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Tribune Editorial Suggests Increase in SLC Green Fees

(This editorial appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune. It regards an issue that is currently being considered by the Salt Lake City Council. It should be of interest to all Utah golfers.)

Green for greens
Published: November 6, 2011 11:30PMUpdated: November 6, 2011 11:30PM
Utahns are strangely addicted to golf. Salt Lake City alone operates an astonishing eight public courses (nine if you count the two at Mountain Dell separately). The greens fees are a bargain, but they are not currently enough to cover operating expenses and capital improvements. It’s time to raise them.
Mayor Ralph Becker has proposed doing just that, raising howls from some golfers. But others acknowledge that taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize golf and say they can live with the increases, especially if the courses improve.
The leading proposal before the City Council would raise the greens fee by $1.50 for nine holes beginning Jan.1 at the city’s premier courses. Those funds would go to operations. An additional $1 per nine holes would go to a capital improvements fund. The increases would be smaller at the smaller courses. Subsequent $1 increases are proposed for 2014 and 2016.
The current greens fees are $16 for nine holes ($30 for 18 holes) on two of the city’s courses, Bonneville and Mountain Dell. They are $15 at Wingpointe, $13 at Glendale, Forest Dale and Rose Park; $12 at Nibley Park; $7 at the Jordan Park par-3. Seniors and junior players get discounts.
The fee increases for operations are projected to raise between $1.9 million and $2.4 million over the next five years. But the city is concerned that the fee hikes could cause a 6 percent decline in rounds played, because golfers will go to other, lower-priced public courses in the area. That’s a realistic fear because there is a glut of public golf courses in this market. That oversupply makes municipal governments reluctant to hike greens fees.
Golfers are likely to grumble at the higher prices, and some will refuse to play Salt Lake City. But it is likely that most will continue to play the city’s courses, realizing that they still will be an excellent recreation bargain.
Some golfers have suggested that the city do more with pricing differentials, such as charging a premium to play the busiest times. Good idea. Some actually believe that if the city reduced its fees, it would make more revenue on the resulting higher volume. We doubt that. It sounds too much like the unsuccessful airlines pricing model.
The only way to find out is to hike the fees and see how the market responds.
Keeping the courses financially viable is important, and not only to golfers. The courses add oases of green space and cooling to the urban landscape. But they should be self-sufficient.

© 2011 The Salt Lake Tribune
Green for greens