Riehl World: Taj Magolf’s Extreme Makeover

by Richard J. Riehl on August 11, 2011

ThelossingsMark Twain once called the game of golf “a good walk spoiled.” Something similar could be said of Carlsbad’s $68 million public golf course–a splendid setting for weddings, dining and golf, spoiled by tilting fairways, undersized greens, and lost balls.

A struggling economy, the many affordable courses nearby, and its playability have been blamed for the course’s annual deficits. Hopes for a financial turnaround are based mostly on the attractiveness of the venue.

That was a summary of a consultant’s report for the city of Rockville, Maryland on the financial condition of its Redgate Municipal Golf Course. The recommendations? Modify greens and bunkers, build additional facilities for player convenience, and launch a more aggressive marketing campaign.

Sound familiar? The differences between The Crossings and Redgate are foreboding. Rockville’s course is 40 years old. You can play it for half of what you pay for a round at Carlsbad’s Taj Magolf.The Crossings has failed to meet its budgeted number of rounds each year since it opened, plunging from 52,000 in 2008 to 42,000 in 2010. Despite a three percent loss in green fee revenue last year, a three percent increase was budgeted last November for 2011.

A consultant, who was paid $16,000 by the city to explain why golfers weren’t flocking to Carlsbad, explained the course is too difficult and the players need a lounge to build camaraderie.

A third party golf course architect recommended modifications to 10 of the 18 holes. The Crossings website boasts the course was designed by Greg Nash, “whose name is synonymous with beautiful, playable courses.” Maybe he should be given the chance to rebut the claim that more than half his creation needs a do-over.

After city staff identified the three holes most in need of fixing, the council agreed to the one with the lowest cost, $80,000 for the 18th green. Estimated costs to modify the 10th green and the 15th fairway were $179,000 and $264,000 respectively. If the average cost of these three is applied to the remaining seven needing work, the course will be acceptably playable after the city kicks in another $1.2 million.

City staff suggests the Boardroom be converted into a players’ lounge. That assumes the sweaty survivors of frustrating hours on an unplayable course will march happily up a couple of flights of stairs to relax with a cool one in a small, windowless room, surrounded by kitchen sounds, hall talk by diners headed for the restaurant, and the drone of TV sports commentators.

If revenue doesn’t increase this year as expected, will the city pin its hopes for next year on a friendlier 18th green and a comfy golfer’s lounge?

Stay tuned.

Richard Riehl writes from Carlsbadistan. Email him at fogcutter1@yahoo.com

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