City Auditor Matthew Grady performed an independent examination of the finances of Stonetree Golf Club in its first year since transitioning from public to private management. He has published his findings for public review.
Stonetree Golf Club, originally Killeen Municipal, opened in 1970 as an 18-hole course built on about 100 acres donated to the City by Roy and Valta Reynolds. Following $5 million in major renovations, the course reopened in 2005 with a new clubhouse, pro shop, practice facilities and redesigned holes.
While the local course is still a popular amenity, the golfing industry as a whole has been in decline for more than a decade. In the audit’s examination period of 2014 to 2019, Stonetree showed a five-year decline in rounds of golf played totaling 27 percent. Despite attempts to increase business, the course was operating at a significant deficit.
To make up for shortfalls between revenues and expenditures, the City’s General Fund had been subsidizing the golf course at an average $361,649 per year. In early 2019, city management determined that outsourcing course management and operations was a viable solution to ultimate profitability. Proposals were solicited from professional golf course management companies, and Billy Casper Golf (BCG) was awarded a contract to begin May 1, 2019.
The audit found that BCG had not met its revenue projections for the first five months of operation due largely to missing the peak playing season in the timing of the transition and higher than anticipated personnel costs. There were also a number of one-time investments made including renovations to the pro shop, addition of an indoor training facility and various course improvements.
The start of the first full fiscal year of BCG management showed progress toward bridging the gap in revenues and expenditures, budgeted at a $21,353 loss. Improved facilities, new programs and innovative marketing coupled with reduced costs for personnel and operations set a solid course toward the break-even mark; however, the COVID-19 pandemic created an unpredicted challenge. The course was shut down for about three weeks in its prime season.
Grady says he is very impressed with the quality and dedication of Billy Casper Golf’s local management team. While the short-term effects of the pandemic have had a negative impact, he says, “in the long-term, the fundamentals look good for creating a self-sustaining operation, which will bring much-needed relief to the General Fund.”
The entire Stonetree Golf Club Audit is available at killeentexas.gov/auditor.