Report: Fee hike may hurt golf course

Boosting green fees at San Francisco’s premier golf course to bring its operation out of the red could help, but only if golfers tolerate the increase.

The Recreation and Park Department is facing mounting pressure to turn around the operation of The City’s six public golf courses, which this fiscal year were bailed out with a $1.4 million subsidy from The City’s operating budget.

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick has introduced legislation that would increase fees at Harding Park by 15 percent across the board, an increase expected to generate an additional $659,000 in revenue, according to a report from the Budget Analyst’s Office.

But, based on golfer reaction to previous fee increases at Harding Park, the department said the number of golfers willing to hit the links would decrease if the fees go up, according to the report. The department predicts that if fees go up, the course would actually wind up losing $115,995.

McGoldrick does not believe play at the course would drop off. “I think 15 percent is very realistic. If you are going to run a business, you got to do what a business does. I don’t think it would be a considerable drop off because it’s a highly desirable course,” McGoldrick said.

Under the proposal, a resident paying $46 to play a round on the weekdays and $59 on the weekends would end up paying $53 and $68. Nonresidents would pay $155 for weekday play and $178 for weekend play.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd called the proposed fee increase “ridiculous.” He said it would make Harding Park the most expensive golf course to play in the Bay Area for nonresidents and wind up causing The City to lose revenue.

Elsbernd said he supports allowing the Recreation and Park Department to contract out the operation of the Harding and Lincoln courses. Mayor Gavin Newsom’s budget submission includes a proposal to allow The City to lease city golf courses out to nonprofit operators. The labor union representing the gardeners has expressed concerns over what would happen to the work force if any course is contracted out. Elsbernd said city gardeners at the golf course would be restationed at neighborhood parks at the same salary. “It’s rather not a bad deal for the citizens,” Elsbernd said.

McGoldrick said he was against giving up city control of the courses. “What is a lessor going to do? They are going to raise the fees. We can do that ourselves,” McGoldrick said.

Without the fee increase, the Recreation and Park Department is projecting a need of $1.29 million in operating budget subsidy during the next fiscal year, of which $907,000 is the result of the projected operating shortfall at Harding Park.

The Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee will vote on the 15 percent green fee increase today.


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