A pandemic silver lining? Golf courses in the city of San Diego are now full of money

Revenues rise sharply at San Diego’s three city-owned golf courses thanks to a 36% increase in rounds played since the COVID-19 pandemic boosted the popularity of golf nationwide.

The city’s annual golf course revenues have reached nearly $30 million and annual profits have soared to nearly $10 million, primarily due to a surge in Mission golf course play and revenue. Bay and Balboa Park.

Both courses have always been losers for the city and have required millions in grants from the more popular and prestigious Torrey Pines course. But in the fiscal year that ended last June, all three courses made profits.

Profits soared to $9.9 million this fiscal year from $3.9 million the previous year, a jump of 150%.

But this year of comparison includes the first months of the pandemic, in the spring of 2020, when classes were completely closed for two months. Compared to the fiscal year before the pandemic, last year’s revenue was up 52%, or $9.9 million from $6.5 million.

City officials say they expect the windfall to continue thanks in part to modest fee increases beginning this Saturday at all three courses.

The increases, which vary by day of the week and departure time, are between $1 and $2 per game for city residents and between $4 and $13 per game for non-residents. Fees will not increase for Junior Passes or Resident ID Cards.

But officials say there are also reasons for concern, particularly the steadily rising expenses, the difficulty in hiring staff and fears that golf’s pandemic outbreak may not be permanent.

Golfers will play the first hole at Balboa Park Golf Course on Tuesday, December 28, 2021 in San Diego.

(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“Unfortunately, we don’t believe these increases will be sustainable,” John Howard, assistant deputy manager of the city’s golf division, told the city council’s environment committee last month.

Annual expenses increased by 9% between fiscal year 2019 and fiscal year 2021, or $18.3 million compared to $20 million. This continues a series of steady increases in annual spending, which was just $15.6 million seven years ago.

Howard said the city’s courses also face the same staffing and supply chain issues as many other businesses that he says could reduce the quality of the golfer experience in the months and years to come. to come.

The increase in rounds played at Balboa and Mission Bay is remarkable, officials said.

Nationally, rounds of golf have increased by more than 22% since the start of the pandemic. Across all three San Diego courses, annual rounds increased from 305,524 to 414,572, a peak of 36%.

In Mission Bay, rounds increased from 66,404 in pre-pandemic fiscal year 2019 to 102,025 in fiscal year 2021, an increase of 54%. At the 18-hole Balboa course, they went from 61,871 to 83,015, a jump of 34%.

But on the nine-hole course at Balboa, a shorter course popular with people trying golf for the first time, during the pandemic rounds it went from 44,267 to 79,426 – a peak of 79%.

The additional revenue will allow the city to tackle a variety of planned upgrades that aim to make the courses more attractive to golfers – and more profitable.

At Mission Bay, the city plans to install a modern irrigation system similar to the systems recently installed on the other two courses. Mission Bay, the only floodlit golf course in the county, is also set to get a new clubhouse and restaurant.

At Torrey Pines, there are plans to demolish and replace the clubhouse and maintenance building, which will require moving the greens.

Golfers Tom Cudal, Manny Celedon, Nick Cudal and Dan Martin hit the 18th green at Balboa Park Golf Course

Golfers (left to right) Tom Cudal, Manny Celedon, Nick Cudal and Dan Martin putt on the 18th green at Balboa Park Golf Course.

(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

At Balboa, the county’s oldest municipal golf course at 102 years, the city plans to rebuild several greens, remodel the fourth hole and realign Golf Course Drive to make it safer for cyclists.

The city’s court revenue figures do not include rental payments. The city derives about $800,000 in total rental revenue from Mission Bay and Balboa Park, and about $1.6 million from Torrey Pines.

Annual payments equal 10% of gross revenue plus $1,806 per acre.

In addition to this, the city receives approximately $2 million combined each year from seven other courses it owns but does not operate: Carlton Oaks, Fairbanks Ranch Country Club, Tecolote Canyon, Mission Trails, Presidio Hills, The Vineyard and the ProKids. Golf Academy.

For more details on the fee increases beginning Saturday, visit sandiego.gov/golf.

Michael C. Ford