September 20, 2006
The future of Augusta's Municipal Golf Course is up in the air.
Struggling finances have commissioners looking for private management to run the city-owned course.
Many people know this course as the "Patch", and it's been around for a long time. While there are no plans to close it, commissioners are planning to hand it over to the private sector. They say the course is losing money and hurting the budget.
If you ask some who play the Patch, they'll tell you it's one of the area's best places to pitch and putt.
"This golf course is really becoming a place where everybody wants to play now," golfer Michael Stokes told News 12.
But Augusta city leaders say a recent audit shows business isn't really booming, with the city-owned course operating deep in the hole.
"The city is losing $100,000 a year with the golf course based on last year's financial statements," said Commissioner Joe Bowles.
Bowles has played the course since he was 18. He says the financial decline is due to poor management and people being allowed to play for free.
Now, the commission is searching for a private firm to lease the course to in hopes of the city gaining some of the money lost.
"We already have one proposal on the golf course that would pay us approximately $60,000 a year in lease fees," Augusta mayor Deke Copenhaver told News 12.
But Patch golfers we talked to don't like the idea. They say the greens and management are better than ever, and they fear the longtime public course with reasonable fees will change with private management.
"They are going to give it to somebody for X amount of number here, almost nothing, then they are going to be losing money they was making off of this place," said golfer Charlie Wilson.
Two proposals for private management are already in. We're told one is from a well known PGA pro.
We have also learned Guy Reed, who has managed the Patch for years, was just placed on administrative leave without pay because commissioners found he is no longer PGA certified. He's also been suspended for five days for selling alcohol at the course on Sundays before noon. With these developments, it seems the problems here extend beyond finances.
Commissioners will wait for other offers to come in, and then take a vote sometime next month.