Susan Hardee Steger
At the city commission workshop held on January 8, Damian Brink General Manager of the Fernandina Beach Golf Course for Billy Casper Golf (BCG), along with Dan Zimmer, Regional Manager updated commissioners on the City’s golf course enterprise fund.
According to Brink, BCG was hired by the City to manage golf operations in December of 201o due to the “uncertainty around the golf course and the direction it was headed.” The goals cited by BCG were to make the golf club profitable and contribute to the City’s general fund.
BCG began its work by “stabilizing the facility, improving customer service and the guest experience, increasing playability of the course, and marketing the facility,” says Brink. He indicated the struggles initially faced by the BCG involved the public’s uncertainly over change of management, and a struggling economy in the last few years.
Zimmer, indicted “most major golf markets are steady or down.” December 2010/2011 showed 49,595 rounds played at the Fernandina course, and in 2011/2012 49,370 rounds. According to Zimmer, the rounds played over these two years are consistent with what is happening across the northeast Florida region.
Brink continued the presentation admitting, budget numbers in the past fiscal year were
missed, but management compensated by saving $100,000 in expenses and labor. There were several factors that have hindered BCG from meeting budget numbers. Over the last two years BCG was hit with $51,000 in unemployment costs due to layoffs prior to BCG’s management of facility.
During that same time, $73,000 in unbudgeted but necessary capital improvements were made to the facility including a new air condition in the banquet room, new irrigation well pump, and improvements to the driving range including new netting. In addition to these expenses, BCG utilized its “best industry pricing” to procure new John Deere maintenance equipment and new Yamaha golf carts to replace the old and deteriorating fleets.
Brink said these improvements will set in motion a positive 2012-2013 budget year. A consistent increase in food beverage and pro shop revenue is taking place. Prior to Billy Casper, the city did not receive 100% revenue from pro shop and F&B sales. Proceeds from these revenue sources have increased over the last 2 years. BCG is offering a better product in food and beverage and through industry pricing the cost of of goods is more attractive. “Four weddings have been booked over the last week,” said Brink.
BCG believes the wheels are in motion for positive 2012/2013 budget year. The current state of the facilities and conditions offer a better opportunity for BCG to achieve2012/2013 budget goals and to be able to contribute back to the general fund. (Since 2008, total accumulated losses owed to the City General Fund amounts to $594,194.)
Brink listed the following additional accomplishments made by BCG since their arrival.
BCG has trained the entire staff in customer service. “A happy guest is a repeat customer.” Mystery shops that measure customer satisfaction, showed 88.15% rating in the first year of BCG’s management. Now those rating are 93.3%. Management is seeing improvement in service that will lead to improved results.
Marketing golf course through updated website. Advantage Card and Player Development programs increased play and revenue. BCG implemented a marketing program that markets the course in the North Florida area. BCG gathers data on its golfers and successfully uses that data to target market by determining what areas and how far they are traveling to play the course. Successful marketing has taken place with new player development programs. Two new player programs “Golf Fore Women” and “Get Golf Ready” have attracted over 70 new golfers and generated over 1200 rounds last year.
By utilized Billy Casper buying power on selected merchance, the Costs of Goods is lower. BCG increased Food and Beverage revenue by implementing a new menu, improving service, and improving overall quality of the product.
Renovated the driving range and increased hitting area by 50%. Tom Burnett Golf Academy is on site to provide lessons with state of the art teaching facility and video analysis.
Continue to reduce labor and expenses in all areas of the operations.
Developed partnerships with A.I.-Fernandina-Yulee Chamber of Commerce, Florida’s First Coast of Golf, and area resorts, hotels, and rental agencies to increase out of market play.
Billy Casper Golf’s Agronomic contribution to success of the facility.
Updated maintenance facility and repaired equipment that was suffering from wear and tear. Replaced older and broken equipment with state of the art equipment, again using BCG buying power on John Deere maintenance equipment and new golf cart fleet.
Improved playability of the course. Brink indicated “weed pressure” was one of the biggest challenges upon BCG arrival. “Weed removal does not happen overnight,” Brink continued. “It is a continuous process but BCG believes it has come along way.”
Defined fairways, roughs and course boundaries to increase aesthetics.
Repainted and refurbished bathrooms on the course.
Updated course accessories, ball washers, 150 yard markers, tee signs, and course signs.
Selectively pruned trees increasing sunlight and air movement to promote turf growth.
Improved water quality and aesthetics on the South Course by dredging and expanding ponds.
BCG has received Audubon Certification in 4 categories in December 2012. According to the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary the program provides “education and certification program that helps golf courses protect our environment and preserve the natural heritage of the game of golf. By helping people enhance the valuable natural areas and wildlife habitats that golf courses provide, improve efficiency, and minimize potentially harmful impacts of golf course operations, the program serves as vital resource for golf courses.”
Brink will be bringing a new membership plan before the commission with the goal to increase membership. One portion of the plan might be to offer monthly payment of dues.
In response to Commissioner Boner’s question regarding Tourism and Development dollars available to market the City golf course, Brink will continue to meet with Tourism Development personnel to discuss ways to work together to market the City course.
January 28, 2013 9:00 p.m.