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Changes Come to L.A. City Municipal System

May 05, 2016

By Bob Buttitta

The implementation of a new five-year strategic golf plan is ushering in some big changes at the 10 courses that make up the Los Angeles City’s Municipal golf system.

The initial changes took affect on May 1, while others will be unveiled in the coming months.

James Ward, golf manager for LA City’s recreation and parks, said the goal behind the changes is to improve the experience golfers have at each of the city’s golf facilities.

“Finally with blessing of the (golf) commission and the approval of the five-year plan, we can implement the changes we have wanted to make for a while,” Ward said. “We needed the hand cuffs removed. Now we can now cater to our golf public and show the real fantastic bones of the golf courses that this city has to offer.”

Ward said many of the recent changes revolve around his department’s desire to create a dynamic pricing structure that will appeal to golfers. It starts with the elimination of the non-resident surcharge, allowing every golfer to pay the same green fee no matter where they live.

Under the previous system, a golfer living in Santa Monica who went and played Penmar GC in Venice paid $5 more than a golfer who lives in Venice. The hope is that eliminating the surcharge will encourage golfers to venture out and try all of the city’s golf facilities.

Another thing that was eliminated was the Friday golf rate. Under the old system, golfers paid slightly more to play on a Friday than they did during any other day of the workweek.

Craig Kessler, director of governmental affairs for the SCGA and chair of the Los Angeles Golf Advisory Commission, said all the higher Friday rate did was make Thursday a lot more busy, as golfers tried to beat the extra cost.

“Getting rid of the Friday rate is very valuable,” Kessler said. “It’s a very positive move, as are all the changes that the City is making.”

One of the changes Ward is most excited about is the establishment of a fund to pump money back into each of the city’s golf courses, using portions of the green fees to fund the capital improvement account. Having such a system lets golfers who play at a particular course know that at portion of the money they spend to play that course will be spent on keeping playing conditions at that course at a premium.

“One dollar at executive nine-hole courses and $2 at 18-hole facilities goes directly into the account to fund improvements at the course,” Ward said. “We also have another larger capital improvement fund for the entire division that is used as needed across the network of courses. Now we can allocate funds out of that fund to be paired with a fund at a specific course to ensure we can do the improvement projects needed.”

Kessler said many golfers who play city courses believe their money goes to City Hall and disappears.

“With this program they know money they spend at their course will at least partially stay where they are spending it,” Kessler said. “It’s a good step.”

A few of the other changes that went into affect on May 1 were a lower single cart rider rate of $14 at all 18-hole courses and reduced green fees at the Hansen Dam and Woodley GCs.

The time it takes to play a round of golf is something that almost all golfer dislike, so as a way to try and improve the pace of play, the city has increased its tee time intervals to every 8-minutes. In addition, there will be more marshals on the course to help keep play moving.

“Trying to get the golfer a more leisurely round of golf,” Ward said. “There are a few courses like Rancho (Park) that have so many players wanting to play there it’s still going to be crowded, but hopefully even at our busiest courses we are hopeful the pace will be better.”

A big change that is expected to come into play toward the end of summer is a state of the art computerized reservation system that should make finding and booking tee times at all city courses a lot easier.

While many golfers think you must have a city reservation card to book a tee time, Ward said that’s never been the case.

However the golfers who go through the steps needed to get a reservation card are given the ability to book tee times 16 days in advance. Golfers without a card can only book eight days ahead.

Another benefit of having a card is being included in a new rewards program that pays golfers back with special golf incentives, a program that is set to launch later this year.

For example, if a golfer plays 10 rounds at Roosevelt GC, they would earn a free round to play at another city course.

“Maybe they only want to play at Rancho Park, so his or her reward might be a guaranteed morning tee time on a Saturday morning there,” Ward said.

Kessler said the SCGA has long advocated hard for the city to bring in some outside business acumen to modernize the system.

“The new reservation system will give them the ability to fill open spots during the course of a day or week by charging what the market will bear,” Kessler said. “The SCGA has advocated for modernization starting with Los Angeles because Los Angeles is at the heart of the Southern California municipal universe and the municipal sector is where the game’s fate is going to be decided.

L.A. City Golf Courses

Rancho Park





Hansen Dam

Woodley Lakes

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Handicap Index: 13.4
Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I’d love to play up there sometime soon.


Handicap Index: 15.8
Saturday, May 14, 2016

If you’re going to charge “what the market will bear”, and that may mean maybe 65 bucks primetime for Encino, according to your market analysis, you realize we won’t pay it because most of the time the valley courses are in crappy condition.  We can get very cheap prime time rates in Ventura on and and play superior courses.  The longer drive is so worth playing Olivas over Encino, Balboa, or Woodley. 

Ex: Just today my buddies and I played Olivas at noon for $33 ea. including cart.  You can’t touch that and the course conditions are superior.  I still play Encino and Griffith Park courses each month, but it’s only out of the convenience of the day.  I do admin though the last time I played Encino and Wilson in April, the courses were in fine shape.


Handicap Index: 15.8
Saturday, May 14, 2016

you need to keep some kind of a discount rate model similar to what you offered on GolfNow.  Also, you don’t mention senior golfers.  I have a non-resident senior discount card.  I’d like to know it is still valid and i can get a senior rate on weekdays and weekends. 

I am also one of those who likes to get up before dawn and play before the sun rises as an early morning “rabbit” before the crowds come.  I’d still like to be able to do that.


Handicap Index: 25.6
Friday, May 13, 2016

Los Verdes is LA County, not LA City.


Handicap Index: 10.4
Friday, May 13, 2016

A good start. Next is Los Verdes… Please!


Handicap Index: 11.0
Friday, May 13, 2016

Mr Kessler & Mr Ward,
As a past Tournament Director for a couple of Golf Clubs I was always surprised and irritated when charged $10 per player for booking a tournament at a City course.  Are there plans to remove the tournament surcharge in the near future?

Handicap Index:
Friday, May 13, 2016

Great job.  With the lower green fees and cart fee increase it now costs seniors more to play Hansen dam.

Handicap Index:
Friday, May 13, 2016

Great job.  Lower green fees with increased cart fees make Hansen dam more expensive then before these wonderful changes.


Handicap Index: 13.7
Friday, May 13, 2016

Great job Mr. Ward! It is about time L.A. Park & Rec got with the program. I look forward to these changes and I look forward to the courses receiving the much needed attention they deserve with the $2.00 per round added revenue. And, you are sure to get more golfers playing the “city” courses without the ridiculous $5.00 surcharge, it kept me away-just on principal and I must have played well over a thousand rounds on “city” courses since high school. Again, great job! How you or anyone ever convinced the city fathers the golf program needed a change is short of a miracle! See you gentlemen at Wilson/Harding!


Handicap Index:
Friday, May 13, 2016

Gentlemen of the golf commission,
I want to thank you all for this forward looking program.  We who have worked hard, and are now living off social Security income, or some moderate retirement plan really count on your help to provide quality golf options at all your courses.  Please keep this program moving in this direction, and perhaps the County system might also get it going a better direction. Again, many thanks for all your effort to improve the golfing experience for all of us normal golf fans.


Handicap Index: 7.3
Friday, May 13, 2016

This is great news. I have stayed away from LA City courses for years because of the non resident rates. I’ll return very soon now.


Handicap Index: 24.1
Friday, May 13, 2016

I like it.  Let’s keep “hitting” the ball straight and with purposeful investments.


Handicap Index: 32.1
Friday, May 13, 2016

I hope some of the money at Harbor Park will be used to roll out the greens periodically. Talk about slowing down the game - when everyone who could putt well at a nicely rolled out course, has to repeat putts, when there are five players, it does add too the time, even in small amounts. My group doesn’t like gimmees so we putt them out no matter how close. And often it really isn’t our fault the ball didn’t go in the first time. Really ! We do quite well at courses where the greens are smoothed out.