Business of golf – Funding is key to improving the golf course

By Alan Prescott
May 4, 2022
Fernandina Beach Municipal Golf Course

For over a year now, I have been writing articles for the Fernandina Observer about golf’s true superstars, i.e., NOT the Tour Players who flood their presence on national television.  Surely, tour members can play.  They spend hour after hour, day after day, week after week and more honing their skills, working out in a local gym, and listening to sports psychologists.  However, Touring Golf Professionals are definitely NOT golf’s true superstars.

In fact, Touring Golf Professionals live in a “bubble.”  They showcase playability, NOT reality.  Golf’s true Superstars are those who develop and maintain golf courses, not the mega-millionaires who fund projects, even though it takes serious amounts of money to build and to maintain golf courses.
Just think about my journey.  I spent decades in every facet of the golf business learning my trade.  Since each person’s journey in the golf business begins with a golf course experience of a different kind, the golf business per se is NOT for everyone.  However, like the Tour Players, golf’s true superstars start out with a goal and a plan and then they work their plan.
Who are the Superstars in the golf business?  They are those people who do the actual work building and maintaining your local course.  This is the point where the meat of this article begins.  My original intent was to help out at the Fernandina Beach Municipal Golf Course after my now-deceased fiancee, Nora, read an article authored by your current mayor, who downplayed the FB Municipal Golf Course.
For more than a year now, I have read and listened to your mayor and most of your Commissioners.  There are several things that have been accomplished that are positive.  First, Mike Cooney was hired as the golf course manager.  In turn, Mike hired Blaine Ellerby, who is definitely one of the most highly trained and skilled golf course superintendents in the state of Florida, if not in the entire country.  Next, after extensive multiple discussions, the wages of the golf course maintenance staff were raised to an acceptable range.  This was followed by action.  Mike and Blaine made a plan within an inadequate budget for the golf course and began to improve the golf course.
Let’s face it, Mike and Blaine have began their journey to improve your golf course and to undo the 25+ plus years of neglect and underfunding of YOUR golf course.  It is the direct fault of YOUR commissioners, who assume that they can underfund your course for over 25 years, and do not have not a clue how to run a golf course efficiently and profitably, constantly waste money on additions like Top Tracer (the red herring of the golf course property), hire a so-called “management company” (that underperforms and overcharges for their services while doing little to improve your golf course), and then they blame everyone but themselves for the condition of your golf course. While I’m on this subject, how come there are no restrooms in the Top Tracer building or food services for the customers?
In the latest issue (April 21, 2022) of the Observer, the revenues for the month of March of 2022 have shown “an increase of 61.8%” for membership fees.  Where might these increases go?  Probably NOT back into the golf course.  Maybe they’ll go to absorb some of the red ink from the operation of the marina.  Want to charge higher rates for the use of the marina?  Please go ahead as those people who park their expensive yachts can surely afford that price increase.
In closing, I have voluntarily spent my time and money trying to help improve YOUR golf course.  You have one Commissioner who supports the golf course but doesn’t want to properly fund it.  You have another Commissioner who talks a good game and wants to display his competency in running a golf course, but, in reality, he also has no clue.  In my heart of hearts, what needs to be done, in order to return your golf course to profitability is to get the current Commissioners to correctly and immediately fund your golf course.
Early last year, I proposed a 9-hole Executive Par 3 Golf Course and an outdoor golf school.  That proposal went nowhere and landed on deaf ears.  Now, the Omni has a 10-hole Executive Par 3 Golf Course and Putting Facility, which will not only replace ocean erosion at that site but will be an additional attraction and a source of additional revenue for the OMNI, not for the City of Fernandina Beach.  It’s a shame and another missed opportunity for the citizens of your City.
Today, after this discussion, I have one question for you.  To the Commissioners, how loud do the citizens have to speak for YOU to hear them?
By the way, there is one more item to discuss.  Greens fees at FBMGC are the lowest on the Island.  The next competitive greens fees are $99.00 at Amelia River.  The operators of that golf facility have invested millions over the years and the condition at that facility is pristine, but expensive.  No matter how much talent you have put in place at the City Golf Course, without proper funding, you will prevent them from improving your golf course.  Think about it.  More importantly, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT TODAY!!!
As usual, my name is Alan Prescott. I am here for you, the golfers of FBMGC to help re-develop your golf course.
Thank you for your time and patience.
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.
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Lou Goldman
Lou Goldman(@lgoldmngmail-com)
2 years ago

Why do you think the CC is opposed to closing 9 holes an having better 18 hole course? There are several things that could be done with the closed 9.

Alan Prescott
Alan Prescott (@guest_64963)
2 years ago
Reply to  Lou Goldman

Absolutely. What are those things? So far, I’ve only heard about pickleball and disc golf. Why should the public have to pay a fortune to play an Executive (Par-3) golf course at a local resort. The full-time residents deserve a first class place to place and/or learn golf, not some underfunded golf club with a neglected clubhouse. It’s all about the money!!!

Doug Pugh
Doug Pugh (@guest_64974)
2 years ago
Reply to  Lou Goldman

Lou. I’m the assistant to Blaine the superintendent of golf course. To help you better understand how that would affect the play is simply put. If you closed the south course or north course, and we had significant or a good rain the west course floods and is not playable for several days. So let’s say we close west course. Bantams uses this for the auto auction and that is a good income fir Fiid and beverage. I personally believe 27 holes a great course to manage.

Michael Carabetta
Michael Carabetta (@guest_64978)
2 years ago
Reply to  Doug Pugh

The west course could be used as a concert site and could still support auto auction. I mentioned this before and someone said the houses in the area would be affected. I did a Google Earth search and this is just not true.

John Goshco
John Goshco (@guest_64982)
2 years ago

Concerts? Unamplified string quartets, I assume.
Amelia Island Parkway is noisy enough from automobile and motorcycle traffic. Just because a development “appears” to be out of sound range doesn’t mean that sounds don’t actually travel extremely well over the flat and mostly open terrain of the golf course.

Also – the FAA may have concerns regarding any facilities being built under the approach/departure to runway 9/27. They even nixed the planting of a palm tree in the roundabout at S 14th St. and AIP. Just a thought.

Doug Pugh
Doug Pugh (@guest_64959)
2 years ago

It’s great to see someone who has a favorable opinion of the direction the course is going. I firmly agree with Alan! The FBMGC has not been managed poorly not only before Casper but prior to that with ineffective GM’s. With the support needed this bourse can improve dramatically. It cannot happen in 6 months it a year. It has to to occur in measured steps!

Alan Prescott
Alan Prescott (@guest_64964)
2 years ago
Reply to  Doug Pugh

Exactly. Thank you for your comments. The current golf manager is the best and he recruited the best golf course superintendent in Florida. Let’s support them.