Reader feedback from golf industry expert, Gary Shea: Apparently sometime in the next couple of weeks the city council will finally vote on whether to accept the proposal by Ron Jaworski Management to take over operations at golf course on a long term lease.
Why the city of Brigantine would not be thrilled to have a high profile, successful golf course ownership group like Ron Jaworski Management as part of the community is absolutely beyond me but my understanding is that the new majority and their supporters are against the proposal and it will probably be voted down.
I have no reason to question their motives and frankly I don’t really know most if not all of the politicians or their supporters that well so I’m not so quick to judge. I’m sure their intentions are based in a genuine concern for the community though many a historical disaster was spawned under the guise of good intentions.
I will be very honest that as an active member of the golf industry who owns a golf industry business, I was disappointed in the results from the issuing of the RFP but I chose to view it as an indication that those who own and operate golf courses or at least the 9 groups that came to the initial meeting, did not see the Brigantine Golf course as a good investment for whatever reasons though it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that the continued decline of the golf course industry and abrupt collapse of the Atlantic City Casino market may have influenced their decisions.
Perhaps if the RFP process hadn’t been bogged down by a lack of experience, misinformation and petty squabbling in addition to good old fashioned election year ‘silly season’ politicking, it could have been distributed a year earlier and a better response may have occurred.
Mr. Jaworski’s group pledged, in addition to paying the city a respectable lease fee, to invest 1.2 million dollars into the golf course over a 24 year period with a good chunk of that investment scheduled to be spent within the first 3 to 5 years. This amount was based on the perceived sale value of the golf course within the golf industry, the market, etc. as it was the product of considerable due diligence.
Any and all elected officials have a responsibility to seek out the opinions, suggestions and advice of individuals with experience in the fields and with the issues of any resolution that requires a vote. Well I don’t know how you could have gotten a better ‘expert’ opinion for ‘free’ than from the results of the RFP.
7 of the 9 competent and successful golf course operators declined to even submit a proposal showing no interest in the property. One proposal was from a very reputable and successful golf course ownership group but it was only a proposal to provide golf course management services for a fee with an investment equal to less than 10% of what the Jaworski group offered.
No matter what you thought of the RFP or the RFP process, as I was very critical of both, in the end it was the market that dictated the results.
The reason I bring this up is because the residents of Brigantine should fully understand one very important reality: To paraphrase The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, “This is your last chance to get your golf course in a fine romance!”
The golf course industry is not going to get any better any time soon which means that we won’t be seeing any other interested golf course operators lining up at the bridge if and when at some point down the road the idea of the long term lease becomes desired or necessary.
Regardless, whether the situation with the golf course remains as it is or is restructured as some other type of fiscal entity, the responsibility for the ownership decisions of the golf course will continue to lie in the hands of elected officials and the one historical, statistical truth that we can all rely on is that politicians make decisions based on politics first.
I mean no disrespect towards the current or past city officials, elected or employed, or the interested residents who are genuinely concerned about the future of the golf course. I am simply stating an unequivocal truth: there is no resident of Brigantine, myself included, who is qualified to make the responsible decisions of owning a golf course as a business, particularly in the current industry environment.
The proof of that statement lies in the results of city ownership over the past 12 years. Revenue continues to decline and/or stagnate to the point where the golf course is being subsidized by the taxpayers of Brigantine. Back in 2007 when the city was faced with the decision concerning investment in the golf course for the future as suggested by the golf course management company they had hired, they declined to act.
This, in simple terms, is no different than when your mechanic tells you that you need new brakes and you wait until you end up driving through the window of the WaWa before you replace them … or if your Doctor or Dentist tells you to have a procedure done and you wait until you are either in excruciating pain or dying before you move forward on it.
Again, I mean no disrespect to those involved in that decision. I don’t expect anyone to be really capable of understanding a business or profession without actually being involved on a day to day basis at some point in time. However, it was the wrong decision and has contributed greatly to the situation that exists today.
If the majority chooses to reject the Jaworski proposal they must understand that they will be effectively painting themselves and the residents of Brigantine into a corner with few if any acceptable or desirable options available.
The golf course management must be given the financial backing to effectively promote the golf course, enhance the day to day operations and of most importance, to properly maintain the golf course in order to remain competitive. Any golf course owner or business person in general will tell you that you can only ‘cut back expenses’ so far before you are severely restricting your ability to compete. In addition, as our outstanding Golf course Superintendent would tell you, the irrigation system must be replaced which will require a significant investment.
The Brigantine Golf Links is a part of the city’s history and the history of golf as well since the 1920’s. It deserves better than the status quo no matter how it is reorganized, repackaged and presented.
RELATED STORY: Brigantine Links to Go Non-Profit? Recipe for Shenanigans.
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