OCEAN PINES — After months of planning, negotiation, re-negotiation and presentations galore, the OPA Board of Directors this week passed a measure allowing Association General Manager Bob Thompson to sell lifetime memberships to the golf club.
For between $12,500-$25,000 (see Page 4) a limited number of golfers can join the Ocean Pines Golf Club for life as part of a plan to help fund the already-approved greens replacement on the course.
The cost of improving, maintaining and running the Ocean Pines Golf Club has been a matter of contention for at least a decade.
As the majority of the OPA general membership are of non-golfers, continued cost overruns were a continuing source of complaint. Attempts to keep operations costs down, however, have contributed over time to the course’s deterioration.
The amount of work the course requires to return to its former glory as well as to attract significant numbers of outside play is significant.
In addition to having to continue the golf course drainage program to protect and improve the fairways, many of the trees around the course will require removal and a sustainable maintenance plan will have to be put into place.
Understanding that the general membership was beginning to tire of assessment increases tied to the continuing and varied plans to “fix” the golf course, last year Thompson proposed that the golf community could be called upon to increase their contribution.
Although golf membership costs have generally held the line over the past few years, age, the economy and the course condition has dwindled the memberships ranks.
Moreover, Thompson was concerned that a significant annual membership increase might cost the Association even more members.
His solution was to propose offering lifetime memberships and using the revenue they generated to help fund the first and most necessary part of the golf course renovation — replacing the greens at the cost of about $900,000.
Initially the plan was to offer 40 memberships at $25,000 per and raising the entire amount from membership sales. Further research and Board of Directors input altered the plan and last month Thompson presented the new deal. In an effort to fund $595,000 of the $900,000 needed, the OPA would offer 33 memberships at a stair step, age-based rate.
Although the Board of Directors approved the initial plan they had questions and reservations tied primarily to the lifetime membership contract and the potential financial pitfalls of cutting future revenue for present monetary gain.
The contracts outline the lifetime membership rights — participants packages include greens fees, cart rental, player improvement program, a locker, and are non-transferable — as well as a commitment that the money will be used to rebuild 18 greens.
One of the provisions is that if a future board decides not to finish the plan, which is an always-looming possibility in the OPA, members can get their money back, less the number of years they’ve already participated.
Thompson’s greens replacement plan calls for the immediate replacement of nine holes and replacement of the second nine in Spring 2013.
As a way of beginning to allay concerns about loss of membership funding into the distant future, Thompson placed is confidence in the works already being done by Billy Casper Golf (BCG), the OPA’s management company, to increase revenue through generation of outside package play and eventually additional tournaments.
The plan to attract more tournament play was tied to the improvement of the Ocean Pines Country Club which has been put off indefinitely.
Before the green conditions deteriorated, making them nearly unplayable, BCG was already on pace to have one of the first profitable years at the Ocean Pines Golf Club in recent memory, according the Thompson.
If BCG continues to improve the course’s condition as well as its profile, the amount of additional play it generates should more than make up for whatever losses the course suffers from the sale of 33 lifetime memberships.
Having assured the board on all points, Thompson this week asked that they formally approve his plan so that the club may begin selling the memberships and begin defraying the cost of the green replacement project.
He told the board the contract had been vetted by two lawyers and met with all the board’s requirements. The board agreed to his request. Lifetime memberships are expected to go on sale directly.