Private Company Takes Over Management Of City Golf Courses

Sunday, February 17th 2008, 6:33 pm
By: News On 6

The City of Tulsa hopes a partnership with a private company will save its public golf courses.  The Page Belcher and Mohawk courses have both experienced big losses in recent years.  The News On 6's Chris Wright reports Billy Casper Golf, a Virginia-based company, took over management of both courses last month. 

With the help of a new course manager, the company says it can turn them around.

The greens at Page Belcher were empty on Sunday.  Of course it's February, and it will be a few weeks before golfers once again hit the links.  But in recent years, this course has had trouble attracting golfers even when the weather is more pleasant.

It's a problem Mayor Kathy Taylor hopes Billy Casper Golf will fix.

"We know we've got the expertise to bring these courses up to the quality the citizens want," said Mayor Taylor.

Citing financial losses, the mayor in November proposed closing 18 holes at Page Belcher, and nine more at Mohawk Park.  But she thought better of it and instead opted to seek help from a private company.

The city was expected to pay $1 million to subsidize the struggling courses this year.  Billy Casper has promised to reduce that to $600,000 this year.

New course manager Tom Wolff will head the effort.

"I could tell that these were two very special facilities.  That was part of what helped make the decision to come down here a lot easier," said Wolff.

Still, the new management will have to come up with new ways for these facilities to generate more cash.

The city still controls greens fees and says it won't increase them, so Billy Casper says the key to turning the golf courses around is simply attracting more golfers.

It's an idea that sits well with residents who live on the course, and say they would like to see more golfers in their neighborhood.

"I think the city was struggling.  Any improvement is going to be better, so I'm very hopeful this will work," said Page Belcher resident Priscilla Kincaid.

The city has signed a five-year deal with Billy Casper Golf.  The company says by the end of the fifth-year, it can reduce the subsidy the city paid to zero.

Officials believe the key to the turnaround will be effective marketing.  They say not enough people know about these two courses.