Proposed golf course business plan tees up pricy short- and long-term goals

A review of the current draft of a business plan for the Devine Municipal Golf Course revealed big ideas with a big price tag and an eye toward future recreation opportunities.
Golf Course Superintendent Ruben Chapa presented the plan, which has not been finalized or approved, at the Regular Devine City Council meeting held last Tuesday, March 19.
The plan was developed in conjunction with Ray Garza of On Par Golf, a consulting and golf management company in San Antonio, and outlined both one-to-three and five-to-10-year goals and objectives for the golf course.
One-to-three-year objectives include a complete rebuild and redesign of all 18 greens and tee boxes, including sand bunkers; a new irrigation and drainage system for the greens; and a 5,000 square foot event and banquet hall, at an estimated cost of $1,634,274.
Five-to-10-year goals hinge on the City’s purchase of 41.51 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to the golf course. The property, owned by Pamela Derksen, is located across the golf course on Ingram Road, and is also bordered by Mockingbird Lane, Libold Dive, and CR 676.
If the City is able to purchase Derksen’s land, long-term plans include developing the property into the City of Devine Entertainment Park, which will feature a golf learning center with a lighted full-sized golf driving range; nine-hole Par 3 golf course; golf practice area; putt-putt mini golf course; swimming pool; snack bar and concession area; three-mile walking path; and a 3,000-guest capacity concert/event pavilion.
Phase 1 of the five-to-10-year plan, the driving range and golf learning center, was estimated to cost $683,900.
Both price estimates were current as of March 19, and Phase 1 of the long-term plan did not account for the cost of purchasing Derksen’s property.
“So what is the game plan on redoing [the greens]?” District 4 Councilwoman Jennifer Schott asked.
Chapa said that a contractor he’d spoken to said the greens could be rebuilt and sprigged within two months.
“Then you’re going to grow in another two months,” Chapa said. “Let’s just say right now it was approved, for [argument’s] sake, and by August he’d be sprigging and opening probably in October.”
Interim City Administrator Dora Rodriguez said nine holes could be redone at a time, leaving the other nine available for play.
“When will we do these holes?” District 5 Councilman Cory Thompson asked. “I know they have to be redone, I’m not questioning that fact. Are we going to do any type of redesign of the course itself at that time, to move around holes or tee boxes, or are we just going to leave everything exactly where it’s at?”
Chapa said that some of the holes needed to be redesigned, offering the number 17 green as an example. In that instance, roots from nearby pine trees are reaching into the green.
“Are we going to have to get a course designer back out there, or are we going to do it in-house?” Thompson asked.
Chapa suggested getting input from the golf course architect and contractor he’d been in touch with, as well as On Par Golf’s Garza, and agreed with Schott’s suggestion of asking golfers who play the course.
Thompson asked if there was a projected membership cap for the course, noting that he had been told there were around 250 members when the course was at its peak popularity.
“We have had 50 years of a Golf Association there to try to give us some sort of a projection of where we are, so if we go and spend $1.6 million, we kind of know where the payoff is,” Thompson said, “or the projection is on that as far as how we’re going to pay for that.”
Interim City Administrator Dora Rodriguez said the goal was not just members.
“We want to have lots of tournaments, we want to be able to let the schools use it for different events. Now that the clubhouse is going to be renovated, we want to be able to utilize it. We’ve already had some people asking about renting. So all that is going to be looked at.”
Rodriguez added that she and City Accountant Denise Duffy had been researching the golf course’s membership records in EZLinks, the course’s point of sale software.
“In EZLinks there were only 117 members, and I came across multiple that were in there twice,” Duffy said.
Hap Squires, who said he had been a member of the golf course and had served on the Devine Golf Association Board for a number of years, said that membership typically ranged from 100 to 120, but that what sustained the course were players from out of town.
“The greens were so spectacular that people came out of San Antonio,” Squires said. “I’m glad to see that’s where our emphasis is going to be, to get those greens back, and I think you’ll get the players.”
Thompson, who works for G&E Custom Homes and Construction, said that commercial prices for the proposed banquet hall could be $200 per square foot or more, and suggested that the City research grants to construct a new community center or library instead.
The Driscoll Public Library and the George S. Woods Community Center share a building and parking lot in the 200 block of E. Hondo Ave. Thompson suggested that the entity that didn’t receive a new building could expand into the space left behind in the Hondo Ave. location.
“Not to say we can’t leave [the banquet hall] on the plan, but just maybe this should be more of a backup somewhere versus actually the first thing,” Thompson said.
Schott pointed out that a banquet hall at the golf course would have good ambiance for weddings.
“Do you want to have that many people all traveling to that section of town with all the traffic?” Thompson asked. “Because we don’t have lights over there, or four-lane roads like we have right here in the center of Devine for people to enter.”
“The truth is that if we’re spending all this money, then yeah I want people to travel over there,” Schott replied.
Herring reminded Council that no decision was on the table, and asked them to come to the next meeting with any additional questions.
District 1 Councilman David Valdez, District 2 Councilman Steve Lopez, and District 3 Councilman David Espinosa were also at the meeting.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer