If there is one sound that Jeff Hastings loves hearing at the DeBell Golf Course in Burbank, it’s the sound of lawn mowers cutting grass.
For Hastings, the new general manager of the municipal golf course, hearing the fairways and greens being cut on a consistent basis tells him progress is being made — improvements city officials have been waiting to see.
“It means that grass is growing, and we’re on it,” Hastings said at the course Thursday morning.
Earlier, on Tuesday, representatives from Touchstone Golf — the new operator of DeBell — gave the City Council an update on how the golf course and restaurant have been performing since the firm took over in December.
Even with significant rainfall at the beginning of the year, Touchstone President Mark Luthman said the course’s first fourth months of operation under the new company exceeded what they anticipated for the first quarter.
The golf facility had a gross profit of $502,062, which was $46,772 more than what Touchstone had budgeted from Dec. 12 through March. Additionally, there were 10,869 rounds of golf played, 976 more than expected, Luthman said.
Although the golf course is expected to lose about $95,000 during the first quarter due to start-up costs, Luthman said the facility is budgeted to end the 2019-20 fiscal year with a roughly $251,000 profit.
What is helping Touchstone achieve that goal boils down to effective marketing toward a variety of groups that use, or the company hopes will use, the DeBell facilities, Hastings said.
The rounds of golf continue to increase as the weather clears up and more people hear about the changes being made at the golf course, he added.
Additionally, the creation of several events — such as a Mother’s Day Brunch, a Cinco de Mayo tournament, live music events and food tastings — have drawn both golfers and non-golfers to DeBell and the recently renamed Hilltop Restaurant and Bar.
After just four months of operation, Hastings said he and his staff have made several changes to the par-71 course — making the first cut of the green larger, slowly widening the fairways, repairing portions of the cart path, tackling repairs to the irrigation system, mowing more often and cleaning up the driving range.
Offering breakfast options, like a popular tater tot breakfast burrito, have appeased early-bird golfers, he added.
“It’s doing things like that, those simple things, [that] make a big difference,” Hastings said.
Before taking over management at DeBell, Hastings was general manager at the Dos Lagos Golf Course in Corona, one of the other golf courses in Touchstone’s portfolio.
Like the previous course where he worked, Hastings said DeBell had similar issues, such as a low number of rounds of golf played and lack of marketing.
After almost 10 years at Dos Lagos, Hastings said he managed to turn things around. He hopes to do the same for DeBell.
Helping him accomplish that goal is Joaquin Herbozo, head golf professional at DeBell who has been an employee of the facility for nearly 17 years.
While he commended the Scozzola family, the previous operators of the golf course, for the decades of work they put into DeBell, Herbozo said Touchstone is taking the facility to its next chapter.
“It’s still early to say, and I’ve been here during good months and bad months, but hopefully this upward trend continues,” Herbozo said.