National Golf Foundation Presents Results of Study of BREC Golf OperationBaton Rouge, LA—
EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH – The National Golf Foundation (NGF) tonight released its recommendations to improve the BREC golf operation including the repurposing of two courses, increasing the quality of maintenance and improving the physical condition of the courses and clubhouses. As part of the effort to create a new 10-year strategic plan for the park system, BREC commissioned NGF in May to conduct a study of all seven courses as well as the administrative practices of the golf department.
NGF Director of Consulting Services Richard Singer, BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight and Golf Director Michael Raby presented the findings to members of the golf committee and the public tonight. Tomorrow they will make a similar presentation at the regularly scheduled BREC Commission meeting.
The report is part of a methodical review of the BREC golf operation started by Superintendent Carolyn McKnight when she first joined the organization more than two years ago. After visiting each course herself and meeting with employees and members of the public, McKnight invited the PGA to send experts to conduct a short, pro-bono review of the courses. She then commissioned the more in-depth study by NGF.
“We requested that NGF look into every aspect of our operation and give us a realistic estimate of the economic potential of the BREC golf system,” said McKnight. “We have been asked by the public and our Commission to change our philosophy regarding golf and to treat it more like a business and less like a heavily subsidized park amenity. I believe these findings will help guide us as we make that business shift and create a higher quality, more efficient operation.”
The NGF study included an on-site facility inspection of all seven golf courses, a review and analysis of operating data, market analysis as well as meetings with BREC staff, committee members and golfers. Its recommendations include:
· Upgrading physical condition of golf courses and clubhouses
· Repurposing Howell and J.S. Clark Golf Courses
· Improving the use of technology for marketing and customer service
· Enhancing food and beverage service at all facilities
· Making golf courses more appealing to less traditional golfers
The report also recommends that if BREC is not able to achieve an increased level of play at golf facilities it should consider turning to a third-party management operator. However, Singer cautioned that the study represents a snapshot in time and noted that he is already seeing substantial improvements in key areas of the golf operation, including the hiring of a PGA Master Professional to lead the golf department, a new Assistant Director and improvement in maintenance practices. He also stressed that it will take time to completely turn the golf operation around.
“We understand that it will take time to turn BREC Golf into an operation that at minimum breaks even, and at best will help support higher levels of maintenance as well as critical areas of our park system,” said McKnight. “That is our primary goal and I am happy to say that our new Golf Director Michael Raby immediately moved to implement some of these recommendations a few weeks after his appointment, even before the report was finalized. That tells me that we are on the right track as we develop a long-term plan to sustain our golf operation.”
“As I made my own assessment of BREC golf courses, my first priority has been to make substantial improvements to the quality of the turf at all of our courses,” said Raby. “I know that our golfers have strongly voiced their concern with the condition of our courses and I am working to change that perception through the acquisition of better equipment and implementation of industry best-practices. We are also focusing on improving customer service through the use of better technology with an exciting new partnership with The Golf Channel.”
Since Raby joined BREC in September 2014, the golf department has made the following improvements in maintenance:
- Purchased fairway mowing equipment and have bids out for greens mowers, fairway mowers and additional equipment
- Creating a turf equipment life cycle plan that will include additional leases or purchases in 2015
- Increased use of fertility applications and greens aerifications
- Addition of “native areas" to improve efficiency and environmental stewardship
- Conducted soil chemistry and pathology testing for greens at all courses
- Created for immediate implementation in 2015, aerification and fertility programs based on industry best practices
The golf department has also entered into a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with The Golf Channel/NBC. They will provide for BREC:
- Development and hosting of new BREC Golf web site with online tee time booking, integrated e-mail sign-up and marketing, social media integration with Facebook and Twitter, Calendar of events, online sales and event registration, etc.
- Creation of a mobile version of the web site optimized for mobile devices
- Adoption of GolfNow mail customer tool, marketing platform and booking engine
“The report also recommends changes that include the possible repurposing of some golf courses and additional renovation at others,” said McKnight. “We will continue moving at a deliberate pace, conducting a series of public meetings to seek the advice of the community. That will allow us to move forward in a well thought-out manner and ensure that we do what is best for our community and our golfers as we consider these recommendations.”
BREC is committed to the First Tee Program which helps develop young golfers and teach them important life skills. It will be included in both the short and long-term golfer development plans for the BREC golf system with the possibility of expanding into other areas of East Baton Rouge Parish.
It is the BREC mission to provide parks and recreational opportunities for all the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish.