Wailua Golf Course fees may jump

Wailua Golf Course patrons may see green fees undergo a heavy hike over the next few years as Kaua‘i County officials work with the community to find ways to make the operation self-sufficient.

Often touted as one of the nation’s premier 18-hole public courses, the county has budgeted $2.42 million for next fiscal year to maintain the Eastside attraction.

Taxpayers subsidize the course, which operates at a deficiency ranging from $500,000 to $750,000 annually, county documents state.

If officials implement the county Cost Control Commission’s March recommendations, residents would pay 25 percent more per round and nonresidents’ fees would jump 50 to 100 percent.

The Kaua‘i County Council, which has the final say over any rate increases, considered the commission’s proposals and Mayor Bryan Baptiste’s comments on Wednesday at the Historic County Building.

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said she was pleased to see the commission’s recommendations after advising the changes for years.

“We have a real asset,” she said yesterday. “It’s in the interest of those who love playing golf that we keep it up well. The income is so restrained, it doesn’t allow us to do preventive maintenance.”

Wailua Golf Course superintendent Ed Okamoto said the objective has been identified, but there are no definitive numbers or a timeline at this point so early in the process.

He recently started working with a voluntary steering committee from the Kaua‘i Golf Association, which represents numerous club members, to hash out a mutually agreed upon plan on how to make the course self-sustaining that will be submitted to the administration as a recommendation. The administration would then submit the proposal as a bill to the council.

“It will be a process where we go back and forth and back and forth,” Okamoto said yesterday. “We want to maintain a relationship with the community and not just ram it down their throats. We must identify how we can best get there, keeping in mind the economy is not at its best and gas prices are going up and the cost to operate the golf course keeps going up.”

Rates have remained the same for the past several years, he said.

Okamoto told the commission at its Jan. 14 meeting that he supports raising rates over multiple years. The increased revenues would enable the county to cover the expenses of maintaining and operating the course.

Making the course self-sufficient in a year would be unacceptable to the general public, he said.

The budget is higher this fiscal year, which ends June 30, because the county funded improvements for repainting and refurbishing the club house and reconstructing all the rain shelters, he said.

Baptiste said in his May 9 written comments to the commission that golf course management is meeting with a steering committee from the Kaua‘i Golf Association to review the current fee schedule. This group will prepare a report of its findings.

His comments did not indicate the administration’s position on the commission’s recommendations. The mayor could not be reached for comment at press time.

The green fees for Wailua Golf Course are considerably lower than other public courses in the state, according to the commission’s findings.

Rates range from $10 for a resident on weekdays to $44 for a nonresident on weekends, according to the county’s Web site.

“Real property tax payers should not bear the burden of the cost of operations, maintenance and capital improvements for the course,” the commission states in its March 17 report to the mayor.

The commission proposes eliminating monthly cards or requiring monthly card holders to pay a per round fee from $2 to $4 in addition to the payment of the monthly card fee.

Its final recommendation calls for requiring the course to establish and fund by user fees a reserve for capital improvements.

Wailua Golf Course, designed by Toyo Shirai, was first built as a nine-hole golf course in the 1930s. The second nine holes were added in 1961, according to county records.

The nearly 7,000-yard course has a 73 rating and is bordered by Kuhio Highway and the Pacific Ocean.

The course is regularly used for recreation and tournaments by residents and visitors young and old.

The seven-member commission’s goal is to reduce the cost of county government while maintaining a reasonable level of public services.

• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or neagle@kauaipubco.com

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