Fort Worth golf courses $8 million in the hole

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by TODD UNGER

Bio | Email | Follow: @toddWFAA8

WFAA

Posted on March 12, 2014 at 10:01 PM

FORT WORTH — In a city where the sun shines more than 230 days a year, one might think four city-owned golf courses would reap big profits.

But there isn't anything sunny about Fort Worth's golf fund; it is more than $8 million in the red.

According to a review of city documents, taxpayers are now being forced to supplement the golf fund by nearly $1 million simply to keep the four courses open.

"That status quo costs money," said Clyde Picht, a former City Council member who said he tried to overhaul management of the courses years ago.

Started in 1982, the golf enterprise fund was intended to always be self-sufficient. But the economic downturn in 2000 and another in 2008 have contributed to dwindling play. There's also competition from other public and private courses.

"We pay our water bill because we need water. We pay our garbage bill because we need it. But golf? If you're short of money, skip it this week or next week," Picht said.

Picht said he ultimately hopes the city finds a solution, because he thinks city courses can be a lifestyle benefit.

But even some die-hard players admit they aren't sure taxpayers should be footing the bill for a game not everyone plays — especially if it doesn't look like the financial situation for the city's courses will improve anytime soon.

"It hasn't necessarily equated itself into dollars needed to sustain the golf courses," said John Corker, who plays a few times a week at Sycamore Creek Golf Course on the east side of town.

Mayor Betsy Price said the city has other programs it subsidizes. But she has expressed serious concern with the fund losing so much money, and the mayor is counting on recommendations from a golf advisory committee for improvements.

"You have to look at cost," she said. "We do have many projects we essentially underwrite, but we can't just hemorrhage money."

E-mail tunger@wfaa.com

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