No Public Golf Courses To Close, City Says

Published On: Sep 12 2010 04:24:45 AM HST   Updated On: Sep 12 2010 09:53:15 PM HST

A recent survey by the National Golf Foundation showed public golf courses are in financial trouble, with fewer people hitting the links these days. Hawaii's municipal courses appear to be no different.

The study that looked at 1,500 public golf courses across the United States didn't have promising results.

The report predicted 150 public courses will close every year until the number of players reached equilibrium with the number of golf courses.

Fortunately for golfers in Honolulu, there doesn't appear to be that risk of losing any places to play.

The National Golf Foundation study said that the number of golfers has risen only 16 percent since 1990, while the number of courses increased 24 percent.

That means there's a lot more places to play. Not a bad thing, except that at public courses nationwide including Honolulu, fewer people are hitting the links.

The city said it averages just under 44,000 players per month. In the last fiscal year, there was about a 5 percent decrease in the number of rounds played.

With an operating budget for the city's six municipal golf courses around $8.5 million, every player counts.

"We've been able to maintain it. We haven't been challenged to make deep cuts and our staff is just doing a wonderful job," said Sidney Quintal, city director of Enterprise Services.

The city said despite furloughs and budget challenges, it's been able to keep the courses open seven days a week.

But players at Ala Wai, one of the world's busiest golf courses, said they've seen a difference on the course.

"We've noticed that the play on the public courses have slowed down a bit. I'm not sure what it's attributed to. Maybe it's the increase in fees or maybe because it's football season," said Fred Iwamura, who just finished nine hole at Ala Wai.

Fees that went up at public courses starting July 1, 2010, is what Ala Wai Pro shop clerk Boya Fulkerson believes is behind the fewer golfers on the greens these days.

"I think what you're seeing is the result of the economy as well as the semi-private courses lowering their prices," said Fulkerson.

Unlike much of the mainland, Hawaii's year-round golfing climate is good for public courses, along with the good deal for kamaaina.

"On the weekends we always play municipal courses because we don't have money," said Ala Wai golfer Peter Nagata with a laugh.

Despite the National Golf Foundation report, the city said it has no plans to close any public courses at this time.


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