By Kevin Kelley
The city of Westlake should close one of three golf courses at Meadowood Golf Course and replace it with a driving range and golfing practice facility.
That is the recommendation of a study completed by NGF Consulting Services, a subsidiary of the Florida-based National Golf Foundation. Richard Singer, director of the NGF’s Consulting, presented his organization’s findings to Westlake City Council’s Public Grounds, Buildings and Recreation Committee Jan. 15.
While saying that Meadowood is overall a good, efficiently run facility, Singer said its course configuration is problematic. Meadowood now consists of two nine-hole, executive-length (par 68 or less) courses, called the Red and White courses, and a nine-hole regulation-length course, known as the Yellow Course.
The Yellow Course has several factors working against it and is the most problematic of Meadowood’s three courses, Singer told council members. First, it is relatively short for a regulation course, he said. Considered too hard for beginners and too easy for veteran players, it will likely appeal mainly to seniors, beginners and some women, Singer concluded.
Second, at nine holes, it will not attract as many golfers as 18-hole regulation courses in the market, the study said. Third, the Yellow Course has drainage and other infrastructure problems that will prevent play there following heavy rains, Singer said.
“It’s expensive to maintain,” Singer said of the Yellow Course, adding that it eats of 46 percent of Meadowood’s maintenance costs but brings in only 30 percent of its revenue.
Use of the Yellow Course has declined, dropping to 22 percent of all Meadowood rounds played from 33 percent in 2008, the report stated.
An upgrade of the Yellow Course, a proposal NGF looked at, would cost around $1.5 to $2 million, Singer estimated. The NGF study also considered maintaining the status quo at Meadowood.
By contrast, closing the Yellow Course and replacing it with a nearly year-round driving range and practice facility would cost $600,000, he said. The driving range would have 40 tees, 20 of which would be covered, with 10 partially heated, the study said. The Red and White courses would be maintained under this scenario.
Meadowood has experienced an overall negative net operating income since 2008. But the NGF study, which the city paid $18,000 for, predicts that it can become profitable again if the Yellow Course is replaced with a driving range and practice facility. Maintaining the status quo at Meadowood will cause Meadowood’s operating loss to grow over the next three years, the report said.
“Given the demographics of Westlake and the surrounding area, we are very optimistic about the success of a premium practice facility,” the 53-page NGF report stated.
This option would also free up 12 to 15 acres at the northeast corner of the property that could be used by the city for athletic fields or a park, Singer said.
The report by NGF Consulting also recommended that the city do a better job of marketing Meadowood among area golfers and expand the course’s retail and merchandising efforts.
NGF acknowledged its recommendation is not without challenges.
“Players who prefer the Yellow Course, although obviously dwindling in numbers, will not like the course closing,” the report stated.
Indeed, at the committee meeting, Westlake resident David Boone told council members that the Yellow Course is ideal for senior citizens.
“A lot of seniors would really hate to see it go,” Boone said, adding that the course made money in the past.
The council committee passed a motion directing the administration of Mayor Dennis Clough to obtain a proposal on a master plan for Meadowood Golf Course and prepare more specific financial projections for the options studied by NGF.
Opened in 1964 as a private club, Meadowood was purchased by the city for $1.12 million in 1987 with the intention of eventually converting it into a city park, Clough said. A condition of the sale was for the city to continue operating the golf course for five years. The property was never converted to a park because the cost was prohibitive compared to maintaining it as a golf course, the mayor said.
REGULATION GOLF COURSE: A Regulation Golf Course is defined as any nine-hole or 18-hole golf course that includes a variety of par three, par four and par five holes, and is of traditional length and par; a nine-hole facility must be at least 2,600 yards in length and at least par 33, and an 18-hole facility at least 5,200 yards in length and at least par 66.
EXECUTIVE COURSES: Executive Courses are short courses with a variety of par three, par four and/or par five holes. Eighteen-hole executive courses are 5,200 yards in length or less, with a par of 65 or less.
Source: National Golf Course Owners Association