One of the seven golf courses run by the parish’s recreation and parks commission is on track to close and be replaced by something new that officials hope will attract more visitors.
BREC leaders are planning to close the Howell Park Golf Course, one of their lowest-performing golf courses, and they are asking for the public to weigh in on what should replace it. They will hold a public meeting from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to present several possible golf course replacements, including a public track and a fishing pier.
BREC officials have been discussing the idea of closing Howell Park for months after a National Golf Foundation study released late last year said the commission was spending too much money on too many golf courses. The National Golf Foundation recommended that BREC repurpose the nearly 60-year-old Howell Golf Course.
“Howell is clearly the most problematic of the BREC golf facilities,” the National Golf Foundation study says. “With revenues hovering around $150,000 to $160,000 in 2011 and 2012, this facility was barely able to cover the most basic operational budget. In 2013, rounds and revenue fell to the lowest totals ever recorded, further adding to the financial pressure of the golf course.”
At the open-house format meeting Tuesday, BREC officials will be stationed in Howell’s game room and gym with renderings of possible features to replace the golf course. The themes that the possible additions are broken into range from “performance and lakes” to “nature” to “active living.”
BREC spokeswoman Cheryl Michelet said the commission wants residents to mix-and-match their favorite ideas when giving feedback.
BREC also will host a free swim at the Howell swimming pool on Tuesday afternoon, and give out free sno-balls and other prize giveaways that evening.
BREC has at least $1.5 million budgeted for new additions to Howell Park, but Michelet said more could be spent depending on what the public wants to replace the golf course. She said money could be taken from other areas of the budget and the commission could apply for grants, capital outlay funds and other forms of financing.
After the meeting, BREC officials will combine the public input into a master plan. Another meeting will be held to present the master plan, then BREC will move forward for bids on any changes.
BREC plans to keep the park open while the changes are being planned.
“It would stay a golf course, maintained and used, right up until ground would be broken,” Michelet said.
But Michelet said even if residents on Tuesday insist that they want to keep the golf course, that likely won’t happen. She said BREC is trying to reduce the amount of tax money spent on golf.
“This facility is clearly not sustainable ‘as-is,’ and the community that surrounds it is not embracing the tradition of Howell as a golf course,” the National Golf Foundation study says.
Golf courses across Baton Rouge have struggled to attract new people to the sport in recent years. LSU leaders are considering closing the LSU Golf Course, and others that have closed in recent years include the Oaks at Sherwood, Briarwood Golf Club, Fairwood Country Club, Shenandoah Country Club Golf Course and the Gonzales Country Club.
BREC has tried to improve the quality of its golf courses and add new features to get people on the greens. “Footgolf,” the hybrid game between golf and soccer, is BREC’s latest addition to City-Park Golf Course and J.S. Clark Golf Course.
The National Golf Foundation also recommended that BREC repurpose J.S. Clark Golf Course and consider combining its programs with neighboring Dumas Memorial Golf Course.
Michelet said BREC is focusing on Howell for now and will later turn its attention to J.S. Clark. She said it’s more difficult to determine the future of J.S. Clark than Howell because whatever happens with J.S. Clark also will impact the Dumas Golf Course.