre property in Dresher, Pa., recommended eliminating golf and turning much of the site into passive green space at a cost of $6 million. Links Management’s lease to manage the property expires in 2019, and the firm’s president has disputed the study’s findings.
With more than two years remaining on the lease for the township-owned Upper Dublin Golf & Fitness Club in Dresher, Pa., longtime manager Links Management and the Upper Dublin Board of Commissioners appear to be in a dispute over the property’s future, the Lansdale, Pa., Montgomery News reported.
The lease with Links Management expires November 30, 2019, and a study conducted by CMC Engineering to determine possible future uses of the 105-acre property recommends eliminating golf and turning much of the site into passive green space with a variety of trails at a cost of about $6 million. Reasons given to discontinue golf include size, safety, inadequate irrigation and profitability, the News reported.
Al Gryga, CMC director of planning and land architecture, has said an estimated $1.5 million would be needed “just to get [the golf course] into a playable state.” To provide proper irrigation, eliminate safety issues and make it more challenging would cost more, he said.
The study was accepted by the board March 8, a day after Links Management President Hugh Reilly sent an open Letter to the Editor to the Ambler Gazette, the commissioners, CMC Engineering and members of the study committee. Reilly’s letter disputes the study’s finding that golf cannot be a profitable use of the site and that $1.5 million in improvements are needed. Investments in the course were halted during litigation with the township, the letter says, but since settlement of the lawsuit, “Links has made significant investment in an ongoing program of improvements to the golf course to return it to better playable condition,” the News reported.
After discussing the letter March 8 and asking Gryga to respond to Reilly’s assertions, board President Ira Tackel asked for a written response. “He’s put something in writing,” Tackel said. “I’d like to have something documented.”
A flier with portions of the original letter on one side and an offer to UD residents of “unlimited golf & fitness for the entire family” for $35 a month on the other was mailed to all township homes, the News reported.
Reilly’s letter said he does “not agree that the idea of keeping the golf course should be dismissed,” and said the “golf course will do just over 20,000 rounds for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2016,” and “can handle at least 36,000 rounds a year,” a goal “we expect to again reach” with the new membership plan, the News reported.
In a four-page response dated March 31 to Tackel’s request for documentation, Gryga spelled out “our professional responses” to Reilly’s letter. A review of the course by golf course architect Shearon Golf determined 12 of the 18 holes “contain significant safety issues,” including a risk to vehicles on Twining Road, the safety of other golfers by having the driving range in the center of the course and cart path routes that “conflict with oncoming shots from existing tee boxes,” the response said.
Lack of proper irrigation is due to on-site ponds that are too small and a current well “too shallow to provide sufficient water for irrigation.” Installing new wells and enlarging the ponds, estimated at $250,000, “would not guarantee sufficient water will be available to irrigate the entire golf course,” Gryga wrote.
Shearon also found the course layout to lack variety and challenge and “should be reconfigured…to encourage more users to frequent the course.” The limited size and boundary constraints would make it “very difficult to modify the existing course layout,” and “could easily exceed $3 million,” he said.
Gryga’s memo also said the greens, tees, bunkers, cart paths, out of play areas and water hazards “are all in fair to poor condition.” He estimated the cost to “correct the safety concerns” and poor condition of the course at $1.5 million, the News reported.
The response is also critical of a number of features in the clubhouse and fitness facility. The study recommends demolishing the building and estimates renovations for keeping it at $1.5 million, deemed by the planning team “an unwise investment” for the township, the News reported.
While terming Reilly’s offer of unlimited golf and fitness of $35 per family “a fair offer,” Gryga’s response noted that amounts to $420 per year “equivalent to the typical fee an average household may pay at a national fitness chain” or “slightly more than the fee an individual may pay at a well-rated local golf course for the year,” which he said is $45 for a weekend rate per round, the News reported.
According to the survey conducted by the study committee, he wrote, 57% said they did not play golf and the majority who “either golf or exercise” said they use other surrounding facilities, the News reported.
Financial records provided showed revenues paid to the township since 2004 “have remained stagnant or decreased,” with greens fees down by almost 52%, memberships down 22% and food and beverage sales down 46%, the News reported.