Lions Club golf course has record-breaking month

Inclement weather somewhat slowed 2023 revenues at Lions Club Municipal Golf Course during the spring and part of the summer but that didn't stop the facility from breaking a record.

For the first time ever, the golf course saw its monthly revenue break $40,000 in July.

Golfers have braved rain and extreme heat for much of the year and members of the El Dorado Parks and Playgrounds Commission are waiting to see how third-quarter revenues will fare.

In 2022, LCMGC clocked its highest annual revenue ever at $312,174.

As the El Dorado Parks and Playgrounds Commission reviewed two months' -- July and August -- worth of financial reports during a regular meeting on Sept. 26, chairman Ken Goudy said he did not think revenues for September would reach or top those of September 2022 ($38,8610)

His prediction was right.

On Wednesday, Terry McCaskill, co-manager of LCMGC, reported that revenues came in at $30,714 for September.

McCaskill noted that play was slow Wednesday as rain pounded the area for much of the day.

However, five golfers were getting their rounds in as rain poured at the golf course late Wednesday afternoon, he said.

More rain is also in the weather forecast for most of today in El Dorado.

Goudy said last week that slower play in September was primarily attributed to extreme heat that carried over from August and extensive work that has been done to improve the greens at Lions Club and prepare them for the winter season.

Goudy turned his attention toward record-breaking monthly revenues earlier in the summer.

"We're going to brag on July first. We busted $40,000 for the month for the first time ever," he said, drawing a cheerful "Hoorah!" from parks and playgrounds Commissioner Anjanett Walker-Kemp.

Goudy pointed out that summer temperatures intensified in August, bringing the monthly total to $30,405 -- $353 behind revenues from August of 2022.

For the first quarter of the year, revenues ($48,638) outpaced those from the same period in 2022 ($39,789).

The trend inverted during Q2.

Revenues came in at $10,650-plus in the second quarter of 2022 ($103,702), compared to the second quarter of this year ($93,046).

The numbers rose sharply in July, coming in at $40,013 -- $4,331 ahead of the total for July of 2022.

The downward trend returned in August, along with a spike in outdoor temperatures, which hovered in the high 90s and topped 100 degrees for several days during the month.

For August, the revenue intake was $30,406, versus $33,282 in August of 2022.

The numbers took an even deeper dive last month, tumbling from $38,861 during the previous year to $30,714.

Danny Carelock, manager of LCMGC, previously reported that golfers contended with rain in late winter, spring and early summer.

For instance, Carelock told the EPPC that the golf course brought in only $847 during a five-day wet spell in May.

On Sept. 26, Commissioner Greg Harrison asked Carelock if green fees have been increased to keep pace with inflation and the rising cost of materials.

Earlier, Harrison had inquired about expenditures and Goudy explained that expenditures for the golf course flow through the Department of Public Works.

"We haven't. That's going to be y'all's decision," Carelock said in response to Harrison's question about the green fees.

Goudy said there has not been an increase in green fees for more than a decade at LCMGC.

He said he had considered broaching the topic earlier this year when the city agreed to lease a new fleet of golf carts.

"But with all the trouble we had with the (putting) greens, I just didn't feel comfortable raising green fees until we got them fixed," Goudy explained. "Now we know what the problems are and I think we've got them fixed and we shouldn't have any more trouble."

He said the EPPC may revisit the matter early next spring.

"Obviously, the golf course isn't going to make a profit but you just want to make sure you have enough revenue coming in to close the (profit-loss) gap," Harrison said.

Turnaround

City officials have worked to address the matter for a number of years.

In 2022, El Dorado City Council members lauded the EPPC and LCMGC staff for helping to bridge the revenue-expenditure gap at the facility.

They noted that the golf course is a service to the community and is not intended to be a money-maker but over the years, there had been a few bumps in the road regarding financial activity at the facility.

City officials began to monitor the situation more closely in the 2010s, particularly after a state legislative audit finding in 2016 flagged the city for "continuously carrying over a negative, (annual) balance for the golf course."

The finding prompted the council to transfer an additional $106,000 from the city's general fund to beef up the Lions Club budget and make sure the facility would remain in the clear for the year.

At the time, council members noted that the practice had been ongoing because the facility had been operating in the red for a number of years.

They also learned that while the golf course was under budget for 2016, income had remained low and the chasm between revenues and expenditures continued to widen.

Council members considered cost-cutting measures and ways to help boost revenue, including hiring managers in 2017 -- eliminating the long-held practice of contracting with a golf professional -- and advertising and promoting the facility, respectively.

Other measures that have been enacted within the past six years include reducing in some of the fees to play at the golf course, purchasing equipment to better maintain the grounds, improving facilities -- including the public, outdoor restroom -- and building a new pro shop and golf cart barn.

Thanks to efforts by the EPPC, a second public, outdoor restroom recently opened on the south end of the golf course near the Lions Club Park and basketball courts and Leslie Ann Darden Recreational Trail that surrounds LCMGC and the adjacent Union County Fairgrounds.

Electrical work and the addition of a restroom remain on a new workshop/storage building that was recently erected at LCMGC.

New LCMGC brochures have also recently been printed. The project was presented by the EPPC and funded by the El Dorado Advertising and Promotion Commission at a cost of $1,890.

On Sept. 26, Goudy said prices are reasonable to play at Lions Club, noting that senior members can play nine holes for $12.50 during the week.

"Where can you go and play that cheap? We're going to look at that. We'll bring a proposal to this group and we'll talk about it and let (Carelock) make a recommendation and then we'll approve it in some way, form or fashion," Goudy said.

Activity

Carelock reported that a few tournaments have been held at LCMGC since the parks and playgrounds commission last met in July. The group canceled its monthly meeting in August.

The Simmons First Invitational high school golf tournament was held July 31.

Carelock said the tournament drew a full field with 60-plus players and while the event did not generate "a whole lot of money" for the golf course, all the golf carts were rented on the day of the tournament.

The 30th annual First Financial SHARE Foundation Benefit Golf Tournament was held on Sept. 16, with 72 teams competing, Carelock said.

"It was a big tournament, big tournament," he said.

Added Goudy, "They were out there morning and afternoon."

Both said the tournament was expected to generate approximately $3,600 in revenue for the golf course.

The 2-A 6 District high school golf tournament, co-hosted by Junction City and Parkers Chapel high schools, followed on Sept. 19 and brought in golfers from nine schools, Carelock said.

"We did it with the school(s). Of course, we emptied our cart barn but we had to furnish all the coaches and all the monitors with carts so we didn't get to rent many carts," Carelock said, adding that Parkers Chapel won the tournament.

Goudy said visiting teams likely spent money at local restaurants.

A couple of teams had expressed interest in staying overnight in El Dorado but local lodging spaces were booked up due to the Murphy USA Shootout, a stop on the Epson Tour, a Ladies Professional Golf Association developmental tour.

The eighth annual event was held last month at the Mystic Creek Golf Club.

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