There’s something to be said for attending certain events in person, rather than just reading about the results later. The Rockville City Council meeting to decide the fate of RedGate Golf Course seemed straightforward but subtle undercurrents in the room told a much deeper tale. There were the knowing glances being passed among the golf course employees in the audience, the park agency staffer sitting with a fat binder of background materials at the ready (only to never be asked a single question), the nervous conviction of the citizen representing the RedGate Advisory Committee, the faint bristling of some of the city council members at the mere mention of the county government and its Revenue Authority courses. Even the seating arrangement of the council was telling, with the three members who seemed more sympathetic to the course sitting on one side while the two budget hawks were together on the other side.full, failing to invest in improving the course over the years, and more recently causing confusion in the local community about whether the course would even continue to operate. However, the council had recently redeemed themselves by contracting with the National Golf Foundation (NGF) to produce a consulting report. The detailed report contained a number of practical recommendations, such as how many more tee times needed to be booked per year.
Remarkably, the city council admitted to shouldering much of the blame for the course’s predicament, cutting the marketing budget in the course’s heyday in the 1990s when tee times were the course back to breaking even.
Although as a casual golf course user I found the report somewhat comforting (yay, RedGate is not a lost cause!), it seemed to cause a lot of distress for the course employees and even the citizens on the advisory committee due to one fairly typical recommendation—outsourcing the course management or even leasing out the course entirely. I recognized a lot of faces in the audience (hey, there’s the starter! hey, there’s the pro!) and began to see there was a lot more at stake for some folks than cheap and convenient evening golf rounds. Interestingly, the recreation and parks department staff seemed to be in favor of the outsourcing option, perhaps due to a budget set-up that never gave the agency full control of the situation anyway.
After a long and frankly frustrating discussion, the council decided to issue a RFP with the help of NGF for outside management and/or leasing of the course, but at the same time to also advertise for a savior—a director of golf who could come in and “run it like a business” while still keeping management internal. I’ll report on those developments when they’re ready in a few weeks, just about when it should be time to get back out to the driving range this spring.
Parks & Recreation magazine