In an emergency move, the Kentucky board voted 24-0 that all golf course contracts for municipal courses must go before Metro Council for approval—taking power away from the mayor. Council’s last golf course move hiked greens fees and gave head professionals some added flexibility in an effort to make courses self-sustainable.
Louisville Metro Council on November 21 took a strong stand in support of current golf course management, the Louisville Courier Journal reported. Under legislation passed as an emergency in a 24-0 vote, all golf course contracts for municipal courses must come before Metro Council for approval—an attempt to hamstring Mayor Greg Fischer from inking deals council doesn’t support.
“I feel very strongly that you don’t put nine businesses out of business, you don’t lay off 40 workers, if you can do something different,” said Councilwoman Cindi Fowler, who has emerged as a strong advocate for maintaining Louisville’s courses close to how they’re currently run.
Referring to the council’s last golf course move, which hiked greens fees and gave pros some added flexibility in an effort to make courses self-sustainable, she added: “Let’s try. … Let’s see if it’ll work,” the Courier Journal reported.
The move is yet another example of the ongoing clash between council members and Fischer’s office over the future of the city’s ten municipal courses, and of council members not shying away from challenging the mayor, the Courier Journal reported. Council members have repeatedly signaled through votes and legislation that they want golf courses to stay run by golf pros, as close to the way they are now as possible. But Fischer’s team has continued to explore other options and evaluate responses to a request for proposals, or RFP, that could include bidders who want to change current course management structures.
Fischer has said an RFP evaluation committee would make a recommendation this week about what entity should get golf course contracts, but that records wouldn’t become public until contracts were signed, the Courier Journal reported. Under the new legislation, the council seeks to have final say.
“We worked very hard to amend the ordinance to make sure that we do the right thing for golf,” Fowler said, of the council’s last golf course ordinance. “… Raising greens fees and implementing some of the other changes I suggested is going to make it sustainable and, actually, profitable.”
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Fischer said the mayor’s office shares in the council’s concerns about the challenges facing golf courses, “due to both current industry trends and the increase in our state pension obligation without a new revenue source,” the Courier Journal reported.
“We will continue discussions with council on how best to address these challenges,” spokeswoman Jessica Wethington said.
The ordinance was passed through an unusual process that allows Metro Council to bypass typical rules requiring two readings of an ordinance before passage if an emergency is declared through a two-thirds majority, the Courier Journal reported. The emergency, as laid out in the ordinance: “Because the contracts for management of the Metro-owned golf courses are under consideration and should be reviewed and approved by the Louisville Metro Government’s legislative body.”
Asked if she feels confident the council will have oversight of the process with this move, Fowler told the Courier Journal she was never confident about that.
“I am always thinking there’s something else, another trick up the sleeve,” she said. “I just want to get it over and done with and do the best thing for our community and the golfers that are out there.”
And, as for what the ultimate deal reached on golf course management is, that’s the “hundred-dollar question,” she told the Courier Journal.
“I don’t know his approach. I wish I did,” Fowler said. “We just would like to know what is going down, but we probably won’t know until closer to the end of the year, if then.”
Under the current system, which stretches back decades, the golf pros, all PGA professionals, run the show at Louisville courses, the Courier Journal reported. They offer lessons, staff the clubhouse, manage the course and act as the face of city golf—while overseeing budgets that, at successful courses, can total hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Contracts with pros run out on December 31, but it’s possible the parks department could temporarily run courses if contracts run out, the Courier Journal reported. The department is already running a few courses where pros have left before their contracts ran out.