For over a year after Hurricane Irma and a city stormwater construction project barreled and burrowed through the nine-hole Ocean Palm Golf Club in Flagler Beach, it was like the War of the Roses between the club and the city. As late as last September the city commission placed the golf course on probation and threatened to end its lease over conditions of greens the city thought were not up to par.
That’s all over. Terry McManus and his Flagler Golf Management Group changed management, vastly improved the grounds, added a lot of new equipment, opened a restaurant that just got a full liquor license as well. Ocean Palm has been running tournaments and leagues, and it’ll be adding new events every week along with outside entertainment, corn hole, bocce ball, croquet and horseshoe games. It’s taken “a lot of pain, effort, bood, sweat and tears and money,” McManus said today.
“They’re off the radar, totally off the radar now, they’re on their own,” Flagler Beach Commissioner Rick Belhumeur said. “They’re doing well. They’ve got a bunch of new equipment, they’ve got a bunch of new carts,” and most importantly, the greens, after a lush growing season, are back in shape. “Everything is good.”
Thursday evening the Flagler Beach City Commission approved a lease amendment with Flagler Golf Management that essentially ratifies the new relationship as its sets the sort of standards the city expects the course to maintain. The two sides did not have such an agreement in the lease when it was first signed in November 2015, and course quality had been a recurring point of contention since, to the point that the city found the course in default last year, giving McManus a deadline (then another) to improve the course. He did.
The city, the new agreement states, “is satisfied with the current condition of the greens and fairways as a minimal standard to be maintained.” Thursday’s agreement includes a few photographs of the course (see below) in the condition it’s in now. Those photographs will now be “photographic representation of the minimal standard at which the greens and fairways shall be maintained.
“They’ve done what they said they were going to do,” City Manager Larry newsom said. “I went out there and played Sunday in the tournament and the course is really coming around.” Newsom said McManus is a lot more present at the course than he was in the past, when it was having its difficulties–difficulties that were by no means of the course’s doing, for the most part: aside from Hurricane Irma’s disruptions, which affected the whole city, city crews dug through the course to build a drainage system that made the course unplayable for months. The disruptions led to disputes between the city and golf management over compensation figures. Those disputes were never fully resolved.
There’d also been accounting issues, with financial reports being turned in late or not at all, and not in formats the city was requesting. All of that, too, is in the past. “They’re taking care of what they have to with the city,” Newsom said, paying their bills on time and submitting the required reports, “so we have no complaints from our budget department.”
Newsom said the golf course is doing what it was intended to do after the city acquired it in a foreclosure sale in 2013 for almost $500,000, after it had sat unused and overgrown since 2008: it’s bringing back golf recreation to the city, and doing so in line with golf trends. Private and municipal golf courses were severely battered by the Great Recession and the nation’s changing demographics, which caused a huge collapse in golf’s popularity and the closure of thousands of golf courses across the country. But nine-hole courses are making a comeback. Newsom said, because they’re more amenable to modern schedules and time commitments, which don’t permit lingering too long on a golf course. And for those who want to play 18 holes, they can always replay the course.
McManus is looking past the difficulties with the city. “At this point they’ve been very supportive of us, they’ve done a lot of things to help us get from A to B,” he said. “If we get through this grow season, we should have the nicest product they’ve seen here in many, many years.”