EVERETT — Every rental except a push cart is increasing at the city-owned golf courses this year.
Starting March 1, a peak-season weekend round for adults, military members and seniors at Legion Memorial will cost $42, a few dollars more. At Walter E. Hall, 18 holes will run $39, a couple of more dollars. All of the other rates increased between $1 and $3.
“If we kept rates the same, we would be losing money for the City of Everett,” said Rex Fullerton, general manager of Premier Golf Center, which manages the city’s two courses.
The city pays Premier $13,500 a month and keeps revenue from the courses. As an enterprise fund in the city’s budget, tax money is not used for golf course operations.
Fewer people played golf at Everett’s courses in the past four years than at the start of the past decade.
Between 2011 and 2015, rounds fluctuated between 109,000 and 115,000, according to city data.
Those numbers began to decline in 2017, when 103,766 rounds were played at the city-owned courses. A low of 90,230 rounds were paid for in 2018.
Everett’s golf courses saw an uptick to 98,247 last year.
Weather is the main factor in those changes. Construction at Legion the past two years hurt numbers there as well, Fullerton said.
With rounds in flux and costs remaining stable or rising, the city and Premier sought to balance its budget. The city’s proposed 2020 budget includes $4.6 million in golf course-related expenses and around $4.5 million in revenue from green fees, dining and retail, cart and equipment rentals, and admission tax.
“Rates are intended to recover all of the costs associated with operating the golf courses,” said Bob Leonard, assistant director of Everett Parks and Community Services.
A few locations in Snohomish County have closed over the past two decades.
Monroe Golf Course, just east of Monroe, was purchased and repurposed to become Tall Firs Disc Golf Course in 2014.
Kayak Point Golf Course near Stanwood, which is owned by Snohomish County, closed in October 2018. The county is reconsidering the space’s future. It may not include golf.
Across the country, the problem may have been an aggressive expansion of golf courses that was disproportionate to the number of golfers. Before 2006, golf course supply grew 44% over 20 years, according to the National Golf Foundation, a group that tracks the sport’s industry in the U.S.
Several governments have shed or repurposed their golf courses over the past two decades. Municipalities found their management to be a challenge and public use limited, as opposed to green space or a park.
But in Everett, Legion Memorial’s water hazards double as stormwater retention ponds. A project last year added and enlarged ponds to help ease flooding in the nearby neighborhood. Walter Hall’s stream and ponds also receive stormwater from the surrounding area, Leonard said.
In Snohomish County, 10 courses are open to the public. Cedarcrest in Marysville and Lynnwood are also owned by their respective cities and managed by Premier Golf Center.
According to parks commission minutes from Dec. 3, the city had not received any formal complaints about the proposed rate changes.