Dunedin picks Billy Casper Golf to run St. Andrews Links

DUNEDIN — The nationwide golf management firm rejected last year in its bid to run the Dunedin Country Club has found a new course — the club's next-door neighbor, St. Andrews Links.

City commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved a license agreement with Billy Casper Golf, granting the firm the responsibilities and revenues that will come with day-to-day operations of the par-54 course.

The deal could be a steal for the city, which has lost about $300,000 at the course since 2006 and stands to earn a yearly fee of $25,000 from the firm starting in 2013.

But it could also be good news for golfers, who could benefit from the firm's promise of $150,000 in capital investment at the course within a year.

The firm, which operates 70 city-owned courses across the country and eight across the state, will take over management at 620 Palm Blvd. starting next month and stay at least through 2020.

The firm has promised to share some revenue with the city, including 20 percent of its driving range and greens fees over $500,000, and 10 percent of its clubhouse sales over $125,000.

Applied to last year's revenue, the city would have earned $1,000 from the agreement.

The firm will pay for utilities, maintenance and insurance. According to the agreement, it will also apply 2 percent of its revenue to improvements on the course, beginning in 2013.

A Billy Casper representative told commissioners Thursday night that regrassing the greens, which he said were in poor condition, would be a top priority at the 28-acre course. Irrigation, drainage and outfitting the clubhouse would also account for much of the firm's initial investment.

Before the agreement's approval, commissioners voiced concern that the city's responsibility for investment was unclear.

Parks and Recreation director Vince Gizzi said repairs on a bridge, the clubhouse or cart barn would come out of the city's pocket. The city agreed to repair a course bridge by November.

The next step, commissioners said, is to work on a master plan that integrates St. Andrews Links with what is now known as the Dunedin Golf Club, potentially realigning the Links' driving range and creating a "golf campus" that could draw locals and tourists alike.

"I think everybody's excited," Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski said. "We really want to see those two properties being our premiere golf complex in the future."

Drew Harwell can be reached at dharwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

. Fast facts

Potential gains

In its deal with Billy Casper Golf, the city of Dunedin gets:

• 20 percent of the driving range and greens fees over $500,000, and 10 percent of its clubhouse sales over $125,000.

• A yearly fee of $25,000 starting in 2013.

Dunedin picks Billy Casper Golf to run St. Andrews Links 03/05/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 5, 2010 8:01pm]

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