County looks to drive interest in Wailua course

LIHUE — Increasing tourist traffic, adding user fees and allowing people to book tee times online are just some suggestions to drum up business at the Wailua Golf Course.

Ian Costa, deputy director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, addressed the Public Works/Parks and Recreation Committee Wednesday at the request of Councilman Ross Kagawa, committee chair, to provide a briefing about the county-operated course.

“I want our beautiful golf course to be enjoyed and used not only by our residents but visitors as well, and we need to put our efforts toward marketing,” Kagawa said. “We need the administration to work with us and take some positive steps. That’s how I think we can achieve a sustainable golf course.”

Currently, the county is paying $1.2 million annually to subsidize the golf course. During the meeting, Costa and Wally Rezentes, managing director, explored ways to reduce that expenditure.

One way, Rezentes, said, is to increase the number of tourists playing there. About 15 percent of the golfers at the course are visitors. Rezentes wants to raise that to 25 percent.

“We’re looking at marketing to get visitor play up,” he said.

Visitors pay $42 for a round of golf at the course. The guest golfers raise about $610,000 annually. If tourist numbers raise to 25 percent, the county will make a profit of about $340,000, he said.

Marketing plans include partnering with the Kauai Visitors Bureau, inviting golf magazines to visit the course and allowing residents to book tee times online.

Another way to increase revenue is establishing a user fee a golfer would have to pay to use the course, even if they hold a monthly pass, Costa said.

In December, the Kauai County Council passed a bill to allow the restaurant to sell alcohol at the golf course via roving concessions.

The measure was introduced as a way to help the establishment, Over Par Bar and Grill, make a profit. But objections arose, Mayor Bernard Carvalho vetoed the bill, citing safety concerns, and the restaurant closed.

In January, the council unanimously voted to uphold the veto.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Councilman Derek Kawakami, said the problem facing the golf course isn’t marketing. Rather, it’s a declining interest in the game.

“This is not a Wailua Golf Course problem. This is a national and worldwide problem,” he said. “A couple things are going on — young people don’t want to golf and parents nowadays don’t have the time to spend five hours on the weekend to golf,” he said. “We need to look at consumer behavior and try to adapt.”

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Jenna Carpenter, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or jcarpenter@thegardenisland.com.

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