Municipal Golf Deficits Spark Privatization Talk in Lansing

golf ball

LANSING — A Lansing State Journal feature on Sunday, August 2 reported that Lansing’s four municipally owned golf courses have lost an average of $641,500 annually — "a deficit covered by taxpayer subsidy," according to Journal writer Todd Schulz.

City council member Carol Wood told Schulz that something had to be done to stem the financial losses and that could include selling off courses in their entirety, closing any number of the four, or contracting with a private company for management. The city’s park director opposes any such moves and has argued that some public-private golf management contracts have fared poorly for the municipalities that enter into them. Wood cited unspecified examples of companies turning back golf operations to municipalities in worse shape than when the companies took over management of them.

Michael LaFaive, senior editor of Michigan Privatization Report, believes that such bad experiences can be mitigated by careful contracting. "It takes two to tango," said LaFaive. "The world now has a lot of experience with privatization and precautionary steps can be taken by every unit of government to minimize poor performance and the abandonment of duties on the part of a vendor. It is vital that government does everything it can to facilitate successful partnerships otherwise they may give privatization a bad name."

For more on golf privatization, see "Golf Privatization: Fieldstone Should be Private" on the Web at