Committee updated on business review of Northwood Golf Course
Final report from Green Golf Partners to be presented in November
BY KEVIN BONESKE
Rhinelander’s Golf Course Advisory Committee received an update at Tuesday’s meeting on the business review taking place at the city-owned Northwood Golf Course, which has accumulated losses over the years of its operation in the neighborhood of $1 million.
The full City Council agreed in August to take $10,000 out of the general fund to have the consulting work done by Green Golf Partners, which is doing consulting over 60 days with $5,000 having been payable upon execution of the agreement and the other $5,000 payable within 30 days of the final presentation to the committee.
The CEO of Green Golf Partners, Matt McIntee, appeared before the committee on behalf of the company, which has been directed by the city to review the course’s current management practices to see if they can be altered to achieve efficiency that would allow financial stability, review and discuss the impact of a possible third-party management and its associated financial and local impact, and also look at the possibility of the sale of the course.
“The bottom line it is a golf business and that is what we looked at,” said McIntee, who also noted the company has looked at the surrounding market to understanding the economics of what other golf courses are experiencing. “Quite frankly, there’s a number of golf courses that are not too far from experiencing what you’re experiencing.”
Given the “fairly well-defined market share” that courses in the area are competing for, McIntee said “other dynamics” can affect the number of golfers a course can attract.
“Eagle River clearly has a stronger local tourism market that they benefit from,” he said. “Watersmeet has a casino that provides direct benefits to them. You all, in my opinion, have the best golf course.”
Before the Green Golf Partners wraps up its consulting work this month, McIntee said the company would like to conduct a survey of the course’s patrons through the database as well as conduct an email survey of the committee members.
“Ultimately, the decision made in the end (on the future of the Northwood Golf Course property) is your decision, not ours,” he said. “I think you need to recognize that you have a nice asset at your disposal.”
Out of all the municipal golf courses in the United States, McIntee said “the vast majority of those golf courses are subsidized as part of the municipalities’ intention to provide a recreational amenity to their residents for a fair price.”
“The reason they choose to do that, as opposed to sell it, is that they have more financial bandwidth than individuals that buy (golf courses),” he said. “There are a number of golf courses in this state that have gone bankrupt. And when that happens, it has a significant effect on not only the actual golf course and patrons of the golf course, but it can have an effect on the local economy and the employees.”
McIntee said Rhinelander is not alone in the situation that it faces with the Northwood Golf Course running a deficit and deciding what to do about the course in the future.
“I would love to be able to tell you there’s a right or a wrong decision, but there is not, because the golf business is tough right now, so you have to decide what you think,” he said. “We always recommend, when we deal with municipalities, that they proceed in a manner that they think is most consistent with the best interests of all the residents of their municipality, not just the golfers.”
Committee members set their next meeting for Nov. 7 at 2 p.m. when they plan to hear the final report on the Northwood Golf Course from Green Golf Partners.