The National Golf Foundation Consulting recommends several improvements be made to the Dunedin Golf Club, such as an irrigation.

DUNEDIN — City commissioners are mulling over recommendations expected to ensure the operations and condition of Dunedin Golf Club are on solid ground in the years to come.

Richard Singer, representing National Golf Foundation Consulting, discussed a sustainability study on the golf club Aug. 31 with city commissioners.

The reports says the club is a good quality golf facility with a mix of amenities but is in less than ideal condition due to the age of the greens and the grass types.

The course also is experiencing poor drainage and inadequate irrigation pressure with frequent breaks.

The foundation identified about $2.3 million to $2.75 million in capital projects to address needed repairs and new investments to upgrade facilities.

The most expensive capital item would be a full irrigation system replacement that the consultants said should be completed concurrently with the greens enhancement project.

Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said commissioners have discussed the golf course ever since she has been in office.

"This is our third or fourth time. What's the club going to be?" she said.

"And I just think it's time to put our money where our mouth is and put our best effort into that,” she said. "What does that mean? I don't know. I'm not going to dissect that right now. Because I think that's where we have the experts to come back and say, if you want this, this is how you get it," Bujalski said.

Commissioner Jeff Gow, who is the commission's liaison for the golf club, said commissioners take pride in making the biggest impact they can when they take on projects.

One of the struggles he's had since being a commissioner is the lack of a plan for the golf club.

"I’m just a big planner. I think if you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” he said. "This is a wonderful opportunity for us."

The city of Dunedin owns the golf club, which is operated via license as a semi-private golf club.

The form of golf operations is not common in public sector golf courses, the foundation's report says, but it has helped shield the city from economic responsibilities for most of an 80-year period.

Whether that form of management should be continued also was discussed. Commissioner Moe Freaney said more analysis is needed to determine to understand the risks and opportunities involved in turning the management of the golf club over to city officials.

The problem being "the city manager now has a new headache," she said.

Mike Bowman, president of the Dunedin Golf Club, said the club enjoyed working with the consultants

"As you are hearing, we are doing pretty well," Bowman said. "We are getting money in the bank, which is great."

Singer said it's obvious from commission's comments that they want the Golf Club to be a high-quality operation.

It needs to have a master plan and "stick to it," he said.

Commissioner John Tornga said the Golf Club is a "tremendous part of our history."

"How do we make sure that we are as profitable as we can be, whether we are a profit or a nonprofit to cover the costs of what we have," Tornga said.

There always will be risk about how do city officials minimize "risk of even a great loss," he said.

City officials will continue to meet with consultants to come up with more specifics on the scope of work involved.

The Golf Club has a rich history, dating back to 1927. The club includes an 18-hole championship golf course, designed by the famous architect Donald Ross, a clubhouse, pro shop/cart bar, maintenance facility and driving range.

Other National Golf Foundation Consulting findings and comments are:

• Green and member fees are appropriate. There may be an opportunity for an increase in fees to be supported with a facility upgrade

• The golf club had a very strong performance in the last 15-18 months, both in activity and revenue.

• The club's revenue was pegged at $2.75 million in 2019. It fell to $2.4 million in 2020 due to closures related to COVID-19. Revenue could exceed more than $3 million in 2021.

• Total annual operating expenses have been stable, around $2.5 million to $2.7 million.

• The license agreement between the city and club specifies that the golf course be maintained as a first-class facility. The foundation is of the opinion that the standard is not being met. In addition to significant new capital investment, the city and the club also will need to commit to an enhanced program of golf course maintenance that likely will add at least $172,000 to the annual maintenance budget.

• Customer surveys show strong support for the golf club but "deep-rooted" concern for the physical condition of the golf course, especially the greens.

• The membership is aging and more needs to be done to attract young golfers.

Corrected to state that the golf club is semi-private and not a members-only golf club.