As much as $3.2 million needs to be spent to resurrect RedGate Golf Course if Rockville’s leaders choose to keep the city-owned property as a public course, a newly released study by the National Golf Foundation estimates.
RedGate closed Dec. 31 after golf course manager Billy Casper Golf ended its 10-year management lease with the city three years early in October.
The golf foundation, which evaluates public courses around the country, concluded RedGate could survive but only after significant repairs and renovations are made to the 18-hole course.
The course has the potential to attract enough golfers annually to eventually arrive “at or near” a financial break-even point, according to the report that was commissioned by the city as it evaluates options for the property.
“The National Golf Foundation are experts in their field,” Rockville City Manager Rob DeSpirito said. “The report seems accurate and viable, but by their own admission the cost estimates to repair the course are rough estimates. We need harder numbers.”
DiSpirito said the foundation recommends hiring a golf architect to secure more accurate estimates, which he imagines could be a next step.
“Assuming we need hard estimates,” DeSpirito said.
City officials are also considering converting the property for other uses, including housing, athletic fields and possibly an arboretum. An appraisal of the possible uses of the tract of land is in the works. The financial viability of the course, under city or private management, has been debated for more than a decade.
The foundation’s report recommended keeping RedGate closed throughout 2019 and reopening in 2020 under a new “hybrid” management plan, if the city continues using the property as a golf course.
Installing an irrigation system, removing a “severe” overgrowth of trees, repairing cart paths and restoring bunkers, tees and greens make up the bulk of the renovation costs, estimated at $2.5 million to $3.2 million.
The disrepair of the course is partly blamed for a significant drop in revenues, estimated to be 56 percent lower than in 2015, the golf foundation found.
Billy Casper took over the course in 2012 signing a 10-year management lease with the city. Other factors in decreased revenue include discounted golf round prices offered to Billy Casper club members, a declining interest in golf and bad weather.
However, there is a stark contrast in lost revenue at RedGate compared to public courses nationwide.
“In the total U.S. golf market, public golf facility activity and revenue has declined about 5.9 percent since 2015,” the report stated.
RedGate would also have to contend with its No. 1 competitor, Montgomery County, which operates nine public golf courses in the area. Seven of those are within 15 miles of the 144-acre property bordering Norbeck and Avery roads.
NGF found traffic leading to RedGate was a deterrent to accessibility and the hilly terrain of the course a problem for beginner golfers.
If RedGate is to remain, the report said an enhanced marketing plan and a strong boost in technology would be required to stay competitive. And funds used to reopen the course would not be tied to future golf operation revenues. An estimated 36,000 rounds of golf annually would support operating expenses of the course, the report stated.
Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said she has not reviewed the report.