April 14—An approach that emphasizes quality over quantity could lead to an improved golf experience on Jekyll, according to a report created for the Jekyll Island Authority as the island seeks to upgrade its golf facilities .

The latest golf assessment on Jekyll by the National Golf Foundation indicates that the island would be better suited to provide a 36 hole golf experience rather than its current 63 holes.

Richard Singer, senior director of consulting services for NGF, presented a draft report to the JIA board on Tuesday that updates a report completed five years ago.

A two-week comment period is now open and the JIA is seeking public comments on the draft report posted online.

Singer worked with JIA in 2016 to conduct an initial review of Jekyll’s golf courses and amenities. He returned this year to update his review and offer a way forward to improve golf on the island.

“We asked Richard to come back and review any differences or changes that have occurred over the past few years,” said Jones Hooks, executive director of JIA. “Obviously in 2016 golf was in a different position nationally as well as on Jekyll Island.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the demand for golf across the country, including on Jekyll, where the club nearly doubled its membership before 2020.

Many aspects of the previous review, provided to the JIA board in 2017, remain unchanged today, Singer said.

“We pointed out to you in 2017 that there were improvements that were needed both in terms of the golf course planning area and associated infrastructure, as well as the clubhouse,” he said. .

The staff overseeing the management and upkeep of golf courses was stretched five years ago and continues to be stretched, Singer said. The number of staff is more appropriate for a 36 hole golf course than for the 63 hole one on Jekyll.

Other facilities, including the clubhouse, also needed upgrading, as many amenities on Jekyll have had in recent years, Singer said.

“We said it in 2017 and it’s the same today – Jekyll Island Golf Club data is much more like a 36-hole golf course,” Singer said. “The number of games you host, the revenue you generate and the expenses you spend, the size of your staff to maintain the property are more consistent with a golf facility that has two golf courses, not one that has one. three and a half. And I think that stretches everything.

The golf market has changed since the NGF review ended in 2017.

“When we were here in 2017, you were experiencing a pretty steady decline in your Jekyll Island golf business income that had been going on for almost a decade,” Singer said. “A lot of that has been reversed. The COVID pandemic has certainly had a positive impact on golf.”

Jekyll’s courses depend on attracting visitors to the Golden Isles to remain profitable. But as golf fees rise at competing golf courses in the area, Jekyll has the opportunity to attract customers by offering lower rates.

The aging course infrastructure requires special attention.

“Pine Lakes remains in the best condition of golf courses,” Singer said. “He recovers quickly from difficult events like bad rain and things like that, but there are still things that could be resolved.”

The Oleander golf course will be the most difficult to improve.

“It’s much lower than other golf courses and it holds water, and that poses significant issues,” Singer said. “I know they’ve made band-aid patches over the years that haven’t really addressed the core of the problem, but I think looking closer in 2022, it’s really clear that it’s not not something that could be a quick fix.”

Improvements will be expensive, he said.

Indian Mound is salvageable, Singer said. Great Dunes, a unique oceanfront golf course that Singer said Jekyll should treasure, also has irrigation and drainage issues.

The golf club also needs upgrading and modernization, Singer said.

The NGF report recommends making these improvements in phases beginning with improvements to the Pine Lakes course.

“You can probably do this without having to shut down the golf course for a long period of time – maybe a strategic closure here and there for a week or two to do some planning, thin out trees, fix irrigation, troubleshoot turf and to really make it the best it can be,” Singer said.

Next, the report recommends combining the Oleander and Great Dunes courses into a single 18-hole course.

“It gives you the opportunity to have a top-notch 18-hole golf course that would be oceanfront, and you could really promote and sell the whole golf course with that,” Singer said.

The third phase will focus on upgrading the clubhouse structure, cart storage and maintenance facilities. Then decisions can be made on how to improve Indian Mound, which could either be an 18-hole course or a shorter course that might appeal more to younger players.

“One of the main things you will need to assess during this process is that when the Oleander and Great Dunes golf courses are under construction, you will need to operate Jekyll Island Golf Club on just two 18-hole, 36-hole courses at total, for a year,” Singer said. “And I think you could learn a lot from that, to see how you handle the day-to-day and how you could handle events like the Paulk Cup and other big events that you might have during the year.”

The suggested final phase is to return to Pine Lakes and make more in-depth improvements.

“During this multi-year, multi-phase project, you can think about the ultimate combination of golf courses you want to have at Jekyll Island Golf Club,” Singer said.

The proposed changes can make golf courses profitable for the authority, he said.

“Improving your property, improving the quality of golf on Jekyll Island, will lead to increased revenue,” Singer said. “…You have already stretched this as thin as possible, and the only path to economic success at Jekyll Island Golf Club is to improve revenue and better manage a property of this size.”

The draft NGF report recommends addressing aging infrastructure one project at a time over a five- to seven-year period. The report also suggests adding strategic pauses between certain phases to allow JIA to reassess the entire project.

“It’s a great property and it has great potential and it’s one of my favorite projects I’ve worked on,” Singer said. “But in the end, maybe it’s too much, and maybe it’s time to think about making it a little smaller and a little nicer – and a lot nicer.

“You may find this leads to better economics for the Jekyll Island Golf Course.”

The draft report is posted online at www.jekyllisland.com/authority/documents/golf-improvements-plan/. All comments made during the two-week period will be provided to Singer’s team at NGF.

Singer hosted a question and answer session with Jekyll residents after Tuesday’s board meeting.