Free Market

South Jordan Double Bogeys on Public Golf Courses


The South Jordan City Council hit into a massive hazard Tuesday night. By deciding to purchase the Glenmoor golf course, South Jordan will now own not one, but two golf courses. Long-time residents will recall that back in 2004 the city purchased Mulligans which has struggled to ever earn a profit.

As South Jordan is looking to double-down on its involvement in the golf industry, it raises the question: should local governments be involved in the business of golf at all?

A golf course is a great example of a non-essential service that is quite often also provided for by the private market. Local governments directly compete against private golf courses, often using taxpayer dollars to subsidize their struggling enterprise.

But its not just just golf courses. Theaters, pools, recreation centers—the list of government enterprises that can be built for the sake of recreation and entertainment goes on and on. Too often, local elected officials and groups of overly eager residents lose the perspective between the “needs,” which should be provided for, and the “wants” of a community.

To add insult to injury, government enterprises don’t operate on par with private businesses. They can be subsidized, often have legal immunity, avoid business taxes, and don’t necessarily have to respond to market signals when it comes to prices, services, and even their continued existence.

As for South Jordan, it doesn’t matter if they bond, raise taxes, find a pot of extra money, or hold a bake sale in order to buy Glenmoor golf course. If the course itself is still a profitable endeavor then it should be sold on the open market, otherwise it will be another drain on taxpayers for years to come.

Government should maintain a level playing field for private industry—not compete with it. State, county, and city governments need to find ways to divest themselves from businesses that should instead be privatized. South Jordan needs to take a mulligan on this decision, otherwise they risk getting stuck in a sand trap.

  • Bob McFee

    I don’t play golf. Costs more than I’m willing to pay. Usually, I agree with staying out of the normal market, but people like me, but who do play golf, we don’t consider playing if it means having to buy a membership or paying at a very high price.

    The voters of South Jordan elected their leaders and the leaders are providing for the wants of their constituency, and one of those wants is the new public golf course. What this post suggests is that voters not have that choice (loss of freedom). What you are looking at is a tradeoff in freedoms. If we want one kind of freedom over another, that should be the choice of the people subsidizing it. My city isn’t paying for it.

    I do believe that the government services usually don’t provide the level of quality that competition does. You get what you pay for. People who use private courses are paying not just for the tee time, but for exclusivity as well. On a public course, you have to be willing to play with anyone.

    An example, take the Riverside Country Club in Provo. Here are their prices:
    http://www.riversidecountryclub.org/Memberships/Other-Memberships.aspx

    In the food industry, you have high end restaurants and low end restaurants. There are no low end private golf courses that I know of. There is no profit in it. South Jordan would like to have their low end citizens the ability to enjoy golf.

    As a last note, there are no city “needs.” It is wants all the way down. The state or feds want you to have healthy environment, and REQUIRE (loss of freedom) sewage treatment plants, garbage disposal, clean water etc. We don’t have to have those things. There are plenty of countries that don’t have those things. They are freer in that regard. I’m pretty sure you don’t want to be ‘free’ in that way. The most extreme example of wants is the desire to live. We ‘need’ air, water, food, and shelter (depending on the location.) If you don’t ‘want’ to live, you don’t need those things. And sad as it is, there are people who choose to be dead rather than dying naturally. You don’t have ‘needs’ until you want something. ‘Needs’ is the basic fallacy in socialism.

    Take it for what it is worth.

    • Michael Melendez

      I think you are equating golf courses that are open to the “public” as being equal to golf courses owned by government. There are plenty of golf courses that are open to the public, but are privately owned. Many of these golf courses have reasonable fees similar to other “low end” public golf courses.

      And as for the voters of South Jordan, a poll was commissioned by the city which showed that if this issue was taken to the ballot the vote would fail. South Jordan residents are deeply divided on this issue. Compelling all South Jordan residents to pay for what some residents want does not make sense in this instance.

    • Jim S.

      Providing “golf” is not within the proper role of government. Ever.

      Nice try.

  • oceanjules

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ae64d7d4bb6a4cdf46084da4507cee386c292a4332c7b3b18e32b10a5927617a.jpg

    It is agreed the city should not purchase Glenmoor for several reasons. To set the record straight, please note that false numbers were produced by the city (former mayor &/or council members) regarding Mulligans’ financials. After rigorous review by several MBAs, project managers and cost/financial analysts it was proven that Mulligans has always been profitable and has paid for itself. It is agreed that the bond payoff was not the best thing to do but it is done and per council decision, Mulligans does not have to pay it back. Therefore, the $1.2- $1.5 Million in annual revenue can be spent to operate, update and refurbish this priceless asset. However, by the looks of the grounds (picture taken 2 weeks ago) this is not happening. If he city does purchase Glenmoor we hope it will not suffer the same fate and that Mulligans will not deteriorate any further.

    NOTE: Mulligans is the only open space on the Jordan River in South Jordan and has been used by over 250,000 people on an annual basis.

    • Michael Melendez

      Can you point me to the report/analysis/audit that says that?

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