Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Bear Trace Update

There is an excellent article about the golf course mess the state finds itself in right now, written by Ian Barry. An excerpt:

"They honestly would be better as grazing land for deer," said Drew Johnson, the groupââ�¬â�¢s [Tennessee Center for Policy Research] executive director. State officials defend their operation of the golf courses and say outside factors are affecting all golf courses right now. Tisha Calabrese-Benton, spokeswoman for the
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said in an e-mail thereââ�¬â�¢s an over-saturation of golf courses in the state generally.

The state park courses collectively lost $436,590 during the 2004-05 fiscal year, according to state budget numbers cited by the Center for Policy Research.

Ms. Calabrese-Benton said the General Assembly in 2004 passed a law requiring all of TDECââ�¬â�¢s revenue-generating operations, including golf courses, cabins, restaurants and inns, to be self-sufficient by the 2007-08 fiscal year. She said TDEC plans to meet that goal.

How are they going to meet that goal? I have no idea on the Bear Trace courses. They are really beautiful golf complexes but they are in the middle of nowhere. I can address the state park courses a little.

I have played both Montgomery Bell and Henry Horton. Both are beautiful courses that are slowly deteriorating into cow pastures. To make them profitable, I would try two things.

1. Put money into them. Yes, bring them back to their original glory. Why? Golfers would gladly pay more than the pittance of a fee they currently charge. It seems that the parks want the courses to be accessable to all, so the fees are ridiculously low. Well, you're not trying to attract all Tennesseans, you're trying to attract golfers, who generally have more to spend (it is an expensive sport) and you should charge the market rate.

2. Sell Beer. I know that we want a family atmosphere in our state parks, but this is golf. Golfers and beer go together like crack and whores. According to the figure quoted above, divided by 8 state park golf courses, each course lost about $55,000. That's $1000 a week. You could make a lot of that up in beer sales. I have personally been in situations where Montgomery Bell was not chosen for a round because they don't sell beer.

Might work, might not. Some of the courses have been around for decades. I don't think they should just be abandoned. As far as the Bear Trace courses, maybe we should find out who was responsible for putting them where they are, and make them cut the grass and fix the sprinklers for the next 20 years.

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