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Rincon wants to drive business at course

POSTED: December 15, 2011 6:09 p.m.

The push for new carts at the city of Rincon’s golf course is in neutral for now.

Rincon City Council members opted to get more detailed information on the existing fleet of golf carts at Lost Plantation Golf Course and tabled a bid to buy 50 golf carts from Yamaha on Monday night.

Council members and Lost Plantation staff also discussed ways to get more players out on the course, which the city purchased two years ago.

Nearly half the fleet of golf carts at Lost Plantation Golf Course are inoperable, course pro and superintendent Seth Zeigler said, and the aging inventory needs to be replaced. But council members wanted to know if any of the failing carts could be repaired and kept going.

“Maybe we only need 20 or 25” new golf carts, said council member Paul Wendelken. “I’m not saying we don’t need to buy new golf carts. But do we need to buy all these golf carts? These golf carts are running us into the ground financially.”

Lost Plantation clubhouse manager Julia Smith said they average retrieving six to seven carts a day that fail to make the 18-hole trek.

“They’re in bad shape,” she said.

The price from Yamaha — $156,825 — also was predicated on rebate for the course’s existing fleet. Keeping some of those back could affect the final price, according to city finance director Wesley Corbitt.

Council members also wanted to know how many carts are in use on a daily basis. Zeigler said they will have about 24 carts out on a daily basis but if the course hosts a big tournament, it may have to scrounge around for extra carts.

“You will need 50 carts on occasion,” Mayor Ken Lee said. “And if you don’t have them, you have to rent them.”

A good tournament with 100 to 120 people involved, the mayor said, could mean up to 60 carts in use, for the golfers and support staff.

“If the course develops like it should,” he said, “we could see that.”

Lee said the city council will get an inventory and a report on the condition of the current fleet. He added that perhaps council members need to schedule a workshop at the course to see for themselves the state of the fleet.

“I’ve seen it,” he said. “I’ve experienced it.”

The city is leasing two dozen golf carts at a rate of $3,600 a month, and Corbitt warned against continuing to lease. The monthly lease payment would be greater than the payment on owning the carts outright.

“You really don’t want to rent,” he said. “Leasing is not a good option. It’s expensive.”

At a workshop Wednesday night, council members discussed the idea of buying 30 new golf carts and restoring 20 existing carts.

Most of the carts at Lost Plantation are 2003 models and are getting near the end of their useful life cycle, Corbitt said. Maintaining them to keep them operating could be more costly in the long run.

“With tires, brakes and batteries, it starts to get expensive with general maintenance,” he said.

The course has tried to repair some of the carts, Zeigler said. Acid from the batteries has weakened the housing for those batteries, and batteries are falling out.

“We’ve rebuilt the framework to keep the batteries in,” he said. “But that won’t last.”

Lost Plantation also could face a shortage in carts soon. The lease on the 24 rented carts is expiring and those carts could be picked up any day, Zeigler said.

Corbitt also said that the city wouldn’t be replacing 50 carts at once, should it make the fleet purchase from Yamaha, in a few years. Instead, they would stagger the replacement of the carts, with 10 to 20 new ones every few years.

Currently, the course is getting more than 1,200 rounds per week played, with Tuesday being the slowest day. Smith said they are averaging 98 rounds a day on Tuesdays.

They are implementing winter rates of $20 for Tuesdays, and the course also has specials of $28 for all day play on weekdays and $32 for all day play on weekends.

“These rates are going to blow the other courses out of the water,” Corbitt said.

Members also have incentives to bring in new members, getting one month’s free membership. There are about 120 members, whose dues range from $80-$120 per month.

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