Changes may be on the way for those who enjoy hitting the links at either of Birmingham's two golf courses.
An application for a tavern license — which would enable the golf courses to sell beer and wine — as well as a plan to lower fees for nonresidents was approved by the Birmingham City Commission at its Dec. 12 meeting. City officials hope these plans will attract more golfers and make up years of deficits.
Birmingham owns and operates two golf courses — and the . Those wishing to use the courses (residents and nonresidents) as well as the must first purchase a "leisure pass."
A system that doesn't work
The current system isn't generating enough revenue, according to Jeff Bremer, the assistant director of the (DPS).
"It appears that the current system has not produced the desired result that we hope for, which is to increase the number of passes sold, thereby generating additional rounds of golf," he said. "Our courses are dependent on the sale of nonresident lesiure passes as a gateway to playing golf."
The total revenue generated from the 2011 golf season was $113,500. The golf courses, however, . In 2010, Lincoln Hills golf course saw a 17.8 percent loss in the total rounds played and ended the year with a $122,177 deficit. At the Springdale golf course, there was a 6.9 percent drop in rounds and a $22,381 deficit for 2010.
Currently, first-year leisure passes for residents cost $15, with an additional $10 to renew them each year.
Nonresident passes cost:
- $200 — individual pass
- $300 — dual pass (any two individuals age 10 and above who legally reside in the same household)
- $400 — family pass (one or two adults and all children ages 10-23 who legally reside in the same household)
- $100 — business membership
These fees are significantly higher than Birmingham's closest competitors, Bremer said. The most expensive leisure pass in Royal Oak is $75 while city golf courses in Southfield don't require any kind nonresident pass.
According to Bremer, in 2011, the city only sold 111 nonresident dual passes and 29 nonresident family passes.
"We are hard pressed to find other courses that require the purchase of an annual pass just in order to play golf," Bremer said.
Changes include lowering prices of nonresident passes
Bremer said scrapping the entire fee structure with Birmingham's golf courses isn't the best choice at this time — the course would have to produce 7,827 additional rounds of golf, at $14.50 per round, to make up for the loss of sales from nonresident leisure pass.
Instead, the DPS is recommending a multi-tiered plan to modify the existing price structure, Bremer said. The changes would include:
- Funelling all resident pass revenue into the General Fund, with 50 percent credited to the golf courses. Assuming 2,038 resident passes are sold or renewed annually, Bremer said this would produce approximately $10,500 in revenue.
- Reducing the nonresident individual pass from $200 to $100
- Eliminating the distinction between the nonresident dual and family passes, and charging $200 for nonresident passes for more than one person.
The proposed changes would reduce overall revenues at the golf courses by $34,000. However, Bremer said by offering less-expensive passes, the golf courses hope to recoup that revenue by selling more passes.
"Given the fact that nearly 22 percent of the total rounds played comes from nonresidents, I believe it is important to remain competitive in this area without completely scrapping the nonresident leisure pass system."
Additonal changes proposed for 2012 include the introduction of "annual passes" and "package club passes." An annual pass would allow for unlimited play all season and include greens fees and a leisure pass (so that person could use the ice arena as well). Four different packages would be offered, depending on the passholder's age and when they expect to play during the week:
- $600 — four-day pass (Monday-Thursday)
- $800 — five-day pass (Monday-Friday)
- $1,000 — seven-day pass (Sunday-Saturday)
- $400 — junior pass (Monday-Friday, for those under 18)
With a package club pass, specific rounds would be available for a variety of prices. The package would include greens fees only and is valid on any day.
- $145 — 10 rounds + one free round
- $290 — 20 rounds + two free rounds
- $435 — 30 rounds + three free rounds
- $580 — 40 rounds + four free rounds
- Junior golfers' (under 18) rounds would be discounted by 10 percent.
Courses to consider a tavern license
Bremer said another important revenue source for the golf courses is the sale of merchandise, including food and beverages. A small menu is available at the club houses, though alcohol is not permitted on the courses.
However, Bremer said judging from wastebaskets, golfers are already smuggling beer onto the course.
"We should capitalize on this potential revenue system," he said. "How many of us have grabbed a hot dog or sandwich and a beer after a round of golf, and how many of us have had a beer and a dog before golfing?"
Bremer said the DPS has presubmitted an application to the state Liquor Control Commission for review and is considering approving a full application for a tavern license.
While commissioners ultimately voted to approve DPS' proposal, Mayor Mark Nickita said he's worried the changes aren't enough.
"I feel this is a Band-Aid on a bigger wound," he said. "Ultimately, there's a bigger answer."
Commissioner Rackeline Hoff agreed, noting the DPS should think outside the box when looking for ways to resolve its deficits, such as collaborating with neighboring communities.
The concerns on Dec. 12, in fact, , when the DPS presented their report on the 2010 golf season. At that time, commission Tom McDaniel even proposed closing one of the courses to save money.
"It may sound like some kind of heresy, but we can't afford these kinds of luxuries," he said.