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12:43 AM Wed, Nov. 21st

Rate hike ahead for city golf course

PRESCOTT – The cost of playing golf at the city’s public course likely will be going up this year.

Although the city has already adjusted its proposed rate hike once, and might make more adjustments in the coming week, officials appeared set this past week on some form of a rate hike for Antelope Hills Golf Course.

City Manager Steve Norwood and Paul Parker, golf course manager, met with members of the Golf Course Advisory Committee and a group of interested golfers Thursday afternoon to discuss the proposed rate increase.

Norwood told the group that the golf course faces the prospect of making up more than $300,000 in its budget. If not for a rate increase, Norwood said, Antelope Hills would have to cut back on its services – possibly by reducing maintenance, or temporarily closing down one of the two courses during the winter.

The most recent proposal has the rate for 18 holes of golf at Antelope Hills increasing by $3 – from the current $22 to $25. In addition, the cart fee for 18 holes would increase from $11 to $13.

When city officials first proposed the golf rate increase, they suggested a $30 fee for 18 holes of golf, and $13 for a cart. But after hearing comments from golfers over the past several weeks, the new proposal emerged.

Even so, golfers had plenty of questions about the proposed rate increases this week.

For instance, several of the people at the meeting questioned Parker’s proposal to do away with higher rates for golfers who are not residents of the area. The current rate structure charges non-residents $40 for 18 holes of golf, and $15 for a cart.

Parker maintained that not only was the non-resident rate cumbersome to enforce, it also was getting little use by golfers. When out-of-towners hear of the $55 rate to play golf at Antelope Hills, Parker said, they either “are not making their tee times,” or they opt to simply buy a five-play card, which gives them a steep break in cost.

But several of the local golfers at the meeting suggested that the rate for out-of-towners should be at least $5 higher than the rate for locals.

Bill Palmquist maintained that Prescott golfers pay premium rates when they play in the Phoenix area in the winter, so Antelope Hills should take advantage of the situation for Phoenix golfers during the summer months.

Golfers also brought up concerns about the city’s policy that treats the golf course as a self-sufficient enterprise fund, with no financial help from the general fund.

“The bottom line is, this is a city-owned course,” said golfer Bernie Petsche, who maintained that the city should spend more money on the golf course, rather than on projects such as a new interchange at Highway 89A and Side Road.

Norwood responded that “the whole approach has always been that the golf course stands on its own. I doubt that will change.”

But within about five years, Norwood said, the “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” is that the golf course will have paid off its bond debt from the new course. That will free up more than a half-million dollars per year, which the golf course should then be able to use for operations and improvements, he said.

Other questions arose about the city’s plan to raise the rate for multiple-play cards.

The current structure gives a break to golfers who buy five-play, 15-play, 45-play, and 90-play cards.

The new proposal would do away with the five-play cards, and would offer the 15-play cards only for juniors. In addition, the cost of the 45-play card would increase from the current $787.50 for 18 holes, to $1,012.50. And the cost of a 90-play card would go from $1,350 to $1,800.

Dave Potthast, a member of the advisory committee, noted that the $1,800 cost may be prohibitive for many golfers. He suggested that the city offer the same rate ($20 per round) for the 45-play cards, for $900, which would be easier to manage for golfers.

And committee member Fred Veil questioned the city’s decision to move ahead with rate increases without doing a market study on how the new rates would affect the number of rounds of golf. “If you lose 10 percent of the rounds because you’ve increased the cost, you’re not going to gain a bit,” Veil said.

Parker noted that he had spoken with various golfing groups about the proposed rate increases. But, he said, “the problem is, when you send out a survey, who’s going to answer that they want a price increase?”

Along with the rate increases, the city also is proposing the addition of a senior-citizen day on Tuesdays, which would offer an 18-hole green fee and cart for $18 after noon to golfers 60 and older.

The Prescott City Council will make the final decision on the golf course fees. Norwood said the matter should go to the council on July 5 and 12.

Contact the reporter at cbarks@prescottaz.com