City may hand golf courses to nonprofit 

The Cityis considering handing its ailing golf courses over to a newly created nonprofit agency following a report slamming the courses’ management, organization and excessive expenses. The Recreation and Park Department’s six-course system, which includes Golden Gate Park, Harding Park, Fleming Park, Lincoln Park, Gleneagles at McLaren Park and Sharp Park, is saddled with debt, not making enough money to cover expenses and suffering from mismanagement, according to a report released by the National Golf Federation last week.

"[The report] will be instrumental in helping us make informed decisions," said Rose Marie Dennis, spokeswoman for the department. The report was commissioned by The City via the San Francisco Golf Foundation, which paid for it using money from private donors, according to Dennis.

The courses cannot make enough revenue, the report claims, because The City is caught in a catch-22 — in order to increase profits, greens fees and round fees must go up, but in order for more people to play at the courses, overall conditions have to be improved.

In its summary, the report found that the major factor contributing to the failing system is that "there is a complete lack of expertise and oversight within the Recreation and Park Department with respect to the business of golf."

In order to start making money and pay off the Harding debt, the NGA report suggested that the department either continue running the system as is, close a few courses or hand the courses over to The San Francisco Golf Foundation, a nonprofit agency created by The City.

Wolfram Alderson, deputy director of the Neighborhood Parks Association, said that the parks can be a vital part of The City’s economy.

"Any of these solutions are good, potentially, but how do we arrive at that solution? We would like amore thorough process of engaging the public — the conversation has been narrow in regards to the solutions," Alderson said.

The golf system is organized as an enterprise fund and overseen by the Recreation and Park Department. Profitable up until the early 2000s, the system exceeded its budget with the renovation of Harding Park, the course that accounts for 70 percent of the system’s $12.36 million budget. The project, approved in 2002 and using the department’s Open Space Fund and $16 million in state grant funds, went $7.6 million over budget.

The report claims that The City let other parks "fall into disrepair" except for Harding, and even when courses were making money it was not re-invested into the system.

eeconomides@examiner.com

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