The SunBird Golf Course

Patrick Leach

On April 19, a failure of one of the two main irrigation pumps for the golf course occurred. One of the pumps was completely out, and the second pump is on its “last leg.” These pumps, as advised, are not repairable. Additionally, the existing pump control panel, which triggers the use of the pump, is unserviceable, and replacement parts are no longer in production. Plus, 25 of 26 gate valves used to isolate small sections of the irrigation system to allow repair and maintenance are not operational.

The urgency to replace all will cost approximately $190,000. Failure to do so will result in not having the ability to irrigate the golf course, which will cause the course to dry up, go brown, and die.

That is what the SunBird Golf Board faced late last month. They went to work to save the golf course. They had to raise the money. The reserve fund is very limited. Please consider these facts:

Currently, the golf members pay an annual membership fee of $300, and an annual golf course green fee of $1,650. For a household of two golfers, this translates into an annual expense of $3,900.

Non-members pay more. We also rely on outsiders to help make up the difference in costs.

From a golf industry perspective, golf courses are extremely difficult to be profitable, even though it brings significant value to property and community.

A golf course closes in the United States at an average rate of every other day. Last year, there were 146 closures (a bit better than previous years, so COVID-19 did not have a negative impact). According to The Wall Street Journal, the value of properties associated with a golf course, regardless of whether they were on the course or not, instantly dropped an average of 25%.

Fifty percent of the public or semi-private golf courses in the U.S. (around 12,000) either are operationally in the red or barely breaking even. How do they make it? There are five ways to mitigate the deficit. None is available to SunBird. We are on our own.

Being that we are operationally tight, with a minimum reserve fund, here is the good news:

1. There are roughly 220 golf members. A special $600 assessment was approved by a vote of 192 “yes” and 12 “no.” This will raise around $120,000.

2. The community meeting (golfers and non-golfers) resulted in various donations totaling $35,000 so far (at the date of this writing). These are awesome community members who are not golfers but see the value of a golf course.

3. Currently, there is a fundraising effort going on to attempt to raise the remaining.

4. Even non-members who are golfers, I have heard, have contributed their $600.

So, who to thank? Dave White, the SunBird Golf Board Chair, and Julie Anderson, the treasurer, who spearheaded this effort, together with the other board members: Wayne Onyx, Duane Dub, Ed Leonard, Jean Pritchard, and Sandy Crane who had the unpleasant task of putting a plan together quickly and to communicate it out. A special appreciation goes to the 192 members who voted yes to be assessed, the many terrific contributors from the community, and those who are supportive but unable to contribute. Thanks to you all.

We were close to losing the golf course. Once again, several stepped up. Thank you. We owe you all a debt of gratitude.