Paul Wanstreet, Ben Geren Golf Course marketer/Pro Shop manager, said the golf course is on pace to take in slightly more than its projected revenue of $615,000 before the end of 2017. According to a copy of the 2017 golf course revenue/budget plan provided by Sebastian County Judge David Hudson, Ben Geren took in more than $599,000 from January through November of this year. This amount exceeded the projected estimate for that period, which was more than $597,000. For comparison, the actual revenue for all of 2016 an amount exceeding $466,000.
Hudson said Ben Geren collected more than $9,400 in revenue for December as of Wednesday, leaving an amount of under $6,000 left to reach the projection. In an article previously published in the Times Record, Hudson said the projected revenue is based on the average of what was brought in during 2013 and 2014.
One of the key factors to which Wanstreet attributes the outcome is the overall condition of the course.
“I mean, we’ve just heard from so many golfers that they’re so happy and pleased with the condition of the course, you know, (Ben Geren Golf Course Superintendent Jay Randolph) and his group out there, ...” Wanstreet said. “We changed over the Willow course to MiniVerde Bermuda and that just came in really nice. It was on time where we had hoped, the weather cooperated, it came in.”
Ben Geren previously converted the greens on the Silo course from bent grass to MiniVerde Bermuda grass in 2016.
The second key factor in the course reaching the projection, Wanstreeet said, is the prices it has been charging for golf.
″... Right now, our golf fees, whether it’s 18 holes during the week or on the weekend, we feel is the best price in town, and it’s substantially lower than it’s been for the past several years,” Wanstreet said. “So the golfers are not only getting a really good conditioned course, three nine-holes to play, they’re getting a great value for their money.”
Wanstreet said the golf course has two sets of prices: winter and summer rates. During winter rates, which started Nov. 1, a golfer could come out and get 18 holes and a golf cart during the week for $22 and on the weekends for $28. The summer rates were $28 during the week and $33 during the weekend.
Other factors Wanstreet and Randolph cited included increased concession sales and truly merchandising the Pro Shop to look like a Pro Shop for the first time in a long time. Randolph said the number of outings at Ben Geren also increased in 2017.
″... Our corporate outings have increased, shoot, probably double or triple what they were in 2016 and 2014, ...” Randolph said. “You know, we were having probably three or four outings a year, and I think this past year we had 12 to 15, and saying that, probably the biggest reason that we were getting those back is because a lot of those, especially charitable outings, they’re starting to figure out that they can come and play with us for a lot cheaper rates than they can go play other courses around our area, so basically, what that means is they can make more money for their charities. ...”
The projected revenue for 2018 has been determined at $615,000 as well. While explaining why this is the case, Randolph said Ben Geren experienced hardly any rainout weekends both this past spring and current fall.
“We haven’t had a lot of rain obviously because we’re in the drought right now, but we’ve had really good weekends, but next year, if we get in a weather pattern where we get several rainout weekends in the spring and several in the fall ...” Randolph said Tuesday. “I mean, there were weekends this spring that ... Friday, Saturday and Sunday were $8,000 three-days, so you get a couple of those rained out, and then all of a sudden, we’re getting a smackdown.”
Another reason is, like its predecessors, the Magnolia nine-hole course will be temporarily closed for Bermuda grass sprigging starting in June 2018. This will leave only 18 holes available while that is taking place, which means fewer people will be able to play at Ben Geren than if all 27 holes were open.
During the upcoming year, Randolph said he suspects Ben Geren will have more outings than in 2017.
″... I think the four-ball (event), we’ll probably almost double in participants on that,” Randolph said. “The Men’s Golf Association ... I’m sure they’ll get 20 new members and I’m sure they’ll have some more tournaments, and of course, last year, their summer league started in either late June or even early July, and I know that they’re anticipating an April start, so they may have two leagues, you know, in April through kind of June and then maybe a late June through the end of the summer, and then plus all the other kinds of tournaments.”
Wanstreet said he came on as Ben Geren golf course marketer/Pro Shop manager in the middle of this past February.
“With all that, I was really behind as far as planning tournaments and contacting businesses and charitable events, so I think this year I’m going to have a much better opportunity to plan well ahead,” Wanstreet said. ”... We already have some of those events signed back up this year.”
Ben Geren wants to grow tournaments while simultaneously having a real respect for golfers who come out every day so they are not inconvenienced on a regular basis, Wanstreet said.