Thursday, Oct 23, 2014
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Neighboring golf club offers to operate the Dunedin Stirling Links


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— The Dunedin Golf Club board of directors has offered to help the city get back on the fairway by assuming control and maintenance of the Dunedin Stirling Links course.

In 2010, the city contracted with Billy Casper Golf, based in Vienna, Va., to manage the day-to-day operation of the 54-year-old municipal course at 620 Palm Blvd.

In addition to sharing profits from its driving range, greens fees, cart rentals and concessions, the contract requires that Billy Casper pay the city a $25,000 annual license fee in quarterly installments of $6,250 starting in March of 2013 to cover rent.

Just as the first rent payment was due last year, Casper officials persuaded the city commission to defer the payments for another two years or until revenue at the golf course topped $550,000.

Stirling Links generates annual revenue of about $329,000. Its operating expense was not available.

In late April Casper officials notified the city in a letter that the company intends to terminate the agreement effective July 13. While the reason for the request to terminate was not divulged, Casper officials offered to work diligently with the city to ensure a smooth transition.

That news drew the attention of officials at Dunedin Golf Club, 1050 Palm Blvd.

Stirling Links and the golf club are adjacent to each other on Palm Boulevard, just east of Alternate U.S. 19 and south of Curlew Road.

Dunedin Golf Club president Sharon Takas notified city officials on May 14 that its board of directors was willing to assume management and operation of Stirling at no cost to the city or its members. However, terms and conditions still need to be determined.

The proposal by the board of the 87-year-old golf club, which is open to the public for golfing and dining, was briefly discussed during last week’s regular city commission meeting.

Vince Gizzi, the city’s Parks and Recreation director, told commissioners that he favors the merger. However, “at present, the Dunedin Golf Club is not properly equipped to take over the Dunedin Stirling Links and would need some financial support from the city or an outside organization.”

City manager Robert DiSpirito offered two more options for the golf course: Close the facility and convert the site to a park; or close the golf course portion but keep the driving range and clubhouse open.

The projected cost to the city would be approximately $100,000 to $150,000 per year, plus up-front capital expense and equipment needs.

The city commission opted to table discussion until more information is gathered as to the feasibility of the club’s offer and options presented by the city manager.

According to the National Golf Foundation, the golf industry was hit hard by the 2008 recession. Courses from Florida to Arizona, where golfing once was a daily exercise, faced major cutbacks or foreclosure.

While the sport appears to be out of the rough, the foundation predicts an annual growth rate of about 1 percent — an improvement from recent years, though not a robust sign of a recovering economy.

For more on the two Dunedin courses, visit www.dunedingolfclub.com and www.dunedingolf.com.

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