Sunland Golf & CC Introduces New Plan to Trim Deficit

The Sequim, Wash. property hopes to recover from a $250,000 shortfall by imposing changes which include staff cuts and efforts to entice new club members. The club’s committee continues to look at all options for the course including a lease option and opening the course to the public full-time.

Sunland Golf & Country Club board members look to preserve the 18 hole course and its amenities with a new aggressive business plan, reported the Sequim Gazette.

In September’s Sunland Golf News, a newsletter to club members, board President Bruce Mullikin announced the club’s board of directors plan to recover from a $250,000 shortfall with staff cuts and new efforts to encourage new members, the Gazette reported.

Months prior, Mullikin discussed the club’s financial hardships in newsletters and that the board was considering various options to save the course.

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In a separate email to 900-plus homes with the SunLand Owners Association, a separate 501(c)3 nonprofit from the for-profit club, Mullikin said the board’s new business plan started eight months earlier than scheduled “to protect our only real shared asset, the beauty of a community surrounding an equally beautiful golf course.”

For the first phase of the business plan, Mullikin wrote in the September newsletter that they’ll recover $50,000 by not replacing the club’s food and beverage manager, two food service staffers and one temporary office employee, and that “more staff cuts will be made at the appropriate times.”

He called the club’s new budget “bare bones” and that directors will “continue to aggressively reduce our operating costs for the near term, to help get us back on track by April of next year.”

Mullikin said in the email to homeowners, “That aggressive short-term budget reduces the number of our employees and our member services in order to buy enough time and money to restructure our management system from being a board controlled inefficient system to a club operating with a very accomplished general manager.”

Effective Sept. 1 the board hired course superintendent Michael Snyder as the club’s general manager, reported the Gazette. He will continue to manage maintenance of the golf course as well.

Mullikin said that more changes may be coming too.

For now, the club is “walking a financial tight rope,” he wrote, and that with the cuts they are filling the positions with volunteers, the Gazette reported.

“The board’s focus for the remaining months of 2018 will be directed at signing up new golfing and social members, and revising our food service operation through the fall and winter months,” he wrote in the newsletter.

The club’s cafe will close on Tuesdays and Thursdays while other days remain open normal business hours, wrote Bob Eichhorn, who oversees the cafe, in the September club newsletter, reported the Gazette.

In April 2019, pricing for new members will be introduced; however, dues for equity members — stake owners in the club and its amenities — are not expected to increase.

Social members of the club can upgrade social memberships to a trial golfing membership at $150 for six rounds of golf, or $1,200 for unlimited golf good through March 31, 2019, and can be renewed at current yearly rates on April 1, 2019, the Gazette reported.

Mullikin said the only reasons he’d expect Sunland homeowners to donate to the club are for the beauty of the course resulting from maintenance and community pride.

“Residents’ donations will help expedite our efforts to establish our new business plan that will reorganize the golf club as a standalone viable entity,” he wrote to homeowners.

“With the board’s subcommittees’ hard work and your generous support, we should enter next year with a positive financial position for the first time in many years,” Mullikin wrote.

Homeowners asked for more transparency from the club, but Sunland club board member Bill Engle said the club’s bylaws don’t allow it to share finances—even with its membership, reported the Gazette.

However, Engle told the crowd the club has lost about $35,000 annually for about seven years.

The club also used the last of its savings last year, he said, and established a line of credit worth $50,000 with a bank.

Engle said in 2017 the club borrowed $30,000 to pay employees and bills.

The club also used $100,000 in dues from this year to pay off bills from the previous year, too, Engle told the crowd, the Gazette reported.

One donor helped the club significantly in recent years, however: Engle said an anonymous donor loaned $500,000 with 2 percent annual interest that the donor donated to the club.

In the donor’s will, it cleared the club of the loan last year following the donor’s passing, Engle said.

In the club’s July and August newsletters, Mullikin said its board was considering multiple options, including a lease option for the course, reported the Gazette.

Mullikin told homeowners the offer is a lease for three years.

“It’s an interesting offer, but we have not determined it has enough financial backing if it’s something we’re going to jump on,” he said.

In the recent email to homeowners, Mullikin said a subcommittee will continue to consider a purchase proposal.

Sunland membership fees range from $1,200-$6,000 a year, Mullikin said previously, and the club dropped a $10,000 initiation fee, the Gazette reported.

Club members say opening to the public on Saturdays and Sundays hasn’t been a significant financial positive while some residents say the change has hurt the course.

“I live on the golf course and on Monday morning it’s in terrible shape,” Smith said to the crowd. “People do not respect your property if you’re living on the course. Public play is not something we really want here.”

Engle said opening daily to the public would not benefit the course, reported the Gazette. If Sunland made that change, he said, the course would likely lose some of its equity members (who own the golf course), some of whom pay as much as $6,000 each year.

“All equity members would go away if I can walk out there and pay $35 (each 18 holes),” he said. “It’s been discussed at length.”

Smith said they’ve also looked at various investments such as installing a cell tower but found the permitting to be too long and that other nearby projects were already in progress.

Pepper Putnam, whose father built the golf course, asked the crowd to consider a non-golfing certificated membership focusing on the 300-plus homes along the course, the Gazette reported.

He also suggested “thinking outside the box” by selling Sunland’s water rights to the City of Sequim and watering the course with water from SLOA’s treatment plant.

Phil Merlin, a social member of the golf club and a SLOA board member, made a few suggestions on Aug. 15 as well, asking for a forensic audit of the club’s finances, and for the club to connect with a lawyer specifically dealing with condominiums, reported the Gazette.