Consultant: Invest $1.8 million for new six-hole pitch-and-putt and grass putting courses to keep city owned Palmer Hills Golf Course competitive

Bettendorf's Palmer Hills Golf Course needs a $1.8-million upgrade – including a new six-hole pitch-and-putt and a grass mini-putt course – to attract younger golfers seeking a less expensive and time-consuming experience than the traditional 18-hole layout.

That's the recommendation made to the park board and city council recently by Richard Singer of National Golf Foundation (NGF) Consulting.

Singer told aldermen at the Nov. 15 council meeting that Palmer Hills is well-managed and well-maintained, but needs to invest in new options like the pitch-and-putt and mini-putt layouts "to help broaden the appeal of the facility to new segments of customers, many of which are not avid golfers."

With completion of the new enhancements, Singer projected the course could increase revenues from fees and concessions at Palmer by $30,000 in the first year of operation, growing to more than $83,000 annually within five years.

Palmer Hills has seen total golf rounds fall from a peak of 34,691 in fiscal year 2006 to 26,875 for fiscal year 2016 ended June 30. The course had a net loss (excluding depreciation) of $102,381 for fiscal 2016.

"The NGF review of Palmer Hills' economic performance strongly suggests that the golf course is not capable of generating enough income to cover on-site expenses AND internal overhead, depreciation and capital projects without continued General Fund (taxpayer) support," the analysis stated.

The consultant report said Palmer Hills would not be able to pay the $1.8 million in proposed upgrades, and the improvements would need to be funded by the city's general fund, grants or by issuing additional general obligation bonds (debt).

The suggested pitch-and-putt course would consist of six holes ranging from 65 to 120 yards in length, while the putting green course would require approximately 65,000 square feet of putting surface plus lighting for night use. A new support structure also was proposed by NGF to support the driving range, pitch-and-putt and putting course activities.

"This structure would include indoor covered range stations, golf training room, restrooms and additional concession space, perhaps including a more modern concession environment with beverage service and music for the driving range," according to the NGF report.

The new short courses and support structure would fit within the existing property, taking 2.25 acres at the south end of the driving range, 2.5 acres from the 13th hole corridor and 2.75 acres from land surrounding the existing outdoor pavilion.

"The changes being proposed are exactly the kind of changes that NGF is observing among successful public golf facilities," according to the report. "The reason the changes will lead to success is because the upgrades will broaden the audience of potential prospects, particularly in the younger demographic."

"The most successful golf courses are the ones that have the broadest appeal to the widest segments," the NGF report stated.

CLICK HERE to download the full NGF report to the city.

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