HARLINGEN — For years, golf courses across the country have struggled to lure players to their tees.
At the Tony Butler Municipal Golf Course, revenues have dropped for at least five years, leading the city to cover annual deficits as high as $300,000.
So, the city wants to draw golfers back to play the former stop on the PGA tour.
Last week, city commissioners approved the first reading of an ordinance slashing fees to draw more golfers to the rolling greens and fairways that hold a sense of hallowed ground in the Rio Grande Valley.
“We’re trying to be more competitive,” Eddie Medlin, the course’s golf pro, said Thursday. “It kind of helps us with competition in the area that dropped their prices below ours.”
From July to September, the course will cut fees from $23 to $20 for 18 holes of golf, including a cart.
Then, from October to December, fees will drop from $28 to $25 for 18 holes with a cart.
“We want to use this to promote (the golf course) and increase our customer base,” Assistant City Manager Carlos Sanchez said Friday. “We want people to experience the golf course so we have more customers.”
For years, Tony Butler stood as the Valley’s only self-sustaining municipal golf course.
In recent years, fewer golfers have cut into the course’s revenue stream.
Since at least 2013, the golf course has operated in the red.
While annual expenditures have hovered at about $1.2 million, revenues have dropped, leaving deficits ranging from $48,324 to $302,587.
“The cost of maintenance of the facility is constant,” Sanchez said.
Meanwhile, he said, the city has turned to its general fund budget to offset the shortfalls.
This winter, a cold snap across December and January kept many golfers from teeing off, Medlin said.
By May 31, the course had posted revenues of $689,314, unaudited totals show.
Medlin points to factors such as the Valley’s drop in Winter Texans.
“We didn’t have as much Winter Texan traffic as in years past,” he said.
Now, Medlin is working to turn a crop of young golfers into steady players.
“We try to focus on younger golfers with our youth programs,” he said.
Featuring six lakes, the 27-hole golf course tests a player’s talent across tight fairways and small, rolling greens.
Across the Valley, the course that opened in 1929 on 230-acres remains sacred to many golfers.
The Valley’s second-oldest golf course, it was part of the PGA tour in the 1930s and 1940s.
2013 – $1,157,845 revenues; $1,206,169 expenditures
2014 – $983,578 revenues; $1,126,815 expenditures
2015 – $958,503 revenues; $1,219,753 expenditures
2016 – $925,724 revenues; $1,228,311 expenditures
2017 – $987,273 revenues; $1,176,425 expenditures
July to September – fees reduced from $23 to $20 for 18 holes with cart.
October to December – fees reduced from $28 to $25 for 18 holes with cart