Louisville Golf

Steve Reed sinks a putt on Hole 1 at the Bobby Nichols Golf Course in Southwest Louisville. (WDRB Photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Steve Reed and many of his buddies have been playing Bobby Nichols Golf Course for decades.

"Well, I've been playing here since the '70s," Reed said before playing the course in southwest Louisville on Thursday evening. "It's scenic, because you have the trees and the creek. You get back on No. 7, you have a view of Indiana."

Even though he pays to play the city course, the city isn't profiting. In fact, Louisville loses $13.80 each time a golfer plays a round at Bobby Nichols.

That was just one troubling stat Louisville Parks & Recreation Director Dana Kasler shared with the Metro Council Parks and Sustainability Committee at a Thursday afternoon meeting.

"We had revenue decreases exceeding 15% at five of our courses," he told them. "Total loss for 2018 was $673,480."

Kasler unveiled a survey that showed Bobby Nichols isn't the only struggling course: Louisville is losing money at seven of its ten municipal golf courses.

In the midst of budget cuts, with the option of closing courses still on the table, the survey found out which courses golfers would be most okay with closing, if necessary. Bobby Nichols, Sun Valley and Cherokee topped the list.

"I think that'll be something for council to look at in this coming year," Kasler said.

But council will have to look at something else even sooner. Next month, according to Councilwoman Cindi Fowler (D-District 14), the city will send out a "Request for Proposal" to see if private entities would like some skin in the game.

"Whether it be the individual golf pros or whether it would be a management company to come in and manage some or all of the golf courses," she said.

Even though many of the courses are squarely in the red, Fowler thinks there will be interest from private parties.

"We did a (Request for Information) to gather information from some interested parties. We got lots of ideas in that process," she said.

Kasler's report spelled out the advantages of leasing courses to private partners: It would shift the burden of operation risk to the lessee, administrative overhead would be eliminated, Louisville would be relieved of the day-to-day responsibility of maintaining and operating the courses, and the lessee could repair the courses, some of which need more than $1 million of maintenance.

Whatever happens, Fowler said change is certain after Metro Council passed a tough city budget in June that didn't make golf a priority. The city didn't have the money to do so.

"We have to find a way to make it profitable for the city — not necessarily profitable but at least break even," she said.

Reed, meanwhile, has a different take.

"Is a golf course supposed to make money?" the avid golfer asked rhetorically. "It's a public facility built on tax money. Tennis courts don't make money. Libraries don't make money. Swimming pools don't make money. So why do we expect all of the golf courses to be profitable?"

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