ASHLAND, Ohio – Brookside Golf Course, which sits in this small city almost equidistant from Cleveland and Columbus, is seeing more green this year — as in profits.
The course is up $100,000 over expenses so far this season, a stark contrast to its deficit just four years ago.
The city had to subsidize Brookside a total of $232,362 in 2017 to help offset annual operations. In 2019, the city contributed $65,000 to the golf course, Mayor Matt Miller said.
By the following year, the course officially climbed into the black.
How? By cutting costs, realigning staff and improving fundraising and community support.
And more people are playing these days, which helps maintain a higher revenue stream.
So far this year, golfers have played 16,800 rounds. That’s more than played the entire year (16,788) of 2017.
Brookside is exceeding expenses by $101,519 so far this season with a few more months to continue the upward trend, Miller said.
Making Brookside profitable again: ‘Three things we needed to change’
Mike Raubenolt and Conner Brittinger watch as Mayor Matt Miller putts at the 4th annual Mayor’s Golf Classic at Brookside Golf Course on Aug. 13.
When Miller ran for mayor in 2017, he focused on addressing the realities of the operation’s financial books.
“There were three things we needed to change,” Miller explained, all centering around staffing.
The city eliminated the golf pro position with its $80,000 annual salary.
Billy Christian was appointed superintendent. Mick Briggs took over a part-time position overseeing the clubhouse. Another key player in the economic transformation is Steve Fast, a part-time employee who has a history in banking.
Fast, who retired from the course in April due to health concerns, worked at Brookside for 10 years, he said.
“Briggs and Christian were very instrumental in turning the course around,” Fast said. “I think everybody came together and all the employees came together and even people who were not employees of the course came together and really worked, and we got the course built back up.”
Community steps up to play golf
Fast credits Ashlanders for the increase in money coming into the operation.
“I think the community had a lot to do with it,” he said. “They didn’t want to lose the golf course. We had a pickup in golfing.”
People like Gene Haberman helped raise money, Fast said.
Haberman came up with the idea of adding sponsorships to the golf course via golf carts and golf holes, Miller said.
Another way the course has increased funding is by hiking prices for nine-hole rounds by 50 cents and 18-hole rounds by $1.
“In 2017, we held the Mayor’s Golf Classic to help raise money to keep the golf course open,” Miller said. “It was to raise money to help cover the operating costs and to make improvements.”
The 2021 Mayor’s golf classic ushered in $1,300, Miller said.
Donations fund pavilion, pavement
Other members of the Ashland golf community helped bring new life to the course through donations.
Lloyd and Norma Wygant talked with the mayor about donating money to build a new $115,000 pavilion.
Over the last three years, donors Stan and Mary Miller contributed money to redo the pavement and put seal coating on the golf cart paths, Miller said.
“Assistant Superintendent Brent Cherry and Billy Christian have done an outstanding job on making the course look the best it’s ever looked,” Miller said. “We involved them personally going out and adjusting the sprinklers to keep the grass green and playable.”
With profit margins continuing to gain upward momentum, Miller believes once the season is over the profits will carry over to next year’s golf season.
One way the money might be used is for a new irrigation system, which will cost roughly six figures.
“I found some paperwork in the files that the superintendent back in 1986 was trying to get a new irrigation system put in,” Christian said. “We’re possibly looking into building a deck out of the pro shop that way people can sit out and enjoy the weather.”
Reach Grant at email@example.com; On Twitter: @Ritchey_Grant