CourseCo updates city on golf operations since taking over management

CourseCo took over operations of the city’s two municipal gold courses in February and during the July 16 work session, the City Commission got an update on their progress.

Tom Bugbee, CourseCo’s chief operating officer, as well as Jeff Stange, the new general manager, and Keith Hollenback, golf superintendent, gave a brief overview on the transition and current operations.

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Bugbee said an immediate need they noticed was to improve relationships with the core user groups and improve customer service.

“We added some flexibility and listened to the customers,” Bugbee said.

They’ve also ramped up marketing and outreach to the community at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Bugbee said.

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They’ve also updated their technology and point of sale systems to speed tee time check in for leagues, online tee time bookings, improved customer data management and revenue management tools.

The weather at the start of the season made operations difficult, but with Hollenback making the switch from city employee to CourseCo employee, that helped smooth the transition. They’re labor model has increased efficiency and they’ve had good feedback from golfers on course conditions.

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The general goal in public golf, Bugbee said, is to “make the experience a little bit better every time you come back.”

Plans for the clubhouse renovation at Eagle Falls Golf Club are complete and the project is currently out for bid. Bugbee said that depending on the bids that come in, they’ll get the project complete in time for next golf season.

It will be a “whole new experience on the food and beverage side,” Bugbee said.

Since only about 10 percent of people golf, Bugbee said the company prioritizes community outreach to provide events for the other 90 percent of taxpayers.

For July 4, Eagle Falls hosted a fireworks viewing party with about 50 people.

In September, they’re planning a First Green event with a local school. The event is part of a national initiative that is an “environmental and STEM education outreach program using golf courses as environmental learning labs. Golf Course Superintendents and/or local golf course representatives host students on field trips where they test water quality, collect soil samples, identify plants, design plantings, assist in stream bed restoration and are involved in the ecology and environmental aspects of the golf course. The students are also introduced to many other aspects of golf,” according to the First Green website.

Bugbee said they’re working to create a military special for Mondays and hope to grow that user group and launch a league next season.

Jackie Lohman represents the Women’s Golf Association on the city’s golf advisory board and told commissioners that they’re “very pleased with the condition of the course.”

She said she’s heard feedback in her golf circles that the courses are a more enjoyable experience from start to finish under CourseCo.

“I can’t say enough how community friendly this business has become,” Lohman said.