The possibility of a nonprofit taking over the Golden Gate Park Golf Course has many enthusiasts worried the par-3 links will have drastic changes, but First Tee of San Francisco insists that’s not the case and things will only improve.
Recreation and Park Department property manager Tom Hart told concerned golfers this week that the course will not become a youth-only arena, despite rumors to the contrary.
“It will not be turned over for kids’ programming,” Hart said. “This is not going to be a satellite First Tee.”
First Tee is a youth development program that uses golf to “build character” and instill “life values” to underprivileged kids. San Francisco’s chapter was created in 2004 and operates programs at the Harding Park and Fleming courses.
The organization won the bid for Golden Gate Park earlier this year. It will form a new nonprofit – the Golden Gate Park Golf Foundation – to run the course.
First Tee of San Francisco Executive Director Judith Powell said changing the course to a youth-only training facility would not be a good business decision.
“We’d fold if we turned it into a kids’ facility,” Powell said. “We don’t want to lose the after-work crowd or the families coming on weekends.”
Instead, she said the group hopes to enhance the youth programs already in place and make capital improvements to the 60-year-old facility.
“We just want to enhance and expand the course,” said First Tee board member Scott Sollers.
But the golf community was still skeptical. At a community meeting Wednesday, golfers questioned the choice of new management.
Justin Moore, 36, said he was worried the process was not transparent and believes First Tee received some sort of back-room deal.
“I go there five days a week; this is my country club,” he said. “The regulars want to see how you’re going to grow and maintain this.”
Due to the concerns, Rec and Park officials said they will work with First Tee to develop a potential schedule and availability of the course and present it to the community by June.
Rec and Park officials solicited bids to manage the course last fall after its contract with Global Golf Management LLC expired. First Tee and Global Golf were the only two companies that bid.
First Tee’s proposal includes capital improvements such as a new putting green and chipping area, and a reservation system to ensure players know when they can tee off.