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Golfers Teed Off at Proposed Hike in Greens Fees at City Courses

Times Staff Writers

The city’s golfers are in revolt. Outraged over a proposed $5 fee increase at city courses, a contingent arrived at City Hall to warn that if prices go up, golfers will flee for better-maintained private links and the 87-year-old city program will collapse.

And in the true golf spirit of patience and persistence, the players came prepared with a thick bound report excoriating the mayor’s plan, part of his proposed $5.1-billion city budget for next year, and offering their own in its place.

A week into the City Council’s review of Mayor James K. Hahn’s budget proposal, which includes higher greens fees among other fee increases and service cuts, the golfers are the first organized group to come forward with complaints.

“I can’t emphasize enough that a $5 increase would be the beginning of the end of your system,” Craig Kessler of the Public Links Golf Assn. of Southern California told the council’s Budget Committee.

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On the lush links in Griffith Park, where two of the city’s 13 courses are laid out over softly rolling hills, many golfers agreed.

“That’s not right. Tell the mayor to cut back on his staff,” said Nick Collatos, 65. “I’ll go play somewhere else.”

Other golfers, some chomping on cigars in the misty morning air, grumbled about the proposed increase, but said the city’s courses are still a bargain.

“It’s like smoking and drinking: You’re still going to do it,” Manny Sanchez, 56, said of his golf habit. “Everybody talks about fees going up. It ain’t right, but hey, the counties, the states, they’re all broke. You’ve got to do something.”

Representatives of three Southern California golf associations protest that the mayor’s plan is based on false assumptions. They don’t believe a $5 increase -- from $21 to $26 on weekdays and from $27 to $32 on weekends -- would raise the $4.2 million a year the mayor’s office says it would. They calculate the hike would generate only about $1.4 million, or less if play drops because of the price increase.

That’s because only about 48% of the golf played on city courses is actually regulation 18-hole rounds, and the rest consists of discounted rounds played by seniors or juniors, or are nine-hole rounds, twilight rounds or pitch/putt courses.

Including the fee increase, golf would generate $18.5 million in revenue in the next fiscal year -- about enough to break even, according to Hahn’s budget.

Instead of higher fees, the golfers favor transferring unspent money in city golf accounts to the city’s general fund next year and creating a task force to explore changes that would increase revenue while also sprucing up deteriorating courses.

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In a week when some council members have expressed their own concerns that Hahn’s budget plan would create a shortfall in following years, some were impressed with the analysis in the golfers’ report.

Budget Committee Chairman Nick Pacheco, a golfer with a 15 handicap, proposed sitting down with the golfers “to talk about how we make this a truly self-sufficient system.”


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