A Carthage City Council committee has recommended that fees to play golf at the Carthage Municipal Golf Course be increased by an average of 10 percent starting on July 1.

A Carthage City Council committee has recommended that fees to play golf at the Carthage Municipal Golf Course be increased by an average of 10 percent starting on July 1.

Under the new fee structure, for example, the cost to play 18 holes from Monday-Thursday would rise from $17 to $19 and the cost to play that same 18 holes on Friday, Saturday or Sunday would rise from $19 to $21.

Carthage Golf Pro Mark Peterson said the fee increase would help maintain the course while keeping the annual required transfer from the city's general fund about the same and possibly even reducing it.

“We're budgeting a reduced transfer based on this fee structure, while increasing what our maintenance would be,” Peterson told the Carthage City Council's Public Services Committee. “When I say our costs would go up, factoring those costs in there. To me, this keeps us at par level, where we are right now, without reducing the maintenance of the product that we have.”

Carthage City Administrator Tom Short said the city budgeted a transfer of $90,000 in fiscal year 2013, which will end on July 1. The budgeted transfer was $80,000 in fiscal year 2012.

The Public Services Committee debated the fee increase for about a half hour at their regular monthly meeting on Monday before voting to recommend that the full council adopt it.

Peterson said the last fee increase of any kind at the course was a cart rental fee hike about three years ago. He said the last greens fee increase and membership increase was about five years ago.

“Our expenses are going up every year as you folks are aware from our budget,” Peterson told the committee. “We've always positioned our golf course as a premium public golf course and we are considered that by the public and the golfers. We bring in a lot of golfers from outside the area because of the conditions of our golf course. Our fee structure has always been higher than our two main competitor courses, Schifferdecker and Neosho.”

Every year, the city budgets to transfer a certain amount of money from the general fund to the golf course to supplement its operations.

Golf play across the country has been on a 11-year slide in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and play at the Carthage Golf Course had been sliding as well until last year when play increased slightly.

Peterson attributed last year's increase to good weather and a lack of rain for most of the golf season. He said he did not expect that trend to continue, citing last month when play was down dramatically when compared to March 2012 because of bad weather.

Peterson and Short said weather is almost always the overriding factor determining how successful a golf season can be.

Rain, sleet, snow and cold affected all but one weekend in March 2013, pushing the golf numbers down compared to March 2012 when the weather was much warmer and dryer.

Council Member Don McLaughlin initially argued against the fee increase, saying it would dramatically decrease the number of people who could afford to play golf.

“The economy's really broke right now, people don't have the disposable income they once had,” McLaughlin said. “I haven't been on this committee for very long, but all people talk about is the numbers are up, the numbers are up, people are going out playing golf. I'm really concerned that if you do raise this rate, that you're numbers are going to drop, and it's going to be surprising to you how much they drop and why.”

Peterson and Short argued that the course's reputation and challenging set up will keep people coming to Carthage even with an increase.
By the end of the discussion, the committee voted unanimously to recommend the increase to the full council.