Our View: Golf committee hits it straight
January 24, 2012
Steamboat Springs — 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.