A history of hemming and hawing over whether golf courses should be privatized has allowed The City’s first tee-off to fall into millions of dollars worth of disrepair.
Park officials estimate century-old Lincoln Park Golf Course in the Outer Richmond could cost between $15 million and $20 million to upgrade its antiquated irrigation system, replenish its 80-year-old pro shop and restaurant and redesign its patchy landscape.
But since the manager of the scenic 18-hole course — known for its hilly greens, sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and potential for a bigger name — has for more than a decade been on a month-to-month lease, major investments have never been a priority.
Recreation and Park owns and maintains the land and its facilities, while Yugi Golf Management pays rent to operate it and split the profits.
"I know they probably want to get off that. No one wants to invest under those conditions," said Yugi owner Lance Wong. "But if they push a lease, what’s going to happen is they’ll push me out. ... It will hurt the golfers because part of the reason why it’s working is because it’s still nice, inexpensive green fees."
After park officials saw staff issue a new lease to PGA Tour affiliates for the championship-style Harding Park Golf Course when the prior one had expired with KemperSports Management, they questioned why that contract had priority.
"There are some major issues [at Lincoln Park]," Rec and Park Commissioner Gloria Bonilla told the commission. "I think before the situation gets worse ... we ought to look at how the lease is structured."
Members of the Lincoln Golf Course’s board are ready for movement.
"I think the only way of making the course anywhere near viable is if they lease it to a private company," said board member Gary Missel, who has played at Lincoln for 30 years. "You really have to love Lincoln to play it."
But park officials are still essentially at square one and have said they are still deciding whether they will look for a new manager, ask Yugi for a longer lease or consider other public-private partnerships.
Richard Harris, co-founder of the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, wrote in an e-mail that Rec and Park has done a better job maintaining the course in the past few years, but the Alliance is still glad the commission is opening the conversation.
Lincoln Park Golf Course’s decade-old month-to-month lease compared with other facilities:
Lincoln Park Course
Minimum base rent: Higher of $45,000 per year or 5 percent of retail, 15 percent of lessons, 25 percent cars.
Lincoln Park Restaurant
Minimum base rent: Higher of $12,000 per year or 6 percent food, 8 percent alcohol, 10 percent room rentals.
$192,000 per year plus 75 percent of tee-off revenue
Minimum base rent: Higher of $75,000 per year or 10 percent of retail, 20 percent lessons, 12 percent cart mobiles, 5 percent food, 11 percent alcohol.
Source: Recreation and Park Department