Why Golf at the Lake Wildwood Course?
Golf Committee Chairman
Why golf at Lake Wildwood? Fifty years ago, Boise Cascade built our community and decided to build a Lake and a Golf Course to attract buyers of the property they were trying to sell. Their plan worked and their development attracted many Lake and Golf lovers.
I haven’t heard a lot of information about the early days, but by the 90’s the Community, particularly golf, was booming. There were at least 1,500 property owners that used the golf facilities, and about 800 of them paid for an annual pass. There were about 75-80,000 rounds of golf played every year back then, which is the definition of an over-worked course!
In those days it was difficult to get a tee-time, and a system was put in place to balance the usage among all golfers that wanted to play. That system (or a version of it) is still in place today, even though the number of golfers has diminished over the past 20 years.
As has been well publicized, the number of golfers around the country, and in Lake Wildwood, has been decreasing for the past 10-15 years. Our course still hosts about 40,000 rounds per year, and that number has been fairly constant for the past 8-10 years.
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Those rounds are played by between 950-1,000 residents and their guests. A little over 700 households in Lake Wildwood used the Golf Course in 2019. That’s 25% of households. As a comparison, Lake of the Pines hosts about 20,000 rounds per year; showing that Lake Wildwood is much healthier than LOP but being healthier doesn’t mean we don’t have a problem.
Golf and tennis used to be “self-supporting” amenities in Lake Wildwood. This means that annual revenues from each of those activities needed to be enough, and only enough, to pay for the operating costs.
For tennis, the operating costs are and have been minimal, and being self-supporting was not an issue. For golf, we are maintaining almost 200 acres of grass, the operating costs are substantial, and the task of determining fees each year to meet (and not exceed) costs was monumental.
Some years revenue exceeded cost, and then that revenue went back into the calculation for the following year. If the revenue was below cost, the fees for the following year needed to absorb that loss. Fees were constantly going up, and sometimes down to reflect recovery of the balance from the prior year.
In 2010, in an effort to get control of some of the issues facing our golf community, the Golf Committee undertook a project to evaluate the Maintenance costs for the course. The O&M Sub-committee put in countless hours researching comparable courses and getting into intricate detail of how our dollars were being spent.
At the conclusion of this study, it was recommended that Lake Wildwood should have been spending about $750,000 annually instead of the $1,000,000 that was in the budget.
The aftermath of the project also resulted in Lake Wildwood bringing in Superintendent Bill Hamilton to address the operational issues.
Besides finding savings opportunities for the Golf operation, one finding (employee benefit management) led to tremendous savings for the entire Administration budget, and Lake Wildwood residents.
In 2012, still realizing that more needed to be done to save golf, the Golf Committee was tasked by the Board to look into growing the game within the gates. The Committee recommended several programs to encourage existing residents to play or take up the game.
Twilight rates were introduced for golfers to come out in the afternoons at a reduced rate. The Golf Pro and his staff were encouraged to implement new lesson programs to bring new folks to the game and to continue the Junior Summer camp that has been in place for many years. Guest Pass packages were introduced so that members could purchase discounted rounds for their guests. Twilight couples golf was resurrected and promoted, encouraging golfers to come out and have a good time with their neighbors in a softly competitive environment.
More recently, the Committee has recommended and facilitated the installation of a “short course” for juniors, beginners, and others that find the full-size course formidable.
The Committee also recommended that we “open” the Course to a limited number of outside golfers (PUPs). We are about nine months into the trial period, have 14 people participating in the program, and have not heard of any negative impact from these outsiders.
On the contrary, they have blended in well with our golfing community and added business to Food & Beverage. Additionally, two PUPs are now looking to relocate into Lake Wildwood from another community near Grass Valley.
For these reasons, the Golf Committee has recommended that we continue the program at the previously stated limit of 20 participants.
In 2014/15, another Golf sub-committee, Sustainability, recommended to the Board that we do Marketing of Lake Wildwood and Golf. For various reasons, that recommendation was not adopted, a minimal amount of marketing was done in 2015, and the initiative essentially died.
The Sustainability Subcommittee was resurrected in 2019, and are hard at work generating new ideas to build our golf program.
In 2018 a Lake Wildwood Golf Brochure was created and distributed to various locations around Grass Valley. This brochure will be used in the upcoming marketing effort by the CRC, and the Golf Committee has appointed a liaison to the CRC to help with the project.
In 2012, Golf and Tennis ceased to be “self-supporting amenities.” In the past seven years (through 5/31/19), Golf has actually contributed more money to the LWA bottom line than it has spent. Four of the seven years were positive contributions to the overall budget, one was fairly even, and the last two were substantially negative. Cumulatively for those seven years, Golf is $81K in the black. The past two years have not been good, and something needs to be done, but Golf has not been suffering and costing the community prior to these recent years.
Besides providing healthy recreation for about 1,000 Lake Wildwood members, their families, and guests; what good is the Golf Course?
Golfers and their tournaments utilize the Food & Beverage operation, and provide a large percentage of the business for that operation, helping minimize the cost (subsidy) to the overall Community. Golfers used to be about 90-95 percent of the support of the Clubhouse, but with the new Facility, it is really good to see that many non-golfers are taking the opportunity to experience the new and improved amenity.
The Golf Course is also the site of several Community fundraising activities. Over the years, Music in the Mountains, the Knights of Columbus, and Roots & Wings have held golf tournaments at Wildwood, raising tens of thousands of dollars for their respective causes, and utilizing the LWA Food & Beverage operation, too.
Additionally, and the most successful; an “Injured Veterans” tournament has been held at Wildwood for the past six years. Organized and attended mostly by Lake Wildwood residents, this tournament has raised and donated about $250,000 to worthy seriously injured Veterans of our military.
Each year, Lake Wildwood hosts a “Tribute to Our Troops” event where service members from Beale AFB are invited to play here and have lunch, hosted by Lake Wildwood Members.
Most realtors agree that having a Golf Course in Lake Wildwood contributes to the value of all property. Homes on the course benefit more than those not, and of course a home on the Lake benefits the most from any of our amenities.
We golfers realize the challenges ahead of us, and are working hard to soften the blow for the entire Community. We’re not there yet, but are encouraged by initiatives coming out of our Sustainability sub-committee, the CRC, as well as our new General Manager, Bryan Cox.
Stay Safe & Hit ‘Em Straight!
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