Indian Hills Golf Course Manager Danny Visconti talks about the improvements the city is making to the 18-hole, publicly owned golf course. KEONA GARDNER/TCPALM
FORT PIERCE — Indian Hills Golf Course continues to need a bailout from the city, but at a slower rate than in past years.
The City Commission Monday approved transferring $358,000 from its general fund operating account to pay golf course expenses and salaries of employees who took a buyout last year.
The city made improvements to the 18-hole course by reallocating
More of the $1.5 million of the golf course budget has been spent on greens repair and maintenance and removing shrubbery and trees to make it easier for players to find their golf balls. The course saved about $5,000 by changing food vendors, according to city records.
Despite the golf course again needing more money, City Manager Nick Mimms is reluctant to recommend closing it, city spokeswoman Shyanne Helms said in an email.
“Fort Pierce’s cultural and recreational amenities contribute to the quality of life in our community, and the city invests in these assets for our citizens to experience and enjoy,” Helms said.
City Commissioner Reggie Sessions said it is getting harder for him to continue supporting the golf course when the money could be better spent paving roads and hiring police.
“It’s kind of hard to swallow this pill when you consider the predicament of our roads,” Sessions said. “Something has to be done.”
The city in October hired PGA professional Danny Visconti, former golf director at the Legacy Golf & Tennis Club in Port St. Lucie, to manage the course.
City officials have made changes such as creating membership tiers — $40 for city residents, $60 for Florida residents, $75 for non-Florida residents. In the past, memberships were $100 for city residents and $300 for out-of-state residents.
The result has been more people signing up.
From October 2016 to January 2017, only 97 people purchased memberships, compared to 385 from October to January, according to city records.
January saw 11 days when more than 200 golfers played the course, compared to only two days with that many golfers in January 2016, according to city officials.
Tier memberships and course improvements resulted in a return of large groups.
Hugh Powell and his league of 100 people stopped playing Indian Hills in 2008 because of poor conditions. The group returned late last year.
“The greens were slow and the rates were simply too high for the conditions of that course,” said Powell, of Port St. Lucie.
Golfer Gary Pintek said the city’s approach to cutting the grass more often and keeping landscape neat makes him want to play there.
“You spend up to four hours a day here and you want to play in some place nice,” Pintek, of Port St. Lucie, said. “I can tell the difference on the greens because the balls move faster and you can find your balls when you hit it in the rough.”
In 2002, when the city purchased the course — 1600 S. Third St., east of U.S. 1 — for $200,000, it anticipated yearly profits of $190,000.
Instead, the 75-year-old course has mostly been a money pit.
Over the past decade, the golf course has lost more than $2.5 million, and the city has spent more than $3.2 million from the general fund to keep it open, according to city financial records.
The municipal golf course is operated through one of the city’s six enterprise funds. Others are building, stormwater, city marina, solid waste and the Sunrise Theatre. Profits from the enterprise funds are shared with the city general fund.
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