Two city-run golf courses, two very different stories

Lindsay Atkinson Articles

The city of Boise owns not one, but two golf courses: Quail Hollow and Warm Springs.

Over the past five years, these two golf courses have told two very different stories. Quail Hollow has run a cumulative loss and Warm Springs has run a cumulative profit. In both cases, entry onto the golf course has been similar in price or more expensive than at private courses in the city.

Quail Hollow Golf Course was gifted to the city in December 2013 by the previous owner. At the time, the value of the donation was more than $2 million, including the course, a clubhouse, and golf equipment. Shortly after taking ownership of the property, the city made a $500,000 renovation to the clubhouse to add a restaurant and banquet facility.

Each year for the past five years, Quail Hollow has bounced between operating at a profit and a loss. In fiscal years 2014, 2016, and 2017 the golf course just barely earned a profit, with the highest profit being $27,593 in 2014. However, in both fiscal years 2015 and 2018, the golf course lost money. In fiscal year 2018, that loss was $97,413. Cumulatively, over the past five years, the golf course has run a loss of $84,877.

The Warm Springs Golf Course, the second golf course run by the city, predated Quail Hollow. It was constructed in 1972, and the city took it over from private ownership in 1996.

Over the past five years, Warm Springs has run an overall profit of $780,051, with a high in 2018 at $225,668 and a low in 2014 at $56,215.

Though these golf courses have shown two very different financial tales, one at a cumulative loss and the other at a cumulative profit, it does not matter whether the city ends up with a shortfall or a profit for a golf course it owns. The fact that it owns and operates golf courses means the city is competing with private business.

You may think: If the city has these golf courses, they must be more affordable than private courses? Well, from a simple analysis of the golf rates of the half a dozen courses in Boise, the city courses are actually similar in price or more expensive than the private courses.

For both Warm Springs and Quail Hollow, the peak rate differs between weekdays and weekends, at around $24 for 9-holes and $29 for 18-holes on a weekday or $25 for 9-holes and $33 for 18-holes on the weekend.

At Indian Lakes, a private course in Boise, the weekday rate is $19 for 9-holes and $31 for 18-holes, with weekend rates increasing to $22 and $33. So, with the exception of the 18-hole weekday course, Indian Lakes is less expensive than both city-run courses and, unlike the city-run courses, Indian Lakes offers all sorts of discounts for different ages, military service, and times of night.

Boise Ranch Golf Course, another example of a private course, has weekday rates at $23 for 9-holes and $33 for 18-holes, with weekend rates depending on the specific day (Friday, Saturday, or Sunday). Additionally, Pierce Park Greens, which offers a 9-hole course, charges $10—dramatically less expensive than the 9-hole courses at the two city-owned operations, for any day of the week.

Overwhelmingly, these private courses have no real difference in price compared to the city-run courses, with a few instances of the private courses actually costing less. However, there is one key difference between the private and the city-run courses: Private courses do not leave city residents on the line for losses. With half a dozen other golf courses in the city, that are all privately run and operating at no real difference in price, it is time to sell these two government-run courses or find a different use for the properties.