I should consider myself fortunate to live in upstate New York when it comes to golf. Historically this region (Albany-Schenectady-Troy-Amsterdam) was considered a world class manufacturing hub. During the 20th century communities established municipal golf courses for a burgeoning "middle class" public eager to find a way to spend their leisure time participating in a sport once only available to the affluent. (My course was built in the 1930’s as part of the WPA)
Over the past 50 years of decline, this region is now referred to as the "Rust Belt". Our prosperity has migrated to centers of influence located in larger metropolitan, cosmopolitan regions, and other parts of the world.
Golf magazines publish articles marveling at golf venues where you can play a round of golf for under $150
In contrast, my municipal course has seasonal memberships for under $900-$1200, offering unlimited golf, preferred tee times on weekends, and discounts on all entry fees for competitive events. (Cart rentals are range from $16-$26 for 18 holes) Weekend greens fees for Senior residents are around $20 walking. My group plays before 9:00 on weekends on a regular basis with little or no problem getting this tee time.
It’s common knowledge up here that you can jump in your car and drive south towards New York City for about an hour and a half and encounter golfers who would think this as delusional.
The course is run by a highly regarded PGA professional and is maintained by a superintendent who has done an excellent job of maintaining the facility for over 20 years. An on-site restaurant delivers top notch pub style meals and the bar has locally brewed IPA on tap for $4.00 a pint!
How does this happen? A simple, local explanation is that I live near the state capital where employees are paid reasonable civil service union wages and have funded pensions, and we still do have a professional class of lawyers, doctors and business owners.
Most golfers who play my Muni don’t live in the city that runs it. A city burdened by urban decay and Section 8 housing. And a practically non-existent tax base.
But somehow the city makes money on the golf operation, so much so that it would be foolish for it to respond to lucrative offers to sell it to a private operation for a “quick buck”.
The course conditions are excellent, not comparable to private clubs I've played, but if a city budget would allow for improved drainage, expanded cart paths and a replacement for a 50-year-old manually run irrigation system I do believe it could achieve "country club" quality.
Lamentably, this is a hard argument to make to a municipal government burdened by the realities of our current economic times.