Memphis golfers will welcome back an old friend April 29th, when Galloway Golf Course reopens. The city's most popular track has been on the disabled list for 18 months while undergoing a $3.5 million renovation. So what does $3.5 million buy? On-course changes include several new lakes, Tiffeagle Bermuda greens, lots of moguls and bunkers, an additional 171 yards -- and a new name: The Links at Galloway.
In addition to the obvious physical changes, the reinvention of Galloway signals a new direction in the city's financial and philosophical approach to municipal golf. I spoke to Paul Evans, administrator of golf operations for the city of Memphis, about those changes.
Memphis Flyer: Why the new name?
Paul Evans: We're trying to develop a group context. The courses used to be managed by individual golf pros and didn't incorporate a single concept of marketing. That's what we're trying to do now. Each of the city's seven courses will be called "The Links at ... Audubon, Pine Hills, etc."
So you plan to make these kinds of upgrades at all city courses?
We have plans to continue the process. As long as we can prove to the city council that we can pay for the projects [out of operating budgets] we'll continue the projects.
What's the time frame for that? When will you know you can start to develop the other courses?
I don't really know what the time frame is at this point. I know we'll have to substantiate with numbers to the city council that Galloway is paying for itself.
Did the Galloway renovation come in on budget?
Yes. We used what was appropriated, nothing more.
You managed to keep the fees [$30 for 18 holes with a cart during the week; $35 on weekends] pretty reasonable. Can you maintain the new course at a higher level than city courses have traditionally been maintained?
We have to operate from the fees the course generates. Private courses are trying to make money for their owners. All we have to do is have a balanced budget, to make enough to sustain ourselves and improve course conditions. In the past, the individual pros were taking the cart-fee revenue, which was more than the green fees in many cases. Now that we're capturing that revenue, it's going to help out significantly.
With all the new water and sand, I would think maintenance would be more expensive.
With the buying power of seven courses, we're able to get much better deals. The former course managers were working with ancient equipment in many cases. We've leased new maintenence equipment for four years. Then it's all replaced. We also have a new contract for carts with Club Cart. They'll maintain and insure carts for all the courses. We've made similar [all-courses] deals with soft-drink providers, Titleist balls, and food services. We bid it all out.
Will people still be able to walk up and play, or will they have to book tee-times?
We'd like for people to book tee-times, but we'll always welcome walk-ups. It probably won't be as easy as it was in the past, though. We're also offering a new program called the Memphis Player's Card, which gives golfers access to seven-day advance tee-time reservations, discounts on merchandise, and other promotions. It's $25 annually, and you can buy one -- and use it -- at any Memphis municipal course.
Galloway always had a special, collegial atmosphere. People sat around under the oaks and kibbutzed and had a beer. Are you trying to keep that alive?
Galloway has always been a special place. We definitely want to continue that. We've bought new patio furniture and landscaped the area. We want to give people a club atmosphere at municipal prices.
To celebrate the reopening of The Links at Galloway, Memphis Public Links is hosting a special first day of play on Monday, April 29th. Golfers wanting to play that day must register for a drawing at any municipal course. Seventy-five names will be selected to win two spots in the field for opening day. The course will be open to regular play beginning April 30th.