Golf courses appear back on track

When the news broke in 2020 that city officials were looking at reducing golf course offerings in Columbus, the community response was fierce.

Dozens attended a community forum in opposition to the proposal, many more wrote letters and emails, and a PGA professional even pledged his support in keeping one of the courses open.

After much deliberation, and a $176,000 subsidy, the city decided to keep the courses open for at least one more year to see if the community would rally to save the businesses.

Now, it appears the possibility of closing Greenbelt or Par 3 has lessened.

Financially, all three city-owned courses are doing considerably better than last year.

At the end of May, Greenbelt was up about $57,000 in revenue from the same time last year and Par 3’s revenue was up about $12,000. Officials at Otter Creek also reported that the course’s revenue, through the end of June, was up almost $300,000 from the same time in 2020.

Officials with the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department recently said the golf courses are expected to be included in the city’s next budgeting process. The department manages Greenbelt and Par 3 while Otter Creek is managed by a city-appointed board.

While factors such as favorable weather and less-strict COVID-19 restrictions have contributed to increased play, there’s no denying that community support and better management have helped both Greenbelt and Par 3.

Since a Golf Advisory Committee was created by the city, Greenbelt and Par 3 have both achieved numerous goals.  The committee has worked with the parks department and helps with fundraising, new programming, marketing and setting fees.

On the revenue side, the parks department is doing 11% better than 2017, its best year since resuming control of the two courses in October of 2015. The increase in revenue is due to both new play and a focus on sponsorships, as well as the return of programs previously shut down by COVID-19.

To help increase rounds, the city has created a beginner golf clinic and a junior golf league. They’ve also been able to increase the number of people playing in their weekly leagues.

While never in peril of closing, Otter Creek’s numbers are also encouraging.

The course has partnered with the visitors’ center and local hotels to provide “stay and play” packages. Course management said out-of-town play is currently “booming."

The city challenged residents last year to support their local golf courses. That challenge has been met.