By Nolan Madden
A new security measure is in force at Holbrook’s Hidden Cove Golf Course, aimed at tackling its long-standing vandalism problem.
“Recently we just spent $25,000 for new golf carts. We’ve already had about three or four cases of vandalism to them,” City Manager Ray Alley recently informed the city’s mayor and council.
The update is the latest in a persistent string of mischief plaguing the city as far back as 2011. In March 2014, ongoing vandalism at the golf course led to a shift in how the course is managed.
Golf carts were the primary target of the vandals at the time, and seem to be a source of constant temptation for them, with reported damage ranging from running over garbage cans and course equipment, to one cart being “mud bogged,” another having its engine ruined by shifting it from drive to reverse repeatedly, and others damaged through reckless driving.
Last October, following the $25,000 July 2015 purchase of the most recently damaged carts he referenced, Alley noted that some unidentified persons had already tampered with one of the carts, apparently in attempt to bypass a speed-limiting governor to make the cart accelerate faster.
One of the five new carts was reported as sustaining extensive front axle damage on Feb. 4.
The acts have taken a heavy toll on the amenity and on course operations, reducing carts on-hand from 30 to 21 last year. Now only 12 carts remain in operating inventory, Alley said.
Measures to thwart the damage have been as ongoing as the crimes themselves, with every feasible effort–from modified Hidden Cove staff schedules, to surveillance camera installation, to reassigning city employees to act as “rangers” at the golf course over the weekends and during the summer months–tried and defeated, leaving the city manager frustrated.
Back then Alley stated that the problem had worsened to the point that he’d considered making a drastic change.
“I thought about doing away with the carts entirely, but most of the people out there are good people. I don’t want to make the 90 percent pay for the actions of the 10 percent,” he said at the time.
Hidden Cove Golf Course members pay a $30 membership fee per month that covers greens fees and the use of the carts, with non-members charged a $5 daily fee for the use of the carts and to cover greens fees.
In November 2011, citing maintenance costs, Alley received council approval to double golf cart rental fees, an increase from $5 to $10 for nine holes of play, and from $10 to $20 for 18 holes.
This time, Alley has employed a firmer measure, but one he says will avoid punishing paid course members.
“We’ve come up with what I think is a really viable solution. I’ve actually spoken with the golfers and people who are advocates of the golf course and, right now, out of 200 visiting golfers, we only have 30 members who pay the monthly membership fee.”
He continued, “A lot of the cart damage is not being caused by paying members. “Effective immediately, golf carts will now be available for use for free by members only. They will be secured by an automated cardlock system, and accessed only with an access card provided by course management. Additional permissions can be granted per city approval,” said Alley.
The city manager expects that the new arrangement will encourage non-member golfers to take advantage of unlimited complimentary cart use offered with the $30 monthly fee, and will discourage cart damage. He anticipates current membership revenues to double moving forward, year over year.
Carts will now be numbered with larger I.D. decals.
A new 12-bay covered storage hangar is also in place at the course. Its cost was roughly $4,000 to construct. It will also be available at no further cost to club members to store their private golf carts and clubs.
Each fully enclosed 8’ wide by 10’ deep bay is fitted with a 110-volt electrical outlet for trickle battery recharging, protected from the elements and available on a first come, first served basis.
“I don’t discourage anyone from coming in to walk our course. But when you have amenities being damaged by non-paying individuals, it’s a major problem. The city can’t afford to buy another 10 carts,” he said.
“We encourage all the golfers to bring their own carts to store here, along with their equipment.”
By Nolan Madden