Discussion has been stirring in regards to the closure of one of Modesto’s three golf courses. The city currently has two eighteen-hole golf courses (Creekside and Dryden Park) and one nine-hole golf course (Modesto Municipal, or "Muni"). Since 2009, our golf rounds and revenues have been drastically decreasing. To put it in perspective, our courses have the capacity for about 300,000 rounds of golf, total, per year, yet over the last three years we’ve been averaging about 97,500. This is not unique to Modesto. In our region alone, several private and public golf courses ranging from areas like Stockton, Stevinson, Diablo Grande and Phoenix Lake, have already closed.
While there are many factors that contribute to this nationwide down fall, our supply is simply much larger than our demand, and the City has been losing between $700,000 and $1 Million on its golf courses since 2016/2017. In addition to the loss of revenue from the decrease in rounds played, there are also fewer golfers to purchase merchandise, food, and rent a cart. These transactions make up a large portion of the park’s revenues.
Golf, in and of itself, is predominantly a leisure sport. It is also a relatively expensive sport, and for that reason, golfers who play expect the courses and operations to be held to a higher standard. The City shares this standard as well. However, with the declining revenue, the City has not been able to keep up with the maintenance at the courses. We currently estimate about $1.4 million worth of capital improvements that need to be made to these parks such as restoring parking lots, club houses, bunkers, sprinklers and other ongoing issues in order to bring the courses to a reasonable standard.
The City retained a consultant to perform a golf assessment for our city. It was recommended that the nine-hole Modesto Municipal Golf Course be closed down. Compared to the other courses, Muni was chosen due to it being the best piece of land for re-purposing to a different use. In contrast, The Dryden Park Golf course is located in a flood plain and is bound to a family deed restriction, which constitutes the land not suitable for any other use other than open space.
A critical aspect of this closure is the relocation of The First Tee of Central Valley. First Tee is an important youth program that teaches life skills through golf. The program’s headquarters has been located at the Municipal Golf Course since its inception. With the closure of Muni, The First Tee of Central Valley will be moved to Dryden Park Golf Course.
Despite the evidence in favor of closing Muni, we understand and sympathize with the concerns of the golf community. Our objective is to make the best use of our resources and General Fund expenditures. By closing one of our golf courses, our deficit is reduced and we are now able to use that land to resolve other major concerns such as affordable housing. It will also allow us to make much needed improvements at the two remaining course.
At this point, the city can no longer afford to operate three golf courses, and this this determination has not taken lightly. Your City leadership must be conscientious of our tight budget and prioritize the needs of all our residents.
The closure of Muni will not happen overnight, and although an official timeline has not been finalized, golfers still have time to get in their games. Rest assured that while we review the options for development at the site of Muni, we will continue to provide an open and transparent process of involving our community in the decision-making process.