Golf exploded in 2020, providing respite for players looking for safe recreation during the pandemic and increased revenue for local governments and municipal courses.
The Falmouth Country Club recorded 55,000 laps in 2020, the most on record, and a marked increase from previous years. The average number of rounds of golf per year on the city-owned course is 38,000 to 40,000.
The profits support the debt service on the bond used to purchase the course and also to pay the capital costs for the course improvements. Until fiscal 2020, the city was losing money on the property.
“The pandemic was the biggest blow to the arm golf has ever had, surpassing the Tiger Woods effect,” said Ryan Phelps, vice president of northeast operations at Indigo Golf.
Indigo Golf, formerly Billy Casper Golf, is the turnkey management company that Falmouth contracts to operate the club. The agreement began in 2005 and has been renewed twice since.
Mr. Phelps said the blessing was unexpected.
“Last year when COVID hit, we thought the sky was falling. We were trying to figure out where the bottom would be and how we were going to survive. We have remained open and it turns out that golf is naturally a socially distanced activity, ”he said.
The club has changed its procedures so that golfers never have to enter the golf house and transactions can all be done online. The club also removed flower boxes outside the pro’s store, set up credit card stations and kept concessions closed during the height of the pandemic.
“The way we set it up, golfers didn’t need to get inside at all. We wanted to make sure golfers feel safe, ”said Phelps.
In the 16 years since Falmouth purchased the property, the bond payment and capital costs have exceeded Indigo Golf’s annual rental payment.
Falmouth deputy general manager Peter Johnson-Staub said the town made $ 80,000 from the course last year, up from a loss of $ 96,000 the year before. In 2020, Indigo Golf paid Falmouth $ 707,427, of which $ 627,299 was reserved for debt payment and $ 50,000 for capital costs.
The agreement between the city and Indigo Golf stipulates a base annual rent paid to Falmouth which increases each year. In 2006, the basic rent paid was $ 277,000; in 2020, that figure was $ 400,000. Under the deal, Falmouth receives 50 percent of green fee revenue over $ 1,415,000 and 10 percent of golf and food and beverage store sales over $ 200,000, Mr. Johnson-Staub.
The city pays about $ 550,000 per year on a $ 6.5 million bond it entered into in 2005 to purchase the property, and spends $ 50,000 per year on capital improvements.
Falmouth bought the 238 acres for golf and open space 16 years ago for $ 15.8 million, using funds from the 300 Committee, the Land Bank Act and the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment, and a general requirement.
There are advantages beyond the profits for the municipal court. In addition to reduced rates for residents, Falmouth High School golf teams use the course for practice and play, said Matthew Burgess, golf director for the club. The Falmouth Recreation Department uses it for summer programs and hosts the PGA Junior League and Cape Cod Junior Golf Association programs.
Mr Burgess said that while 2021 will be a strong year for golf, last year will always be the flagship year.
“As more activities open up and people have other options, it will be difficult to compete last year. But we had a very good spring and are optimistic for a good year.