A path for pedestrians is only the first step in a multimillion plan aimed at revitalizing the 101-year-old Mill Valley Golf Course.
A master plan for the 40-acre course is being developed seeking to increase accessibility and revenue for the city-owned course, which is facing a $280,000 operating deficit and a 50% reduction in rounds played over seven years, according to a report prepared by Staples Golf LLC, a firm based in Arizona.
The cost to improve the course — an undertaking that could include enhanced marketing, upgrading maintenance equipment, a driving range, bunker renovation, and a drainage system overhaul — would be about $1.5 million to $5.5 million, according to the report.
The investment could include renovating the parking lot and restructuring the pro shop as a social center that serves food and drinks and includes a short-game practice area.
“The broader picture of what we are looking at is trying to bring the golf course into the 21st century,” said Sean McGrew, the city’s interim arts and recreation director.
The parks commission is working with stakeholders and the City Council to enhance the playability and fiscal sustainability of the course, McGrew said.
It is too early to say how the rest of the project will be funded, but he said it will require private and public partnerships, solidifying state grant funding and other creative means.
“The city of Mill Valley always works with the community and various stakeholders,” McGrew said. “The great thing is the golf course master plan gives us a path.”
According to the master plan, increases to prices and participation through these improvements could generate about $1.87 million in revenue, which would dwarf the annual operating deficit.
“Regarding the sustainability of the course, we are looking at a variety of different improvements,” McGrew said. “We are looking at increasing fees for the course and looking at alternate revenue streams such as foodservice and facility rentals.”
Many agree the municipal golf course is a hidden gem in need of polishing.
“We did a little bit of an analysis of the feasibility. You’re in an incredible location in the middle of the Bay Area. There is no reason this isn’t a place people should be visiting,” Andy Staples, the consulting firm’s president, said at a Parks and Recreation Commission meeting in November. “Mill Valley is one of the most unique, niche little cities and the golf course is a part of that.”
James Prochaska said he moved to Mill Valley four years ago and is a frequent golfer. He said the course is gorgeous, but the overgrown vegetation and lack of drainage creates a punishing course for beginners.
“If you could take and repair those kinds of huge faults I think you can get avid golfers,” Prochaska said at the Dec. 7 City Council meeting.
Tad Inouye, president of the Mill Valley Golf Club, said he is grateful for everyone who took part in the process and is excited that the master plan is moving forward.
Inouye said he hopes this plan will allow for more events like “glow ball night.”
“It sold out real quick. People came from San Francisco and the East Bay because it’s convenient. We need to tap into that market,” he said. “So to not try and improve the place not only hurts the golf course but the whole county because it’s a gem. People love it here and if we market it more it will grow.”
He said membership at the course has increased from 175 to 250 this year, and volunteers have spent more than 200 hours on Sundays pulling weeds and beautifying the course.
Fairfax resident Sean Tully, a golf course superintendent, and historian said the Mill Valley Golf Course is a special place because it’s one of the last surviving courses from the golf boom in the 1920s.
“It should be recognized for what it is,” Tully said.
Obtaining significant funding from the city, however, will be a challenge as city officials anticipate a doubling of pension costs within the next decade.
Councilman John McCauley said supports the master plan because the course is an “absolute jewel,” but the community will be the driving force in the project.
“I’ll approve the plan, but the plan is just a piece of paper,” McCauley said. “It only becomes reality as a function of spending money and community interest. I think I’m supportive of a small level of spending over 12 months, not the $1.5 million suggested, but a small level of spending with the obvious stuff, particularly marketing.”