Hamilton golf courses almost broke even despite weather

Workers from Roberts Roofing replace the roof of the clubhouse at Potter’s Park golf course in Hamilton on Feb. 15. The roof replacement is among upgrades happening before this year’s golf season is in full swing. The new roof will cost an estimated $30,000. The parking lot at Potter’s Park will also be resurfaced for $75,000. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

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Workers from Roberts Roofing replace the roof of the clubhouse at Potter’s Park golf course in Hamilton on Feb. 15. The roof replacement is among upgrades happening before this year’s golf season is in full swing. The new roof will cost an estimated $30,000. The parking lot at Potter’s Park will also be resurfaced for $75,000. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Mostly because of the weather in 2016 — wet April weekends and a scorching summer — rounds played and revenues were down at both of Hamilton’s city-run golf courses. Despite that, the two courses — Potter’s Park and Twin Run — might have broken even financially if the city hadn’t made planned capital investments that will pay for themselves in a few years.

Some 20,802 rounds were played at Potter’s last year, down 16.4 percent from 2o15, and earning that course $249,274 ($31,963 below 2015).

Over at Twin Run, 20,212 rounds were played, 24.5 percent fewer than the year earlier, reaping $215,119 in fees for the course, which was $23,039 less than 2015.

“It was so hot this summer, even our rangers played less golf,” Adam Helms, general manager of the courses, said.

The city also purchased several pieces of equipment to maintain the greens.

“To begin the year, we purchased roughly $50,000 of equipment,” Helms said.

That included new aerification equipment and a fairway aerifier from the Vista Verde Golf Course when it closed in Liberty Twp.

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The aerification machinery cost about $35,000.

Before that purchase, the city had paid contractors to do that work, which cost $12,000 to $15,000 per year, so the equipment should pay for itself in three years, Helms said.

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Hamilton also bought specialized mower-blade sharpeners for about $10,000 from Middletown’s Weatherwax Golf Course after it closed last November.

“You’re going to say, ‘$10,000 to sharpen mower blades?’ Well, we have something like 50 mower blades, between the two courses, and also sent those out every year to get those sharpened, to the tune of $5,000. So we’ll have that piece of equipment paid off in a year-and-a-half, two years,” Helms said.

Hamilton spent another $7,000 on a tractor from Weatherwax.

Hamilton’s courses finished 2016 with a loss of $34,291. But, Helms points out, “You net out that $50,000 in equipment … and we’re making money.”

City spending at the two parks combined in 2016 was $1,095,179, just 1.8 percent above $1,075,603 in 2015.

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Hamilton native and West Side resident Michael Ryan (Badin High School Class of 2003), an insurance underwriter, said he played about half as much in 2016 than he did the previous two years.

“My numbers were definitely down, just due to the weather,” Ryan said. “The constant rain on the weekends, especially with the slow start in the spring, just due to the cold temperatures and all that.”

“When summer really got going, I slowed it down because of the excessive heat warnings,” said Ryan, who golfs only at Potter’s. He likes that course because, “I just like the look. It’s got that old-fashioned golf-course style. It’s one of the original golf courses in the city. I like how it’s laid out and designed — even though I’m left-handed. It’s brutal for guys like me, because it’s made for a right-handed golfer.”

“I enjoy the look of it, especially in the fall,” he said. “The trees have been there forever — it just has a really good golf-course look. It’s kept up just as great as Twin Run.”

Ryan considers the two courses “a huge asset” for not only Hamilton, but also for all of Butler County, especially given last year’s closure of Middletown’s Weatherwax course.

“Especially with the downward trend of city-owned courses, I think Hamilton residents are very lucky that we’re able to maintain our courses,” he said.

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Hamilton hopes its two city-owned golf courses will benefit from an influx of former Weatherwax and Vista Verde players. Rates are dropping at Twin Run golf course as an incentive for those players to check out the course.

“There’s only so often an opportunity comes around where a course like Weatherwax closes, where you’re going to have an entire clientele of golfers looking for somewhere else to play,” Helms said. “This is our chance to say, ‘Come play golf at our courses. We’ll make it super-affordable.’ ”

At Twin Run, adult season passes will drop to $775 from $925 in previous years. Seniors also receive breaks on cart fees. Junior passes will drop to $150 from more than $200. Also, 100 non-peak passes will sell for $150, down from $250.

Hamilton also will create incentives to increase league play — the more players in a league, the better rates a league will get. The city also will create tighter contracts for golf outings that require organizers to better estimate how many players will turn out.

“People would tell us, ‘Yeah, we’re going to have 80 people at this outing,’ and then they’d show up with 20, and we’d block out the course for the entire day for their outing, and then we’d lose money,” Helms said.

Organizers this year will have until 10 days before an outing to give their firm attendance numbers and will face partial penalties for missing the mark.

Among upgrades happening before this year’s golf season is a new roof ($30,000) for the clubhouse at Potter’s Park, where, “when it rains, it actually comes through and drips onto the pro-shop counter,” Helms said, and the parking lot will be resurfaced for $75,000.

Twin Run opens for the season March 1. Potter’s Park is open year-round when temperatures are higher than 40 degrees and there is no snow on the ground.

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