Ocean Shores Golf Course management changing hands

Company takes over operations of city-owned course after retirement of leasee

A private management company will soon take over operation of the city-owned Ocean Shores Golf Course after the retirement of the course’s longtime tenant and manager, Curt Zander.

The management shift will transfer course revenue back to the city, and could bring more golfers to the course, according to city officials.

The Ocean Shores City Council voted Monday to accept a management proposal from Troon Golf, directing Mayor Jon Martin to engage the company in contract negotiations, which he now must complete on a condensed timeline.

Previously the city leased the course to Zander, who was responsible for the course’s operation, maintenance, and some capital improvements. In turn, Zander kept the revenue the course brought in.

Last August Zander sent a letter to the city that said he wanted to retire by the end of the year and sell the remaining years on the lease.

According to Martin, the city then released a request seeking a lease arrangement to Zander’s, but received no response. That forced the city to broaden the request, opening the application to management companies, to which three responded.

That blip pushed the timeline into 2023, but Zander agreed to stay on until the end of April.

The city conducted interviews with the companies and discussed proposals at a council study session on March 23 before selecting Troon.

The company manages 140 municipal golf courses, making it the largest operator of city-owned courses in the country. It also has a regional office in Seattle and a subsidiary called Premier Golf that manages about a dozen courses in the Pacific Northwest.

Under the new system, Troon will charge the city $7,500 in monthly management fees, a figure that will increase by 2.5% each year, according to Troon’s proposal. The company proposed a five-year management term with opportunities to extend after that. The city will also be responsible for labor fees, Martin said.

But unlike before, Martin said, all other revenue will go to the city. That money will be put into a capital account for making improvements to the course, said Ocean Shores City Administrator Scott Andersen.

“From a business perspective, we will probably be generating more revenue,” Andersen said.

City Councilor Katheryn Sprigg said at a recent study session that despite the money coming back to the city, “it’s going to take a long time to break even” because of costs the city will incur from purchasing equipment.

Martin said he still has to negotiate a price for the current course equipment, which is owned by Zander. Martin estimated the equipment might cost $250,000 to $300,000 based on figures from other cities.

In 2022 the course brought in anywhere from $40,000 to $140,000 per month in sales, drawing about 1,000 rounds of play — between nine and 18 hole rounds — in its busiest month, according to city documents.

While the course won’t turn into a cash cow for the city, Martin said Troon’s marketing ability, along with an updated website, could increase play at the course and therefore spending at local businesses. Martin said there are “huge opportunities for making Ocean Shores a destination to go golfing.”

According to Troon’s proposal, the company has “extensive experience in the Pacific Northwest and involvement in the nearby Westport Golf Links project,” a proposed traditional links-style course within Westport Light State Park. Troon projects 27,000 round plays in the first year of management and a 5% increase in plays per year after that.

Now that Troon has been approved by the council, the biggest obstacle to the transition is time, Martin said. He still has to negotiate a contract, which will require review by the city’s lawyer and Troon’s lawyer before it can be returned to the council for approval. Martin said he was “concerned about the time frame” given Troon would need some time to prepare before taking over the course in May.

“Until I have a contract in hand, Troon can’t move forward on managing the course,” Martin said.

Martin said the company has experience taking over courses “in a short period of time,” and said it was his intention to keep the course open during the transition.

Contact reporter Clayton Franke at 406-552-3917 or clayton.franke@thedailyworld.com.