Can Brantford’s public golf courses bring in enough green to stay in the black?
At Coun. John Utley’s suggestion, business manager Jeff Moore will lead a review of operations at Arrowdale and Northridge to determine whether the city should stay in the golf business.
The public courses were ranked low on the city’s recent continuum of service survey, which asked residents which city services are most important to them.
Closing Arrowdale – currently the less profitable course – would lower overall operating costs.
Should the city sell the land to developers, Utley said the proceeds could be used to spruce up Northridge’s “extremely dated” clubhouse and improve the course.
“With a renovated or new clubhouse, we could squeeze a lot of efficiencies and profit from having one good clubhouse instead of two aging, mediocre ones,” Utley said.
An improved clubhouse could lead to increased revenue from food and beverage sales to golfers and during banquets, wedding receptions and meetings, Utley said.
While taxpayers do contribute to capital improvements at the courses, Utley said that under Moore’s stewardship the operations side has made “huge improvements,” going from a deficit two years ago to posting a small profit last year.
Northridge has a new irrigation system and a full-size practice range will generate added revenue going forward, Utley said. He said it would be “completely unrealistic” to expect management at the public courses to renovate clubhouses and repave parking lots without financial assistance from the city.
While members of the golf board have argued passionately for keeping both courses open, “there are not many cities out there of our size that have one golf course, much less two,” Utley said.
“The expected outcome of the study is to make a strong business case for golf in our community, whether that means one or both courses.”
Utley said he hopes the study of the two courses will dispel the perception that golf is “a rich man’s sport” subsidized by the city.
“If you talk to people at Arrowdale and Northridge, they’re not rich,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with asking the question ‘what business should we be in?’ I just want to make sure that it’s done fairly.”
The city’s review of golf operations is expected to be completed in June.