Stillwater’s city golf course aims to break even with changes

Lakeside Golf Manager Michael Henderson is hoping a new business strategy that includes a lower fee structure and a streamlined staff will help the city-owned golf course break even.

The golf course has been a frequent whipping boy for residents critical of city waste and was again so during Monday’s city council meeting. Henderson wants to change that.

Henderson took over as manager July 1. He previously managed a municipal golf course in Dallas that he said operated in the black and garnered a modest profit. Henderson said he is trying to operate Lakeside with an appropriate business model.

City Manager Dan Galloway said during Monday’s council meeting that Henderson is reducing the course’s staff to be more efficient and cut costs. At the start of the new calendar year, five employee jobs at the golf course will be replaced by three positions that have new responsibilities.

Galloway said the reorganization will likely save the city more than $80,000 in salary and benefits each year.

“This will make us more agile with fewer full-time employees,” Henderson said.

He added that the course could add employees during the summer to cover increased traffic, but it would have a leaner staff to survive during the winter. Another change to staffing that Henderson is making is to move hourly employees to salary so the course would not be hit with as much overtime.

“We’ve got a good ways to go, but this is something that in three or four years we’ll be operating in the black or at least be extremely close,” he said.

Henderson also said it can be deceiving to see the course’s value just by counting what is taken in. He said a good course can attract conventions and out-of-town golfers who spend money on other things in Stillwater.

“We ideally want to get the golf course to break even, but there are some fringe benefits that make the city more attractive,” he said.

The course will also have a new internal system for tracking sales and seeing what works. Henderson said the course is looking to electronic advertisement to attract business outside of city limits, and it has partnered with the South-central PGA to host a few events.

Starting Jan. 1, the golf course will enact a new fee structure that will lower most green fees. The move will also add a new sundown rate for golfers Henderson said are trying to squeeze a quick nine holes in after work. The course is also planning on adding an annual pass for players younger than 18.

Henderson said he looked at municipal golf courses in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Kansas City and Dallas to find a competitive fee structure.

Lakeside will also be partnering with the Stillwater school district. Henderson said students on the golf team have previously been paying to use local golf courses for practice.

“We did a deal with the school district where we are the official home of Stillwater schools golf,” Henderson said. “Any of the kids who are on the team that are academically eligible can use the golf course for free.”

Henderson said the course is trying to become more family friendly and encourage a new generation of golfers to associate the game with Lakeside Golf Course. Additionally Cleveland Golf/Srixon, a golf supply company, will sponsor the team.

“It’s our way of giving back to the community that has given us so much,” Henderson said.

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