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2 companies submit proposals to run golf courses in Amherst

Two companies – one local, one national – have submitted proposals to manage and operate the three municipal golf courses in the Amherst.

Billy Casper Golf, a Virginia-based company that manages, maintains and develops public and private courses nationwide, and Value Turf, a company located in Amherst, were the only two to submit a proposal by last Friday’s deadline, said Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein.

The town agreed in August to seek proposals from private companies interested in operating and managing the Audubon Golf Course at 500 Maple Road, its companion Par 3 across the street at 475 Maple, and Oakwood Golf Course at 3575 Tonawanda Creek Road.

Revenue has not kept pace with what it costs the town to operate the three courses, which together saw a net loss of more than $2 million over a 10-year period.

Amherst is hoping a private contractor can turn things around.

Billy Casper proposes charging the town to run its golfing operations, while Value Turf would operate and maintain the courses then share any profits with the town, Weinstein said.

The supervisor said about a dozen people initially expressed interest, so he was a little disappointed more had not submitted formal proposals.

“I thought we would get more,” Weinstein said.

One of the companies initially interested ran a financial analysis and decided the proposition didn’t make economic sense for them, said Council Member Guy R. Marlette.

“They didn’t think long-term they could make a go of it,” Marlette said. “The question becomes: Are we at the maximum potential we can expect for the operation of the three courses?”

The town believes that a variety of factors is contributing to its losses, including a drop in rounds played, more competition from area courses, fewer golfers, weather conditions and less interest in the game.

But the town also feels that it’s handcuffed by high labor costs paid to union workers in the Highway Department, who have exclusive rights to maintain the courses.

The town had hoped to have a management company in place and running the courses by April for the start of the 2015 season, but will take a closer look at the proposals, its other options and decide how it wants to proceed.