Ocala Golf Course finishes the 2020-21 fiscal year under budget with the help of revenue from the sale of the old Pine Oaks golf course

Eddie Carey blasts his way out of a bunker on the 18th hole at the Ocala Golf Club on East Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala on Nov. 9, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]
Across the country during the pandemic, golf courses saw increases in requests for tee times and rentals, according to The National Golf Association.

And the Ocala Golf Course (OGC) was no exception.

Ashley Dobbs, market and communications manager for the City of Ocala, said as outdoor activities, especially golf, were deemed a safe way to remain active during the pandemic, operations at OGC moved forward.

“Precautionary measures were in place once reopened, such as sanitation practices and social distancing,” explained Dobbs, “however, no additional adjustments were really needed.”

During the height of the pandemic, according to Dobbs, people were looking for options that would allow them to be outside, safely social-distanced, while remaining physically active. Golf provided this outlet.

Jason Lenhart, general manager of the OGC, said he saw a lot of different people coming to the course during the pandemic, outside of the loyal regulars he was accustomed to seeing just about every day.

“I noticed more women playing and more people that did not usually play golf,” he said. “So we didn’t necessarily see a lot more golfers per se, but we did expand on the kinds of golfers we usually see out there.”

Membership remained steady throughout, according to Lenhart, mainly due to this influx of new golfers, but he said that a decrease in “snowbirds” was still observed by the golf course, due to travel restrictions during the pandemic.

The club has found ways to draw new golfers to its driving range. Recently, it introduced Toptracer units, which are state-of-the-art in golfing technology. The units help track the flight path of every golf shot made and displays it on a high-definition screen.

According to USAToday.com, Topgolf leases the “Toptracer” equipment “at prices starting around $180 to $190 per bay per month, depending on the configuration.”

OGC originally budgeted for $1.734 million in operating expenditures, and at one point even adjusted that number up to $1.769 million. But in the end, the course spent $1.5 million for operating.

“We were a little frugal because the mystery was…well, every month was a mystery,” Lenhart said of the last year and a half. “Managing a business, you just had to pay a lot more close attention to everything you were doing. But we’re very proud of what we were able to do. We almost broke the $1.5 million gross revenue mark.

“Some of things that were put into practice because of the pandemic will remain for years to come,” he added. “They’re just better for our business and should help us going forward.”

OGC budgeted $1.54 million in revenue for 2020-21 but realized $1.39 million in revenue collected from greens and cart fees, all food and beverage purchases, banquet hall rental fees, memberships, pro shop merchandise, and league and event fees such as tournaments.

The budget had help in that it received over $622K identified as miscellaneous revenue.

Dobbs said that the city “solid a piece of the Pine Oaks golf course to West Oak Developers, LLC and the net revenue from that sale [was] $622,489.” The principals of West Oak Developers are listed as Scott and Linda Siemens.

Public records reflect a sale of Pine Oaks golf course from the City of Ocala to West Oak Developers on Feb. 26, 2021, for $2,107,000.

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