MEADOWLAKES — It’s the economic equivalent of a hole-in-one. The Hidden Falls Golf Club posted its first profit since the city took it over in March 2008, officials announced Wednesday. The club earned a net profit of $30,141.50 for October, November and December, city officials added.
IN PHOTO: Meadowlakes City Administrator Johnnie Thompson (left) signs a contract with Hidden Falls Golf Course manager Jeffery Wilson during a City Council meeting. Wilson took over the duties at the golf course and restaurant facility in September of 2009. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton
New General Manager Jeff Wilson and his staff are credited with the turnaround.
“That’s the only profit since the city bought the club,” Meadowlakes Public Facility Corp. board President Charles Burleson said. The corporation oversees the club for the city. “That’s a significant accomplishment at this point.”
The city purchased the 18-hole golf course at 220 Meadowlakes Drive — which includes a restaurant, tennis courts, a swimming pool and pro shop — for $2.9 million.
Since then, the city has struggled to turn a profit on the operation despite enhancements to the restaurant and improvements to the course.
In October 2009, the corporation, which the City Council created in August of the same year, assumed operational responsibility for the club and course.
Those corporation’s leaders said the club’s turnaround began with the decision to hire a general manager to oversee day-to-day operations.
Wilson was named the new general manager, replacing interim manager Steve Hatch — who said from the outset he would only serve one year.
“The search committee did a great job putting together a good incentive-base package,” Wilson said. “This way my salary is tied to how well the club does. It really makes you strive harder every day.”
The club’s turnaround is even more impressive considering it came during the months when fewer golfers hit the links.
“You have to remember during those three months, golf drops off,” Wilson said. “Also consider that October was a bad month because it was so wet. November was all right, but it still wasn’t a great month and December was so-so. It’s pretty exciting when you show a (profit-and-loss statement) of plus $30,000 over those three months.”
Wilson, however, said the credit must be shared with the city, the corporation, employees and community members.
Strategic changes also have helped increase the club’s profitability, Wilson said.
The staff began keeping a tight rein on inventory — not just the restaurant and pro shop, but also on the course itself.
“We only were up maybe 170 rounds over the same period the previous year,” Wilson said. “That extra amount of golf isn’t enough to see that type of profit. What it tells me was people weren’t necessarily paying for all the rounds they were playing.”
The restaurant, which at one time featured full-service dining several times a week, has been scaled back to a “bar-and-grill” operation, Wilson said. The club still can handle luncheons and special events.
Wilson also cut back on the staffing, hiring people “who really care” about the success of the club, he said.
“It really comes down to managing this like a business, because that’s exactly what a golf course is — a business,” Wilson said.
Jamie Kizer, the golf course superintendent, and his staff are working on creating a more dramatic 18th hole to give golfers a stronger finish, Wilson added.
The club is also in the midst of a membership drive, offering former members a chance to re-join without paying an intiation fee while new members get half off.
“Part of my job is developing those relationships and letting people know that we’re here,” Wilson said. “As a public course, I don’t see us as isolated out here. We’re a member of the Marble Falls community as well. And I think we’re a great resource for the community.”
Though the recent success is exciting, Wilson said there’s still more work to be done.
“We’re fighting for the entertainment dollar in the golf business — not just the recreation dollar,” he said. “We want Hidden Falls (Golf Club) to be something that’s talked about on a daily basis. I think we have a great resource here for the Marble Falls community, we just need to be more visible.”