Our View: Golf committee hits it straight

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Editorial Board, Sept. 25, 2011, to January 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— It might not be what local golfers want to hear, but the Haymaker Golf Committee’s decision to increase greens fees for residents this year is the right move for a city-owned golf course struggling to achieve self-sufficiency.

The fee increases impact residents only and range from $1 to $3 per round. The cost of a regular season pass is going up $45, and the cost of a season pass purchased by the early-bird deadline is going up $70. Also increasing in cost are punch cards and spouse add-on passes. Importantly, the cost of junior season passes and junior add-on passes will stay the same.

The reason for the golf course’s first rate increases since 2008 is simple: Haymaker Golf Course has for the past couple of years operated at a loss and has been relying on its unrestricted reserves to make up the annual deficit. That unrestricted reserve fund comes from revenues from the city’s 1 percent accommodations tax, which for many years has gone solely to bond the debt associated with the course’s construction. Steamboat voters approved using the tax revenues for Haymaker.

Haymaker Golf Course’s allocation of the accommodations tax sunsets in 2013 — the same year the city must make a $1.5 million balloon payment to satisfy the debt on the course’s clubhouse. After 2013, the $500,000 to $800,000 generated annually by the tax will be available for other uses.

The golf course is one of several recreation-based city enterprise funds that requires annual subsidization. Others include Howelsen Hill Ski Area, Howelsen Ice Arena, Brent Romick Rodeo Arena and the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.

Like each of those other facilities, Haymaker Golf Course is an important community amenity that improves the quality of life for residents while also attracting visitors to our valley. But the truth is that Haymaker never has generated the number of tourist rounds initially anticipated when the course was completed in the late ’90s. And if higher-priced tourist rounds don’t generate enough revenue to subsidize lower-cost resident rounds, then the logical answer is for the price of those resident rounds to go up. We think $51 for 18 holes of golf at a facility as nice as Haymaker remains a good deal for golfers.

We also think the Haymaker Golf Committee has done an effective job managing the city’s golf course, and the tough-but-necessary step of increasing the cost of greens fees for locals demonstrates the committee’s commitment to operating an enterprise fund that achieves break-even status.

Comments

Scott Wedel 2 years, 3 months ago

What is the average number of rounds golfed on the season pass? Unlike a ski pass, there are a limited number of golfers on the course and a season pass holder is taking a starting time.

Seems to me that a golf course having a season pass is not common. And if golf season pass holders are frequent golfers then cost per round could be quite low and thus losing significant revenue for the golf course.

The punch card would seem to offer a significant discount of about $40 per 18 hole round. Why offer a season pass for frequent golfers that expect a season pass will let them golf for less than that?

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exduffer 2 years, 3 months ago

You need to get to bed SW. Read the rate chart in the morning when you wake.

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seeuski 2 years, 3 months ago

Well, there is a wake up call for anyone who believes what Scott Wedel writes. The punch card costs a little more than $40 a round, wake up Scott. It takes about 30 rounds of golf on the season pass to make it more sensible than the punch card, in the short golf season here in Steamboat that requires playing often. Tourism? The economy is creating these pricing problems and until we have a new POTUS we won't be able to tax and price increase ourselves to economic health. The lying that went on from the well of the House last night was amazing.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 3 months ago

Okay, so 18 holes on the punch card would cost $45.50, not $40.

At 23 rounds a season pass is less expensive than punch cards. 23 rounds is less than two rounds per week.

Question remains, how many rounds are season pass holders playing per year on average? What is wrong with knowing that? Other than a small minority might worry that they are getting such a good deal that there might be objections if the facts were more widely known.

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exduffer 2 years, 3 months ago

You would have to go once every weekend plus 3 other days to make a season pass cost $40 per time played. Oops, I guess that is for a ski pass.

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Alpru 2 years, 3 months ago

The Golf Committee is a joke. Remember when Hank Franks would greet you at the door and shake your hand and Wendy would show you the latest and greatest fashions to arrive in the wonderfully-stocked Pro Shop and you were made to feel special and welcome? The Golf Committee fired them. I may be wrong, so please correct me...is there a Committee for Howelsen Hill Ski Area? Howelsen Ice Arena? Brent Romick Rodeo Arena? The Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs? What is wrong with this picture?

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housepoor 2 years, 3 months ago

I'd just like to see the financials? Revenues from green fees, carts, range, pro shop, yearly employment/salary figures? Yearly expenses? There seemed to be more local events than in the past, are those profitable? Can you get those for us Pilot, are they part of the City operating budget?

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gldrlmmh 2 years, 3 months ago

I agree, Alpru. I haven't seen the financials either, but I remember how this "new" management team was chosen for their great ideas on improving Haymaker. The only change I've seen is raising fees. On the surface, it appears this team has not been a good choice over what worked for many years.

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housepoor 2 years, 3 months ago

How do you get on the golf committee? Who votes?

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, and so a season golf pass, like a season ski pass, is not that much of a deal for those working a 9-5 job.

But there are realtors and other professions as well as early retirees that are in a position to play several rounds a week.

So the question is how intensely are the season passes being used?

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housepoor 2 years, 3 months ago

The restaurant was definitely a downgrade from previous years.

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trump_suit 2 years, 3 months ago

Oh, come on now Seeuski......... I hardly think that the President of the United States had anything to do with the price of green fees at Haymaker Golf Course.

The restaurant is a serious downgrade. Bring back the Riggios along with Hank and Wendy. This course was run much better when they were in charge. Replacing them has turned out to be a mistake.

In terms of the fees.... There is absolutely no reason for this golf course to be losing money. Price it such that it pays for itself and/or makes a small profit.

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Tubes 2 years, 3 months ago

Comparing a season ski pass to a season golf pass for a 9-5er is pretty far from apples to apples. The (obvious) difference: As a 9-5er, I could play 9 holes of golf after work for a majority of the golf season. In fact, one could squeeze 18 holes in after work for a small window of time. I can not ski after work with a ski pass.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 3 months ago

The 9-5 point is that people that work full time jobs are not the ones that get maximum usage from a season pass. So it does not make sense to look at the full time worker to say the season pass price is fair. Instead we should recognize that there are people able to golf several times a week and ask the question of how many rounds, on average, were played on season passes.

Haymaker was sold on the premise that a golf course would bring in more tourism. It was not supposed to be a local amenity heavily subsidized by tourists.

But local discounts and a season pass makes a small active wealthy as well connected special interest group happy so no one in government or the newspaper will question it.

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housepoor 2 years, 3 months ago

Thanks Brent. It seems that the course maintenance crew are city employees but the rest of the staff expenses isn't listed? They list revenues only by Charges for Services, what does that include(green fees only or carts and range?) and what are "other revenues" that are projected to drop by 81%? $110k shortfall doesn't seem to be that large that at least a portion of it couldn't be made in cuts if someone was to look at revenues and expenses closely?

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outwiththeold 2 years, 3 months ago

Maintenance crew hasn't had a raise in at least four years!! JOKE!!! Like the golf committee,JOKE!!!!

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Dave Moloney 2 years, 3 months ago

It seems to me that the vast majority of locals will play less rounds if the price goes up. Assuming tourist rounds remain static, the increases imposed on the locals will only lead to further decreases in revenue and increasing shortfalls for the City to cover. Since tee times are a perishable commodity, they should be sold as such. Just like a market puts the extra pallet of tomatoes on sale before they go bad. The real question is: How many tee times are going to waste and generating zero revenue? What if a local could call the course and buy an unsold tee time on the same afternoon it was about to expire and get a nice discount on it. Maybe 20%. Would the number of tee times sold inrease? Not everybody can plan on playing every week, but most of us might have an occasional afternoon where we could try to sneak in 9 holes. This concept is used in the lodging industry with websites that offer last minute discounts. Those that want to be guarenteed a tee time would still pay full price for the priveledge. Locals, that currently don't play at all, might play a few times a year if the price was right. If the City is going to subsidize this amenity, then as many locals as possible should be given an affordable opportunity to use it.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 2 months ago

If increasing tourism was the objective of building Haymaker then why are tourists asked to pay that much more than locals? It appears to being operated in the exact opposite manner of the subsidized airline flights which package the better fares with ski packages so the subsidized fares are not readily available to locals.

So one or the other or neither is the right way to generate tourism. If airline subsidies is a properly run program then it would suggest that Haymaker should offer the best deals to tourists that book vacation packages and have everyone else pay the same price.

If Haymaker is the right way to generate tourism then the airline flights should be offered at a discount to locals and tourists should pay much higher fares.

Or maybe neither is correct and there should be no price difference for either locals or tourists and the same price should be paid by all for airline seats and a round of golf.

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Scott Ford 2 years, 2 months ago

As a wee-bit of historical background

In the way, back time of the mid 1980's the dream/goal of having a city owned golf course was to attract more summer visitors. As silly as this sounds now developing a city owned golf course was seen as the most important economic development activity the community could engage in. The message was pretty simple - without more golf capacity disaster awaited the summer tourism economy.

The hope was it would bring in more summer visitors. It was felt that way too many visitors did not come to Steamboat Springs or the ones that came did not stay as long as they could because of a relative few golf options available to them. There were endless comparisons to the Eagle/Vail Valley and how "we" were losing out.

The thought that Haymaker would be primarily a recreation amenity used by locals never entered into the discussion. It was acknowledged that locals would use it - but the motivation for building it was to attract visitors - in the hope, more and richer ones would come and they would stay longer. Since the Accommodation tax of 1% was used to finance it - it was felt that since "visitor" activity paid for it they would be the primary users. Obviously that has morphed over time.

Following a community vote to allocate the 1% Accommodation Tax to finance the building of a city owned golf course a golf committee was formed. They helped select the golf course designer and had input into what type of course should be built. The Golf Committee was made up of local golf enthusiast.

Guess what? Over time they viewed this as "their" course designed by locals for locals. Visitors were welcome to use it of course but they should pay more.

I know that when it was repeatedly brought to the attention of the Golf Committee that the initial intent of a city owned golf course was to attract visitors - and the price charged to visitors should reflect this intent, this was rebuffed by saying, "locals deserve a break. We have to put up with visitors all winter long. Summer Time is our time."

Oh, well. Like a lot of things in life it is what it is. No need to spend too much time fussing about it.

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bellyup 2 years, 2 months ago

Scott must not remember the survey a few years ago when one American Airlines flight had something like 60 different fares charged to the 150 people on board. Good luck with getting that changed. I've played Haymaker starting the day the course opened to the public. Here's how the revenue works for me:

Daily fee, I would average about 5 rounds a year. Call it about $225.

Punch card, playing all twilight (off-peak), 20 rounds and $450.

Season Pass, playing mostly early morning or twilight (off-peak), 50 rounds and $1025.

I don't think even a single round that I played with the punch card or season pass resulted in a tourist getting shut out that day. I may not be representative of the average local golfer, but I think it is obvious which way the city made out best from my spending.

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exduffer 2 years, 2 months ago

The "I live here, I deserve it" attitude seems to be prevalent. SF is right, if it costs a tourist $90 each to play a couple of rounds a year it should be the same for the locals. If not, the city should charge me only 2% in sales tax because 'I live here'.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 2 months ago

bellyup, Haymaker could adopt a pricing scheme like the airlines and offer different pricing depending upon the popularity of the tee time, how far ahead the tee time is being reserved and the rate at which tee times are being reserved. But the effort to do that is probably not worth it.

Scott F. I don't recall "disaster" being claimed if there wasn't a golf course. The supporters pulled out studies saying many wealthy summer tourists expect to play golf and so the ability of summer tourism to grow was limited without having a golf course.

ex, I love it. Even better, I am a city resident so I should only pay half the sales tax while tourists and county residents pay the full rate. Now that is an idea the City Council should pursue. I doubt that they can charge less at the point of sale, so they'd have to find a way for people to submit their sales receipts to the City to get their refund.

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Scott Ford 2 years, 2 months ago

Hi Scott W - The word "disaster" is over the top. Thanks for calling me on it.

I recall the golf studies as well -The studies highlighted that Steamboat Springs was losing market share to the Eagle/Vail valley and that the trend was going to continue."Do not build a city owned golf course that motivates visitors to come to Steamboat Springsand be prepared to be left behind." Alternatively, "If we want to diversify the local economy we must have golf and golf soon!" On the other hand, "How can we dare call ourselves a World Class Resort - without a quality golf experience?"

It seems that "Fear" talk trumps "Opportunity" talk more often than not. I guess fear based arguments are stronger or they would not be so prevalent - back then as they are today.

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housepoor 2 years, 2 months ago

one area of improvement would be to charge pass holders a fee for not showing up or cancelling a tee time less than 24hrs in advanced

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seeuski 2 years, 2 months ago

@trump-suit
Like it or not, this issue is a result of the poor economic conditions plaguing the Country and all the lying by your hero the other night won't make it better. Vote accordingly or we will all sink together. Steamboat relies on Tourism and the community owned GC is not exempt, there are not enough local lemons to squeeze to make up the gap. We'll revisit this again if people keep voting against their own futures.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 2 months ago

Scott F. Well, the fear talk was not that all powerful since I recall the golf course narrowly failed the first time at the ballot. And part of the argument for approving it was that it was basically free money accumulating in the accommodations tax fund and once built then it was going to probably make money.

Btw, pretty funny that I corrected Scott F for being over the top. What was the odds of that ever happening? Sure 100% for shoes being on the other foot.

I think it'd be better if season pass holders paid $20 per reserved tee time and played free only when playing "standby" of being given a tee time that was now expiring unused. And a $10 fee for reserving a tee time within two hours of start time. So someone could take an empty slot and leave for the course without being messed up if someone else took it at the last second.

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Routt_County_Guy 2 years, 2 months ago

Wow, once again only our "Village See" could turn a game of checkers - or an article about golf - into a left wing socialist conspiracy. Now that the tea baggers are out of the race, let's all vote for Newt and get a "permanent manned space station on the Moon"! Stick around, seeuski, every village needs one of you around.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 2 months ago

Well, I suppose a manned moon colony would also talk about the need to have a golf course to attract tourists.

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Dave Moloney 2 years, 2 months ago

Ok. I thought the question was about how do we get the golf course to be self sufficient? I appreciate that there is some history behind the how and why of Haymaker, but the current question is, how do we minimize the negative effect Haymaker and other Enterprise Funds are having on the funds available for critical needs like fire, police, capital projects, etc? I maintain my position that we are throwing away potential revenue everytime that we allow a tee time to expire unused. The solution I offered will work regardless of good times or bad, because the discounts to locals will only be available if the tee times are available. If the economy improves and the course is full of out of town guests paying full price, that's great too. If not, a local can get a disount, enjoy a round of golf, and add revenue to the City coffers.

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exduffer 2 years, 2 months ago

How about we get the Department of Agriculture to give Haymaker a $4 million grant/ loan to build a performing arts complex in the clubhouse. It seems a little more fitting.

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exduffer 2 years, 2 months ago

expub- If the locals had actually paid for the course in the first place it would be wrong to 'stick it to em'.

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