S.F. golf courses plagued by red numbers

The City's troubled golf courses are expected to be in the red again this year despite an increase in some greens fees just two months ago.

The Recreation and Park Department needs to close an estimated $1.9 million deficit in golf course operating costs, as well as other expenses, caused by a lack of revenue for the closing fiscal year, according to department officials.

“The deficit is based on the fact that the operating of the courses versus what we are bringing in is not equaling out,” Recreation and Park Department spokeswoman Rose Marie Dennis said.

The City's six municipal golf courses — the Harding and Fleming courses at Lake Merced, Lincoln Park course, the Golden Gate Park course, Sharp Park in Pacifica and Gleneagles International Golf Course in the Excelsior district — have struggled to generate enough revenue since 2002.

San Francisco used $16.6 million of state grant funds designated for parks in poor or undeserved areas of The City in 2002 to complete a $23.6 million renovation of Harding Park and Fleming Golf Course to prepare it for Professional Golf Association tournaments. The money was to be repaid, with interest, from a golf fund, made up of revenue generated from The City's six courses, within 25 years.

Since the renovation, the golf courses have failed to generate enough revenue to cover either operating costs or interest payments on the borrowed state funds. In June, the Recreation and Park Commission voted to increase green fees at Harding Park by $10 for the discounted rate paid by city residents and $5 for nonresidents. The move was made to try to close at least some of the projected budget gap.

Harding Park, The City's jewel course and home of the 2005 American Express World Golf Championship, hosts more than 70,000 rounds of golf a year, according to Steve Schrader, the general manager of Kemper Sports who manages the course for The City.

But the lack of revenue has been caused by a variety of reasons: bad weather, a lack of creative management and too much competition for the Bay Area golf market, according to some close to the scene.

There are more than 70 golf courses in the Bay Area for golfers to choose from, according to Isabelle Wade, the executive director of the Neighborhood Parks Council. Wade said she would like The City to explore alternate ways of managing its municipal courses or even consider decommissioning some of the less popular greens to save money.

sfarooq@examiner.com

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