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What Seattle Learned From Studying its Public Golf Courses

Seattle recently completed a strategic business plan for its city-owned municipal golf courses. The first recommendation of the report: "commit to golf as a recreational program offered by the City on par with other recreational offerings."
June 9, 2019, 1pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"What should Seattle do with its public golf courses and the 528 acres of mostly green space they occupy?"

That's the question Scott Hanson poses at the beginning of an article about the findings of a recent study by the city of Seattle [pdf] to figure out the future of public golf courses in the growing city.

"Much of the study focused on the financial health and sustainability of the golf courses. From 2013-17, the courses combined to have a net profit in operating income each year. But factoring in the 5 percent the courses give back to the Seattle Parks fund and debt service on improvements made at the courses put them $1.8 million in the red," according to Hanson.

With better weather in 2019, the vendors who operate the Seattle municipal golf courses report being half a million dollars ahead of budget. Still, debt service isn't going anywhere for a while, and many in the public are clamoring for the courses to be devoted to something other than a sport requiring a fair amount of skill and time.

One of the consistent messages of golfers in quoted the article is that golf, when played on public courses, is far more inclusive than its country club reputation. Bill Schickler, founder and president of Premier Golf Centers is quoted in the article saying, "You’ve got grandparents playing with grandkids and kids, and you’ve got women and men of all ethnicities playing these courses and they are very much in need as a resource for sport and recreation in the community."

According to Hanson, a groundswell of support, under the Save Seattle Golf banner, has risen since the report was released and golfers began worrying about the implications of the city asking these kind of existential questions about the future of the sport. As Hanson reports, municipal golfers in the city can probably rest easy for now. Both the report and Mayor Jenny Durkan express support for public golf in the city.

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Published on Thursday, June 6, 2019 in Seattle Times
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