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Business of golf – Funding is key to improving the golf course

By Alan Prescott

May 4, 2022

Fernandina Beach Municipal Golf Course

For over a year now, I have been writing articles for the Fernandina Observer about golf’s true superstars, ie, NOT the Tour Players who flood their presence on national television. Surely, tour members can play. They spend hour after hour, day after day, week after week and more honoring their skills, working out in a local gym, and listening to sports psychologists. However, Touring Golf Professionals are definitely NOT golf’s true superstars.

In fact, Touring Golf Professionals live in a “bubble.” They showcase playability, NOT reality. Golf’s true Superstars are those who develop and maintain golf courses, not the mega-millionaires who fund projects, even though it takes serious amounts of money to build and to maintain golf courses.

Just think about my journey. I spent decades in every facet of the golf business learning my trade. Since each person’s journey in the golf business begins with a golf course experience of a different kind, the golf business per se is NOT for everyone. However, like the Tour Players, golf’s true superstars start out with a goal and a plan and then they work their plan.

Who are the Superstars in the golf business? They are those people who do the actual work building and maintaining your local course. This is the point where the meat of this article begins. My original intent was to help out at the Fernandina Beach Municipal Golf Course after my now-deceased fiancee, Nora, read an article authored by your current mayor, who downplayed the FB Municipal Golf Course.

For more than a year now, I have read and listened to your mayor and most of your Commissioners. There are several things that have been accomplished that are positive. First, Mike Cooney was hired as the golf course manager. In turn, Mike hired Blaine Ellerby, who is definitely one of the most highly trained and skilled golf course superintendents in the state of Florida, if not in the entire country. Next, after extensive multiple discussions, the wages of the golf course maintenance staff were raised to an acceptable range. This was followed by action. Mike and Blaine made a plan within an inadequate budget for the golf course and began to improve the golf course.

Let’s face it, Mike and Blaine have begun their journey to improve your golf course and to undo the 25+ plus years of neglect and underfunding of YOUR golf course. It is the direct fault of YOUR commissioners, who assume that they can underfund your course for over 25 years, and do not have not a clue how to run a golf course efficiently and profitably, constantly waste money on additions like Top Tracer (the red herring of the golf course property), hire a so-called “management company” (that underperforms and overcharges for their services while doing little to improve your golf course), and then they blame everyone but themselves for the condition of your golf course. While I’m on this subject, how come there are no restrooms in the Top Tracer building or food services for the customers?

In the latest issue (April 21, 2022) of the Observer, the revenues for the month of March of 2022 have shown “an increase of 61.8%” for membership fees. Where might these increases go? Probably NOT back into the golf course. Maybe they’ll go to absorb some of the red ink from the operation of the marina. Want to charge higher rates for the use of the marina? Please go ahead as those people who park their expensive yachts can surely afford that price increase.

In closing, I have voluntarily spent my time and money trying to help improve YOUR golf course. You have one Commissioner who supports the golf course but doesn’t want to properly fund it. You have another Commissioner who talks a good game and wants to display his competence in running a golf course, but, in reality, he also has no clue. In my heart of hearts, what needs to be done, in order to return your golf course to profitability is to get the current Commissioners to correctly and immediately fund your golf course.

Early last year, I proposed a 9-hole Executive Par 3 Golf Course and an outdoor golf school. That proposal went nowhere and landed on deaf ears. Now, the Omni has a 10-hole Executive Par 3 Golf Course and Putting Facility, which will not only replace ocean erosion at that site but will be an additional attraction and a source of additional revenue for the OMNI, not for the City of Fernandina Beach. It’s a shame and another missed opportunity for the citizens of your City.

Today, after this discussion, I have one question for you. To the Commissioners, how loud do the citizens have to speak for YOU to hear them?

By the way, there is one more item to discuss. Green fees at FBMGC are the lowest on the Island. The next competitive greens fees are $99.00 at Amelia River. The operators of that golf facility have invested millions over the years and the condition at that facility is pristine, but expensive. No matter how much talent you have put in place at the City Golf Course, without proper funding, you will prevent them from improving your golf course. Think about it. More importantly, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT TODAY!!!

As usual, my name is Alan Prescott. I am here for you, the golfers of FBMGC to help re-develop your golf course.

Thank you for your time and patience.

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