Those who feared their favorite public golf course might fall victim to looming budget cuts can breathe a sigh of relief – for now.
Looking for ways to offset a $35 million budget shortfall in the new fiscal year beginning July 1, Mayor Greg Fischer released a spreadsheet of possible cuts in February that would be needed without additional tax revenue. One possibility included closing four of the city’s 10 public golf courses and laying off 13 of their employees, at a savings of $550,000.
Fischer announced at a news conference on Friday that while the parks department will close all four outdoor pools this summer, they will not close any golf courses for the time being.
“Golf courses will be under consideration,” Fischer said at Friday’s news conference. “The time period when the golf courses are profitable is the summertime. So we want to get through the summertime with the golf courses and then we’re looking at things after the golfing season on how we could potentially repurpose some of the golf courses or turn them into more viable assets for us.”
Fischer will present his final proposal to the Metro Council April 25; a budget must be in place by June 25.
Fischer originally said he could close four courses from a list of these six: Cherokee, Charlie Vettiner, Crescent Hill, Bobby Nichols, Iroquois and Sun Valley.
Nothing specific was offered in the spreadsheet, other than estimating the move could save $550,000 next year. A parks department spokesman couldn’t shed any light on what might happen.
“We’re undergoing budget discussions with the mayor’s office and Metro Council, much like other city departments who could be impacted by the proposed cuts,” Jon Reiter, a communications administrator with Louisville Parks and Recreation, said via e-mail. “No decisions have been made yet. All 10 of our courses are currently open, and some of them have reported a lot of play with the good weather this week.”
Of the six courses identified as possibly facing closure, Charlie Vettiner by far brought in the most revenue in 2018, based on numbers provided by the city. Fees collected for annual memberships at the course totaled $22,866, while green fees brought in nearly $332,000. More than 29,000 rounds of golf were played at Vettiner last year.
By contrast, the course on the mayor’s list that brought in the least amount of revenue was Bobby Nichols, which saw 10,144 rounds, bringing in $6,113 in annual fees and just over $79,000 in green fees for the year.
Iroquois was second highest with more than 24,000 rounds and a little over $270,000 in revenue; Crescent Hill was played more than 17,000 times, with revenue of about $166,000; Sun Valley saw just over 14,000 rounds played with revenue exceeding $122,000; and Cherokee saw more than 15,000 rounds, with roughly $117,000 in revenue.
The two courses that brought in the most revenue for the city were not on Fischer’s list: Seneca (total revenue nearly $579,000) and Quail Chase (more than $487,000).
Public courses generally are less expensive to play than private courses, with fees generally hovering between $10 and $15 for most courses, other than Quail Chase, which has slightly higher green fees.
But families hoping to use outdoor public pools are out of luck, at least for now. The city will not open its four outdoor swimming pools – Nelson Hornbeck Park, Algonquin Park, Camp Taylor Memorial Park and Sun Valley Park – this summer until at least July 1, while increasing fees at Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center. The mayor’s initial cut recommendations called for closing four of the five pools to save $223,000.
Visits to the four closed pools last year totaled just under 16,000, Reiter said, and the city hired 50 people for the summer to run the pools. Operating expenses totaled $265,000, and the expected savings in the next fiscal year is $272,500.
“I do not want to close the pools, but we have to hire people not knowing whether or not we’ll have a budget that will be approved to pay for those people,” Fischer said Friday. “So those are the kinds of actions that we are being forced to take right now because the money’s not going to be there.”
Here is a quick look at the six courses identified by Fischer as possibly being affected by budget cuts:
Course Pro: Greg Basham, PGA
Founded in 1895, Cherokee is one of the oldest municipal golf courses in the United States, the oldest public course in the city and also the shortest of the Louisville public courses. The course is nine holes, par 36.
2501 Alexander Road; (502) 458-9450
Course Pro: Mark Kemper
Charlie Vettiner Golf Course is designated as a “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses thanks to its high degree of environmental quality. It has been rated the seventh most challenging course in Kentucky. The course is 18 holes, par 72.
Course Pro: Barry Bonifield
Founded in 1926, Crescent Hill Golf Course is known as the perfect course for both novice and experienced golfers, with three par-three holes as well as a challenging, par-five, 477-yard hole. The course is nine holes, par 36.
Course Pro: Tommy Betz
This course is named for the Louisvillian and PGA professional Bobby Nichols and has rolling terrain with tree-lined fairways and large, bunkered greens. The course is nine holes, par 36.
4301 East Pages Lane; (502) 937-9051
Course Pro: Paul Schuchard
The serene Iroquois Golf Course is hilly and lined with trees, with the eighth hole its signature and a dogleg left at 405 yards. The course is 18 holes, par 71.
1501 Rundill Road; (501) 363-9520
Course Pro: Barry Basham
Sun Valley offers men’s and women’s leagues, with a smooth front nine and a challenging back nine with larger, undulating greens. The course is 18 holes, par 71.
Joe Sonka contributed reporting. This story has been updated with figures 2018 figures relating to the public swimming pools.