CourseCo updates city on golf operations; commission approves increased fees

CourseCo took over management of the city’s two golf courses in February of 2019 and during the Feb. 18 work session, updated City Commissioners on the operations so far and plans for the next year.

Michael Sharp, CourseCo president and CEO, said the company kept every employee that wanted to stay though some employees opted to leave.

“We’re very happy with the team,” he said.

Increases proposed for city’s two golf courses

Sharp said that they had a delayed opening this year and weather challenges as well as some other hiccups, but that overall, course conditions had improved and the local management was receiving positive feedback.

“We think we accomplished a lot in 2019,” Sharp said.

CourseCo updates city on golf operations since taking over management

The newly renovated taphouse at Eagle Falls is nearing completion and opening, Sharp said, and commissioners said it was a significant improvement in the facility.

Once the taphouse is open, CourseCo officials expect that to improve the experience at Eagle Falls and open additional opportunities for events, programs and revenues.

Management agreement with CourseCo approved for city golf courses

The courses have been open through the winter and since it’s not been too snowy there had been 1,000 rounds played so far over the winter months, Sharp said.

Jeff Stange is the superintendent for both courses and said that they only keep Eagle Fals open for the winter since water lines at Anaconda prohibit that course being open in the winter and it wouldn’t make sense to staff both courses.

Sharp said tournament play had increased already in the first year and they’re anticipating further growth.

That’s due in part to changed policies regarding tournament play.

“We’re a little bit more open and a little bit more inviting for tournaments and we’re seeing some of that success,” Sharp said.

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They also have plans for more community events in the coming year now that they’re settling into operations at the Great Falls courses.

“Running these facilities as community assets is core to our success,” Sharp said.

Sharp said they are close to their budget projections. He said they’re short on revenues but have made up for most of that with reduced expenses.

The golf fund still owes the city’s general fund about $1 million.

City Manager Greg Doyon said that when the city transitioned to CourseCo, knew it would take a few years to see increased revenues. Doyon said he had doubts they could continue operating both courses, but the company was proving him wrong so far.

Doyon said the city will have to continue discussions on how to repay to general fund since that’s a significant amount of money.

Commissioners unanimously approved the proposed fee increases.

Don Ryan, a regular golfer who had expressed frustrations with the city courses in the past, thanked commissioners for hiring CourseCo.

He said that if CourseCo needs the increased fees for golf, which were presented during the Feb. 18 meeting, then the commission should approve it.

Ryan said there had been improvements in the maintenance and attitude at the golf courses.

“I really believe you’re on the right track,” he said. “They’re turning those golf courses back into an asset for Great Falls.”