The 17th green at Walter E. Hall Golf Course in Everett. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

The 17th green at Walter E. Hall Golf Course in Everett. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Golf’s flagging popularity leaves a hole at Everett courses

EVERETT — Both of Everett’s public golf courses are raising their rates March 15.

The rate increases are modest, ranging from 49 cents to $1.50 per round at both Legion Memorial and Walter E. Hall golf courses. Rates for senior frequent-player cards and passes also are rising.

That’s part of a “nudge pricing” strategy, Everett Parks and Recreation Director Lori Cummings said, to keep rates competitive with other courses in the region without skimping on services.

“We strive for and are part of the mid-range, which is part of our business strategy,” Cummings told the Everett City Council on Wednesday.

Since last year, Everett Parks &Recreation has been conducting an analysis of golf operations to stem ongoing losses.

While income per hole and overall revenues were up in 2017 compared with 2016, the number of rounds played had fallen, and expenses continue to outstrip income.

It’s estimated that revenues from both courses will rise to $4.3 million in 2017 from $4 million in 2016. But expenses also are expected to rise to $4.5 million this year from $4.1 million last year.

Part of the reason for the lower number of rounds played is bad weather.

“Mother Nature is our business partner,” Cummings said.

But another reason for the bleaker financial picture is a combination of increased operational costs, including course maintenance and new equipment, and the decline in the popularity of the sport.

Golf already skews toward older generations, and young families often don’t have the time for a four- or five-hour round of golf on the weekend.

It’s a trend that is echoed nationwide. The Ballinger Lake Golf Course in Mountlake Terrace shut down in 2013 and was converted into a city park. In 2012, Snohomish County bought and shut down the Wellington Hills course outside Woodinville, turning it into a park.

The Lynnwood Golf Course also has been in tough financial straits, with the city loaning it money to keep it afloat. In 2016, the course was on the hook to pay back $1.1 million to the city, even after hiring an outside management company to run it more efficiently.

Last year, Everett began trying to figure out how to make the golf courses self-sustaining over the long term, and if that wasn’t possible, what to do with them.

Without making changes, the most optimistic assessment had revenues growing 2 percent per year while expenses grew 3 percent annually. By 2021, that loss was forecast to reach at least $586,000.

Cummings said the analysis will take another year to complete, longer than expected because of a reorganization of the parks department.

It is expected that the analysis will include a breakdown of sport demographics, capital costs, equipment replacement and maintenance and business models.

The city could sell unused property, change the layout of the courses to speed up rounds or even sell one of courses outright.

“Everything’s on the table,” Cummings said.

In the meantime, Everett Parks and Recreation plans to ask the City Council to extend its current management contract with Premier Golf Centers of Seattle for another two years. That’s because the results of the golf study may change how the city writes requests for bids on a new contract, Cummings said.

Premier operates 13 golf courses in the Puget Sound region. In addition to Everett’s two courses, the company also manages the Lynnwood course and the Cedarcrest Golf Course in Marysville.

The contract includes a financial incentive if the company keeps expenses low and generates as much revenue as possible for the city, Cummings said.

“This is the first year that they did not receive one,” she said.

There has been some success in containing costs, she said. For 2016, it was projected that expenses would surpass revenue by more than $300,000.

Instead, it looks like the year will close out with a $150,000 loss.

Mayor Ray Stephanson, who plays golf, warned the department to be careful not to trim too much so that the sport suffers.

“A lot of courses you see with lower price points, frankly, have skimped on maintenance and it’s not as much fun,” Stephanson said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Arlington
Arlington woman dies in crash on Highway 530

The Washington State Patrol says a Stanwood man ran a red light, striking Zoey Ensey as she turned onto the highway.

FILE - This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. A leading doctor who chairs a World Health Organization expert group described the unprecedented outbreak of the rare disease monkeypox in developed countries as "a random event" that might be explained by risky sexual behavior at two recent mass events in Europe. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP, File)
Monkeypox case count rises to 6 in Snohomish County

Meanwhile, cases in the state have roughly doubled every week. Most of those have been in neighboring King County.

Farmer Frog employees sort through a pallet of lettuce at their new location on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At Farmer Frog’s new pad, nonprofit helps feed 1.5M Washingtonians

The emergency food distribution network began amid the pandemic. Demand was high — so high, the truck volume led them to move.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Snohomish County, cities announce $9.6M for mental health, shelter

Projects span from Edmonds to Sultan. Each city is using American Rescue Plan Act money, with the county contributing, too.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Suspect in custody after man’s gunshot death, standoff

Deputies responded to a domestic violence call and found the suspect barricaded on the property near Snohomish.

A view of the proposed alternative station location to Everett Station located east of the current BNSF rail tracks in downtown. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Could light rail station under Pacific Avenue and over railroad work?

A group representing people around Everett Station wants Sound Transit to study the idea.

Jon Elmgren, president of the Everett Rock Club, talks with two club members while out searching for olivine and other minerals on Saturday, July 22, 2022, along the Nooksack River near Deming, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett rockhounds dig in for shiny, rare, ‘ugly as sin’ treasure

This club has been around for 83 years. They’ll tell you what rocks their world — and how to identify “leaverite.”

State Representative Robert Sutherland, left, gives a thumbs-up to passing drivers as he and a few volunteers wave flags and campaign signs along the side of State Route 9 on July 22, in Lake Stevens. Sam Low, right, talks with seniors on July 20 in Lake Stevens. (Sutherland photo by Ryan Berry / The Herald, Low photo by Kevin Clark / The Herald)
In GOP battle of Sutherland vs. Low, Democrats may tip the scale

The state lawmaker and Snohomish County council member are vying for a House seat. Democrats make up roughly 40% of the vote.

Two students walk along a path through campus Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. The college’s youth-reengagement program has lost its funding, and around 150 students are now without the money they need to attend classes. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Monroe nixes college program, leaving 150-plus students in the lurch

For years, the Monroe School District footed the bill for “U3” students, who have gotten mixed messages about why that’s ending.

Most Read