Originally Published: April 22, 2010 10:35 p.m.
PRESCOTT - While slow in adjusting to the ailing economy at first, the city's Antelope Hills Golf Course is trying to make up for that next month with sweeping rate cuts.
Beginning on May 1, Antelope Hills General Manager Mack McCarley said, golfers at the municipal course will see rates go down significantly.
Local residents, for example, will pay $38 for a round of golf and a cart - down from about $42 to $46 (depending on the time of play). And the rate for non-residents will drop from $60 to $45.
McCarley said the rate reductions are part of a new direction that aims to attract more volume to the golf course, which, in turn, should help offset the lower rates.
After taking on the general-manager post at Antelope Hills Golf Course in February, McCarley said he - with the help of the Golf Course Advisory Committee and Business Manager Jim Crawley - took a look at the rate structure and found two obvious issues.
First of all, McCarley said the structure was "way too confusing," featuring about 55 different rates.
"It was like looking at a Chinese restaurant menu," McCarley said of the rates, which had different rates for weekday and weekend play, winter and summer, seniors, and out-of-towners.
Next, McCarley said the rates were too high - especially when compared with the competition both locally in the Phoenix area.
McCarley maintains that the higher rates contributed to a significant reduction in business at the golf course in recent years. Five years ago, he said, Antelope Hills attracted 90,000 rounds of golf, and this past year the number was down to 64,000.
While McCarley acknowledged that the bad economy and high gas prices had something to do with the reduction of play as well, he said, "The golf course was slow to adjust. We weren't marketing for out-of-town play, and we were priced too high."
That projected an image of, "Here it is; if you want to come play, we're here," McCarley said. "You can't do that. You need to be aggressive."
And by all accounts, the players who frequent Antelope Hills had a similar view.
"I've been harping on the guys to do that for a long time," Dave Potthast, president of the Mile-High Men's Golf Club, said this week of the rate reduction. "I think it is a really smart move."
Potthast says the high rates were causing many golfers to switch venues to other local golf courses, resulting in a loss of business for Antelope Hills. In addition, he said, many Phoenix-area golfers stopped making the trip to Prescott because they could play a variety of Phoenix-area courses during the summer for less.
But now, with the prospect of lower rates, Potthast said the numbers are rising again. For the Spring Classic event that will take place at Antelope Hills on May 1 and 2, he said, "We already have more people signed up than played last year."
Lynne Peters, president of the Women's 18-hole Golf Club, agreed that the rate reduction should help to bring in more golfers.
"I think they're headed in the right direction," she said, adding that the new management team under McCarley's direction has brought in a new attitude of cooperation.
"One of the major things is the tone out there - they're interested in our ideas," Peters said. "Everybody's really happy campers."
Tom Lilley, vice president of the Men's Mile-High Club, noted that the high rates, coupled with the bad economy, had priced many local golfers out of the market.
"For our members, the economy's gotten so bad that they struggle to play," Lilley said, pointing out that many of the club's members are in the construction industry.
After hearing of the proposal for rate reductions, Lilley said, "Our numbers are up quite a bit."
Along with reducing rates, McCarley said he also plans to beef up marketing to attract out-of-town golfers.
"We took our eye off the ball in terms of tourism," he said, noting that last year's 64,000 rounds of golf included fewer than 5,000 by out-of-town golfers - far short of the 20-to-25-percent of the total that it should be.
City Administrative Services Director Mic Fenech said that while increases in golf rates must go to the Prescott City Council for approval, no such requirement exists for rate reductions.
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