Golf Course Looks To Adjust As Youth Players Trend Down

OCEAN CITY — A briefing on some of the goings on at the municipal Eagle’s Landing golf course this week included an apparent trend in fewer young people enjoying the sport.

The Recreation and Parks Committee on Tuesday got an overview of each segment of the larger recreation and parks department including the town-owned Eagle’s Landing golf course in West Ocean City. The broad overview was largely for the benefit of new committee member and Councilman Mark Paddack.

The overview of Eagle’s Landing covered a lot of ground from the progress of the partnership with Worcester County to spray treated effluent on the course for irrigation, to a comparison between the municipal course and other private courses in the area in terms of overall value. One of the more interesting facets of the discussion was an apparent trend of fewer young people taking up golf and its potential impact on the future of the sport locally and beyond. Council President and committee member Lloyd Martin broached the subject with Eagle’s Landing PGA pro Bob Croll.

“Are you seeing a trend of a lot less young people playing golf?” he said. “Is there any way to back that up statistically?”

Croll confirmed that fewer young people playing golf is a concerning trend nationally that has carried over locally.

“I think the drawback for many young people is the time element,” he said. “We’re exploring a way to allow them to play maybe six holes in about an hour-and-a-half at a reasonable price. That’s something we’re working on.”

Martin said many young people are seeking out other hobbies not as time consuming as golf.

“Their attention span isn’t what it used to be,” he said. “If you can find a way to keep it around one and a half hours, that might encourage more young people to come out.”

Another point of discussion was the partnership with Worcester County to spray effluent on Eagle’s Landing as a means to dispose of treated wastewater on the course while providing irrigation. Croll explained the project has been in the works for years and finally appears to be nearing the finish line.

“There have been 1,400 sprinkler heads installed where the old system had around 500,” he said. “It’s going to be a really good thing for the golf course. It will be a great partnership with the county.”

Croll said the golf course element of the project is complete and the necessary next step is pumping the treated wastewater from the county system to Eagle’s Landing.

“Everything is hooked up on our end,” he said. “The next big thing is setting up the pumping at Mystic Harbor that will pump water to our course. It’s been a very long time coming.”

Croll also provided an update on some of the comings and goings of private courses in the area including the Bay Club in Berlin.

“The Bay Club in Berlin is closing,” he said. “That’s sad news for all of our friends who work there, but good news for our course because all of those rounds have to go somewhere.”

In the highly competitive golf industry in and around the resort area, Eagle’s Landing is holding its own in terms of numbers of rounds and overall value, according to Croll.

“Our prices are just under our competitors that are of equal quality,” he said. “We’ve done a good job with that. We still provide a premium golf experience at a great value.”

Nonetheless, Eagle’s Landing is an enterprise fund for Ocean City, meaning it should be self-sufficient and funded largely from user fees without a regular contribution from the town’s general fund.

“We lose money some years and make money in others,” he said. “It really depends on the weather. We’ve struggled a lot in the first half of this fiscal year and I don’t know if we’ll be able to make that up.”

Recreation and Parks Director Susan Petito said a close eye is kept on the golf course’s bottom line, but some of its contributions to the town’s overall financial situation can’t always be substantiated.

“We operate as a resort amenity and really emphasize the value,” she said. “It’s also a part of our overall tourism. It’s not necessarily always about the bottom line because it contributes to bringing people into town. They stay at our hotels and eat at our restaurants and that has to be considered when you talk about the value of the golf course.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.