The Spring 2004 issue of the Mackinac Center's Michigan Privatization Report cited the City of Auburn Hills' Fieldstone Golf Club as an example of what's wrong with municipal governments diverting taxpayer resources into running golf courses. Unfortunately, the city ignored our recommendations to get out of the golf business; this month it was asked by the state Treasury to submit a deficit reduction plan for the course.
The municipality spent $16 million to buy the course in 1997. By 2004, it had been losing about $1.5 million each year since 2000. The losses have apparently continued.
It's worth repeating why municipal golf courses should be sold off around the state. Most obviously, they represent the very antithesis of "core government function." The private sector has long provided more than adequate golfing opportunities for the public.
Second, municipal golf courses are typically a drain on local budgets. Remarkably, the city of Flint just laid off 20 police officers while still maintaining two money-losing golf courses. Selling golf courses could prevent public safety personnel from losing their jobs.
Third, they are unfair: Municipal golf courses only take business from those owned and operated by private-sector investors and entrepreneurs who have dedicated their time and risked their own resources — not those of taxpayers.
In a time of increasing pressure on local budgets, municipal managers should reach first for the lowest hanging fruit on the savings-tree: government golf courses. Let the slicing begin.
For the Mackinac Center's related work on this subject, see "An Ann Arbor Tale: Government Golf Slices City Revenue" and "Government Golf: Unfair Competition Hurts Business, Taxpayers."