An Editorial of the Public Links Association of Southern California
(Republished with permission of the Public Links Golf Almanac)
Many have questioned whether the City of Ventura’s recently completed reconstruction of the Buenaventura Golf Course can satisfy the expectations of local golfers and lure visitors from an increasingly shrinking and competitive regional golf market.
Our answer is a resounding yes.
While it may true that in the aggregate there are too few golfers chasing too many golf courses in Ventura County, most of the newly constructed courses that have created this aggregate oversupply are not really competitors for the new Buenaventura facility. They are considerably more expensive and considerably more upscale — precisely the species of course that has sustained most of the game’s loss in the last six years.
The City of Ventura was wise when it put together its business plan for the reconstruction of its Buenaventura and Olivas Park Golf Courses. Instead of blindly following the 1990’s trend of appealing exclusively to an upscale constituency, the City listened to the consultants it retained — consultants who told them that while demand for $85 golf courses ebbs and flows per the vagaries of the economy and factors beyond anyone’s control, demand for a good $25 to $40 golf course never goes out of style. The City of Ventura took that advice to heart, and you can see the results at the new Buenaventura — a magnificently refurbished, beautifully conditioned, modern facility retaining much of the old charm that always characterized the old layout, with a green fee schedule providing affordable access to residents and nonresidents alike.
That is why we encourage all of Southern California’s municipal golf systems to take a close look at Ventura’s accomplishment.
With golf’s fortunes on the decline, it is absolutely imperative that municipalities recognize that gone are the days when they could simply open their golf courses’ front gates and expect to fill their tee sheets. They must now upgrade their product by reinvesting green fee dollars into improvements or run the risk of losing their share of a shrinking market.
The good news is that municipal golf properties command sufficient fees to make such reinvestment possible. The bad news is that many of Southern California’s municipalities rake the profits off the top of their golf programs instead of reinvesting them. These are the municipal programs that are in trouble.
But Ventura’s golfers can rest assured that their municipal program is not in trouble. Their policy makers have demonstrated the prescience necessary to operate their golf system as an enterprise fund, the understanding of the market required to develop a risk aversive business plan, the discipline needed to eschew grandiosity, and the wisdom to recognize that the primary obligation of publicly owned golf systems is to operate them for the benefit of their owners — all of them, not just the few who can afford $85 green fees.