Houston's Municipal Golf Courses Struggling to Make Ends Meet

Many cities around the country are facing the question about whether they should subsidize city-owned golf courses as the game's popularity declines. Supporters of "munis" say they provide an affordable location for outdoor recreation.
July 1, 2014, 1pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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A group of golfers are attempting to raise $15 million to renovate the historic Gus Wortham Golf Course, but Mayor Annise Parker and others believe the property would be better used as a botanic garden, according to an article by Mike Morris.

"That the city is contemplating giving up golf at Wortham…raises broader questions about whether Houston should be in the golf business at a time when the city is facing serious budget challenges and participation in golf is on the decline," explains Morris.

In fact, "only two of the city's eight golf courses - Memorial Park and Hermann Park - turn a profit."

Former city councilman Jim Greenwood is helping to raise funds for the renovation of Wortham. "If the city cannot properly manage its courses, Greenwood said, officials could consider hiring a nonprofit to take over operations rather than abandoning golf. The city of Baltimore has taken this approach." Municipal golf courses, according to Wortham's supporters, provide golfers with affordable, necessary alternatives to country clubs.

Jeff Ross, president of Houston Botanic Garden, however, "said a golf course is not the best use of Wortham's 151 acres. He pointed to data from the National Golf Foundation that show the game's decline in recent years, with golf participation now at its lowest level in 25 years."

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Published on Friday, June 27, 2014 in Houston Chronicle
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