The Real Deal Miami

Local governments face money-losing municipal golf courses across Florida

County- and city-owned golf courses statewide had $100M in losses and got $64.9M in subsidies in the last five years
April 22, 2018 09:05AM

Martin County Golf Course

Municipal golf courses in Florida have lost $100 million in the last five years, leading some local governments to limit losses on golf courses while others invest in them.

An investigation by USA Today Network-Florida also shows that county-owned and city-owned golf courses across the state got $64.9 million of public subsidies from 2013 through 2017.

More subsidies for municipal golf courses are under consideration in many areas of the state.

Martin County, for example, is considering whether to spend $12.3 million to redesign its golf course and build a clubhouse there, even though the Martin County Golf Course has lost about $6.6 million since 2015.

Kevin Abbate, Martin County’s director of parks and recreation, said the spending plan is justified because the golf course is among 34 in the county that compete for players.

In Sarasota, the city-owned Bobby Jones Golf Club has lost approximately $3.7 million in the last five years and will need a subsidy of nearly $1 million to cover expenses.

Hagen Brody, a city commissioner in Sarasota, said golf is an expensive sport that people with limited income should be able to play.

Some local governments have hired private companies to manage their municipal golf courses. But private operators and public golf courses aren’t always an ideal match.

Brevard County hired Orlando-based Integrity Golf Co. to run its three golf courses. But after 18 months, Integrity gave two weeks’ notice before terminating its money-losing management agreement with the county.

Brevard County commissioners decided in March to dispose of all three of its golf courses.

The sport’s declining popularity is an ongoing challenge for cities and counties that own golf courses.

The National Golf Foundation reported that 23.8 million people who played a round of golf in the United States in 2016, down from 30 million in 2005. [] – Mike Seemuth