The members of Friends of Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Golf Course, Inc., (FOLB) were interested to read the front page article in last week’s Standard concerning Lady Bird Golf Course. As citizens, we laud the Standard’s interest in factual and fair investigative reporting and hope that the newspaper will continue to delve into what goes on “inside the ropes” not only at City Hall but also at the County Court House and other facets of our increasingly diverse and sophisticated community. As a group interested in maximizing the value of the golf course to our community, FOLB has always called for transparency and inclusion of all stakeholders for all decisions concerning Lady Bird. We also have championed professional management, the adoption of best practices, improved financial controls and managerial accountability.
We understand that news is news only if it is fresh. However, it would be inappropriate if last week’s Standard article detracts from a truly fabulous happening: Lady Bird will re-open later this month after an extensive near-complete makeover. The new Lady Bird is a classic Hill Country design with United States Golf Association approved greens and beautiful fairways which will delight residents and visitors alike.
The decisions which lead to accumulated annual losses when the golf course was part of the Parks and Recreation Department occurred long ago. While Council will have to decide how to best manage the legacy of past golf course finances, it would be unfair to hold current management responsible for policies undertaken in the past.
Over the past 18 months, Council has moved aggressively and pro-actively to establish policies to remedy the operational deficiencies previously accepted as the norm. Council established the Golf Department as a unique entity in October, 2010 and in January, 2011, appointed Alan Wooley, PGA to be the Director of Golf. Within the past year, Mr. Wooley appointed Bill Hanna, an experienced professional golf course superintendent, to be the Chief of Agronomy. Both have labored to play the cards they were dealt and have provided the professional, constant, and creative oversight of the $1.8M renovation project needed to assure maximum value for our city’s investment. Going forward, Mr. Wooley’ charge is to operate the Golf Department to fulfill Council objectives to move away from annual operating losses which lead to past indebtedness and to support tourism which is our community’s single largest economic driver.
The Golf Department is unique within the city structure: only the golf course must compete in the marketplace for its revenues. Thus, the golf course is more like a business than any other municipal undertaking. In our 2012 Report to City Council, we provide recommendations covering nearly all aspects of golf course management to help make Lady Bird a financial success while still providing affordable recreation for old and young alike. In order for the Golf Department to perform to the business plan which Council accepted, both Council and the City Manager should allow Mr. Wooley the managerial autonomy and flexibility he needs to operate Lady Bird to her maximum potential.