The Devine City Council approved just over $100,000 in golf course expenditures at the Regular meeting last Tuesday, Jan. 15.
Course Superintendent Ruben Chapa met with Ray Garza of On Par Golf to begin to formulate a business plan for the golf course.
“I saw his business plan and he did an excellent job on it, so we’ve got a template from him for right now,” Chapa said, “but he is going to work on it for us.”
Chapa said that what Garza was working on included one-to-three, three-to-five, and six-to-eight year plans.
“I had Ruben call different golf courses, because from what we’re hearing, a lot of these golf courses use the people that know the ins and outs of golf to create the business plan,” Interim City Administrator Dora Rodriguez said. “They understand that y’all want to be a part of this, but they can get the ball rolling and give us that to bring to y’all so y’all can approve.”
Chapa added that Mike Ratchman of Texas Golf Insider magazine, with whom the City will be advertising the golf course at some point later in the year, had called prior to the meeting.
“He’s got some contacts that can help us as well,” Chapa said. “So I think between both of them we should be able to come up with a good business plan for the City.”
District 4 Councilwoman Jennifer Schott asked if Garza and Ratchman were charging for their help.
“Right now, On Par Golf is charging us $1,800 to do it,” Chapa said, adding that hiring a consultant would cost thousands of dollars.
“Are they charging you to help you come up with something that we may or may not agree on?” Schott pressed.
“I think it’s going to be a work in progress,” Chapa said. “When we come up with stuff, he and I and Dora and Rob [Flores] come up with stuff, then we’ll bring it before Council and we can make adjustments there. The final product will be what we want for what the City wants.”
A motion by District 2 Councilman Steve Lopez and Schott to allow Chapa to create a business plan to be brought to Council for approval passed 4-0, with District 1 Councilman David Valdez and District 5 Councilman Cory Thompson voting for the plan.
District 3 Councilman David Espinosa was present earlier in the meeting (see separate story) but left early.
Devine Golf Association debt
The City took on responsibilities for debt accumulated by the Devine Golf Association when Council voted to take over the golf course on July 31, 2018. Council voted pay off $46,573.80 of DGA debt at a Special meeting on Aug. 28, 2018.
The DGA still had an outstanding loan of $10,639.60 with Lytle State Bank.
Mayor Bill Herring said that Rodriguez had spoken to the City’s auditors, who recommended paying off the balance.
“They’re saying that’s the smart thing to do because we’ll be saving on the interest,” Rodriguez said.
A motion by Schott and District 1 Councilman David Valdez to pay off the DGA loan and amend the budget for $10,639.60 passed 4-0.
United States Golf Association (USGA) agronomist John Daniels visited the golf course on Aug. 3, 2018, and provided the City with a report detailing his observations and recommendations, some of which included the purchase of equipment necessary for proper course management. Among the equipment mentioned were a greens roller and a bunker rake.
“This is two pieces of equipment that [Daniels] recommended that we try to get to help our greens,” Chapa said.
Chapa located a Smithco Tournament Ultra Greens Roller with a greens spiker attachment for $20,774.
“The roller that we picked out has spikes on it so you’re able to give a quick aerification at the same time,” Chapa said. “Instead of buying a different piece of equipment, which [Daniels] was suggesting, we found one that’s a combination, so it saves about $5,000 on that alone.”
The other equipment up for consideration was a John Deere 1200A bunker and field rake.
“Right now we rake traps by hand,” Chapa said. “That was something [Daniels] talked about to Rob and I, trying to get a sand rake so we’re able to do them the proper way.”
Chapa said he has a deep tine aerification scheduled for March 18, which he said probably hasn’t been done in seven or eight years.
“And that’s very, very important, especially the way some of those greens were built,” Chapa said.
Course maintenance workers will use ten-inch tines to pull plugs of earth out of the greens, then fill the holes with sand.
“It’s going to help filter water, fertilizers, anything down into the root zone,” Chapa said. “Plus it’s going to break up the compaction, and that’s something that hadn’t been done that needs to be done. Most golf courses do it two to three times a year if they’re financially able to do it.”
Chapa said he was under the impression that the aeration performed by the DGA had only been three to four inches.
“And it shows,” Chapa said. “I mean, the greens are our bread and butter. Everything else can be immaculate, and if the greens aren’t good, then we’re not going to get any play.”
Thompson said that he had recently spoken to two golfers who said they wouldn’t return to Devine’s course until the seven greens that had been improperly reconstructed under DGA management had been fixed.
“What can actually be done?” Thompson said. “It’s the wrong product there to begin with, right? So are we talking [the equipment] will help it, but it’s something that will be good in a year, good in two years, or good in five years? Or is it going to be something that we just have to replace altogether because it’s never going to be the correct quality that it should be to bring us back to where we should be as a course?”
Chapa said that replacing the greens was part of a long-term plan, but that the requested equipment would help in the meantime.
“It’s not going to have them the way they should be,” Chapa said, “but they’re going to be in a lot better condition than what they’re in.”
Rodriguez pointed out that the City has only been running the course since Aug. 2018, and is still rehabbing it and performing routine maintenance the DGA had deferred for years.
“We’ve done more than [the DGA] did in the past four or five years that they had it,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”
Schott asked how much it would cost to fix the seven greens in need of repair.
“I think they all need to be redone,” Chapa said. “If you did them all, you’re probably looking at about $300,000 to $400,000.”
A Lopez-Valdez motion to approve the purchase of the greens roller and amend the budget for $20,774 passed 4-0.
Another Lopez-Valdez motion to approve the purchase of the bunker rake and amend the budget for $14,430 passed 4-0.
Chapa put together a list of all the fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides the course needs for the upcoming year. The chemicals have a list price of $59,197, but by locking in the price early through AmeriTurf, discounts brought the price down to $54,808.60.
A Lopez-Schott motion to lock in the price and amend the budget for $54,808.60 passed 4-0.
Other course business
Council also approved a membership application and golf course shed rental agreement, as well as a fee of $500 for schools to use the course for practices and tournaments.
The course has brought in revenue of $40,320.47 from Sept. 1, 2018 through Jan. 10, 2019. There are currently 39 members.
By Marly Davis