By Alan Prescott
June 14, 2021
“The Federal government has recently awarded the City of Fernandina Beach a grant totaling $5.5 million. Why not begin to replace the $1.2 million taken from the golf course in previous years from prior golf course profits by replenishing $500,00 this year and next year, followed by $200,000 in the third year.”
During the past week, I, again traveled to the Fernandina Beach Municipal Golf Course. This article is a series of opinions and observations about that visit. Again, the people that I encountered during this trip were very informative and informative.
However, my first comment concerns Mr. Michael Cooney, your new Golf Course Manager. Michael Cooney is the consummate PGA Golf Professional. The City of Fernandina Beach could not have hired a more qualified and competent person to run their golf facility. I met Michael in 1985, when we both competed in the Genesee Open in 1985. After successfully competing in several tournaments during the following year, Michael traveled to South Africa to play on the South African PGA Tour in 1987. Michael Cooney has superior golf course management skills that will benefit the Fernandina Beach facility. In my opinion, he is friendly, very informative, and a “go to” person who will professionally and successfully handle all of the challenges that are presented to him. If there is anything that I can do to help Mr. Cooney, I am only a phone call away. In addition, I am not ruling out another trip to the golf course.
I would be remiss to not continue the dialogue, which I first opened in the Fernandina Observer, on January 22, 2021. It all began when my fiancee forwarded an article about the Fernandina Beach Municipal Golf Course. The article indicated that the golf course needed help. It also opened up a can of worms. The writer of the article wrote that he played other golf courses rather than play the Fernandina Beach Municipal Golf Course, a facility that is under his control. During my first visit to your golf course, I found out that the author of the article was your mayor.
One of the mayor’s tasks and the task of commissioners should be to protect, sustain, and promote all facilities within his/her domain as if they are his own and for the benefit of the community that he serves.
As I have mentioned previously, this golf course needs help in both the financial and maintenance sectors. Michael Cooney can adequately handle the maintenance sector, and he will, but only with the proper funding.
The Federal government has recently awarded the City of Fernandina Beach a grant totaling $5.5 million. Why not begin to replace the $1.2 million taken from the golf course in previous years and from the prior golf course profits by replenishing $500,00 this year and next year, followed by $200,000 in the third year. Not only will this look good on the City balance sheet, it will allow for golf course improvement without affecting the tax rate. An additional benefit from this will be additional golf course profits due to increased play, which can only add to a positive bottom line for the City coffers.
Next, let’s discuss the watering situation. The City seems to limit the amount of water that is used by the golf course due to the electric bill at the golf course. Is that true? If so, this lack of watering will have a negative effect on golf course conditions. I have been told that the City has paid $50,000 to re-seed the greens. On 3 holes on the North side, greens on holes 3, 5, and 8, have been sodded to repair damage caused by a storm. Upon inspection of those greens, I found that some of the sod has begun to die due to a lack of proper irrigation. On one of these greens, there is a significant water runoff due to improper watering and the topography of the green allows for a significant water runoff due to the slope of the green from high in the rear portion of the green to low in the front of the green.
Another problem, that I mentioned in my first analysis, was the need to trim the grass around the sprinkler heads on the golf course, especially around the greens. This is still a concern because some of the sprinkler heads are not covering the areas that they are supposed to cover due to deflection of the water stream by the grass surrounding the sprinkler heads.
Furthermore, the marketing campaign for golf course promotion has been largely overlooked. It seems that the local golfing population has been fed negative information about the golf course by word of mouth. Start a program of improvement and let the public know. Begin with one focus, tout your success, and then continue. On the North course, that could be as little as taking out the dollar weed between the Spartina Grass directly in front of the tee box on hole #1.
Finally, let’s talk about the wages of the golf course workers. To encourage more people to apply for the job as a golf course maintenance assistant, the starting wage should be raised to at least $13.00 per hour for new hires and increased to $14.50 per hour for tenured help with more than 1 year of service. It can be accomplished with the allocations from the Federal grant as discussed above.
As a special recommendation to the Commission, I ask you to loosen up the purse strings and allocate those funds to the golf course. A second recommendation is to reduce the time required to hire new employees to require a maximum of 10 days from job offer to the first date of employment.
As usual, I am Alan Prescott. I can be reached by email at [email protected]
Please be safe and remain healthy.
Editor’s Note: Alan Prescott reached out to us after reading a recent article on the Fernandina Beach Golf Course. His articles are being well received by golfers and non-golfers. We thank Alan for his contribution to the Fernandina Observer.