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Forsyth Co. hopes consultant can get Tanglewood golf out of the red

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FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. -- Forsyth County leaders hope a consulting firm can help the county get golf operations at Tanglewood Park out of the red, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

The Forsyth County commissioners are set to vote on an agreement with Brown Golf Management LLC on Monday night. Brown Golf would receive $4,000 a month for 18 months — $72,000 total — to provide management consulting services for Tanglewood golf.

The Tanglewood golf operation is estimated to have a deficit of about $140,000 in the current fiscal year but has seen gradual improvement since its $509,000 deficit in 2011.

County Manager Dudley Watts said of county park staff, “Those guys have done a fantastic job at getting us to where we are. … This is a next strategy to close the gap.”

Earlier this year the county paid Brown Golf Management $15,000 to study the golf operation. The firm provided the county with a thick report containing recommendations for every aspect of the operation.

Now the county proposes to contract with the company for more services. Under the proposed agreement, Brown Golf Management would advise the county on all aspects of operating the golf courses and related facilities, but the county would have the final say on what changes to make.

“There are some initiatives in that study that they will need to show us how to actually implement them on the ground, and then with their daily management practices for their own courses that are operating in the black, to show us how they are accomplishing that on a regular basis,” Deputy County Manager Damon Sanders-Pratt said.

Tanglewood golf will still maintain its current managers.

“You’ve just got sort of a regional kind of manager coming in to guide operations,” Watts said.

Tanglewood Park features two 18-hole golf courses and a Par-3 course. The courses were built in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. About 52,000 rounds of golf were played in 2013.

Sanders-Pratt said play decreased everywhere when the economy stumbled in 2008, and county leaders have asked staff to be innovative with bringing more tournaments back.

“While golf loses money, the (park’s) other profit-oriented centers have covered it … but our objective is to get golf to stand on its own,” Watts said.

The county bought Tanglewood Park in 1977. It has been running it directly since 2000, when it took it over from the authority that was overseeing the park.

Operating a public golf course that competes with the private sector puts Forsyth County in an unique situation.

“We have someone from the outside who can bring that private-sector experience,” Sanders-Pratt said.

Commissioners have asked few questions when briefed on the item in budget meetings and agenda briefings.

“Brown Management has been selected as the appropriate management company to produce that revenue which will make major strides in permitting Tanglewood Park to be self-sustaining economically, and I believe all of the county commissioners are excited about the possibility of Brown Management’s success,” Commissioner Bill Whiteheart said.

“I think it will be worthwhile, and with their knowledge of golf courses, maybe they can find some efficiencies that we haven’t found,” Chairman Richard Linville said.