Baton Rouge Recreation and Park Commission leaders are taking small steps to improve their seven golf courses but say they aren’t ready to follow a consultant’s recommendation to close some of the least-used courses.
Golf courses both public and private have struggled throughout Baton Rouge over the past few years as the number of people teeing off nationally and regionally has dwindled. The National Golf Foundation suggested last month that BREC bring up the quality of all of its courses and close its two lowest-performing golf courses, Howell Park and J.S. Clark Park, both located on the north side of the city.
For the moment, BREC officials are focusing on maintenance recommendations and on quick fixes like adjusting prices charged to play on the courses. They hope to meet with the public in the first quarter of this year about possible closures and have people pitch ideas for what they might prefer instead of a golf course.
BREC leaders first will consider closing Howell and re-purposing it into a different kind of park. J.S. Clark will remain on the back burner for now, in large part because it’s located next to BREC’s Dumas Memorial golf course, and actions at one of the courses will affect the other.
“We’re taking some of the low-hanging fruit first,” said BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight.
BREC is investing in new equipment to spruce up the courses and make the greens greener in hopes of attracting more players. Despite possible plans to close Howell, BREC Golf Director Michael Raby said they have brought up its quality to the highest level the course has seen in years.
BREC also is poised to soon open the J.S. Clark’s driving range at night.
“I still hold out hope that we could get more people to play there,” Raby said.
The National Golf Foundation also advised BREC to increase annual golf pass prices, which the Board of Commissioners approved this week. Three of BREC’s passes are increasing by $50, making the five-course individual seven-day pass cost $600; the five-course senior seven-day pass cost $500; and the five-course senior four-day pass for Monday through Thursday cost $400.
Raby said BREC is still at the beginning of what he anticipates will be a long process of revamping golfing opportunities offered through the public park system.
At a time when BREC and LSU are considering closing golf courses, another local group is trying to reopen one of the many that has been shuttered in Baton Rouge.
Hien Nguyen says he hopes to revive the Oaks at Sherwood under the name The Legacy but will need $500,000 to do so. Just getting the course back into shape for play will cost $300,000.