OCEAN PINES — If the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors is willing to spend another $1.7 million on the golf course over the next year, General Manager Bob Thompson has a suggestion that would have club members finance the bulk of it.
This summer, as it became clear the golf course’s condition was making more enemies than the operation could afford, the decision was made to begin calling people and giving them the opportunity to cancel their rounds rather than show up and get mad.
According to Thompson, the tactic resulted in improved customer relations but took a chunk out of the end-of-summer revenue. This week he presented a potential solution to the board of directors to address the course conditions.
The three-part plan includes instituting what Thompson called an aggressive tree-removal program, returning to the drainage program and rebuilding the greens at all 18 holes.
The drainage program was suspended this year as new management company, Billy Casper Golf (BCG), came on board. They have since been reviewed and assented to the program. The recommendation to replace the greens came from an independent turf specialist to whom the management has sent soil samples for evaluation.
The golf course is unable to endure especially hot summers because it is primarily built over clay. As a result, where the water does not pool and drown the grass, it runs off and allows it to burn. Recommended grass root length at the beginning of the season is supposed to be nearly a foot but the Ocean Pines course has fewer than 4 inches in most places.
That the course was plagued by mechanical failures and irrigation problems this summer added to the already weakened root system to result in a course that appeared poorly maintained at best.
Over the coming weeks, the Ocean Pines board members will have to decide whether they want to spend an additional $1.7 million to replace all of the course’s greens and to continue the drainage program on holes 11-13 or risk another summer of turning away customers in a competitive market.
Golf rounds exceeded expectations before the course imploded, so Thompson said he believes BCG’s plans were working. He said he also understood, however, that the non-golfing community might have a bit of a problem continuing to pour more money into the course.
Thompson proposed offering 40 lifetime memberships at $25,000 apiece and to use the proceeds to fund the project. At the current membership fees, he said, the lifetime membership would pay for itself in just under 8 years.
While he admitted that it would be an exclusive item, he pointed out that for a person in the right financial position who was an avid enough golfer the price was both a serious deal and still well below prevailing country club membership prices.
Thompson said a specialist engaged by the OPA recommended that the top three inches of the greens, one of the course’s major failures, should be removed.