South Hadley seeks Ledges savior

  • Pete Lally of Hatfield, moves on to the next hole while playing golf at Ledges Golf Club in South Hadley. The town will soon issue a request for proposals seeking a company to take over management of the golf course. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/16/2018 10:49:08 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — The Select Board is finalizing a contract with a “specialty golf” consulting company based in Philadelphia to help find an interested party to manage and turn around the finances at the Ledges Golf Club, a town-owned golf course that has been losing money for years.

The Board met Tuesday to discuss some of the final steps before Colliers International Golf Course Advisory can circulate a request for proposal to potential golf course operators. The Select Board has already signed the contract, and is awaiting approval from a Colliers representative.

According to Town Administrator Michael Sullivan, the town will pay Colliers $16,385 to prepare, advertise and assess potential interested parties, plus travel expenses for the Colliers officials. After concerns were raised by the Select Board regarding unlimited travel expenses, they agreed to include a $19,000 total spending cap.

“Both sides have essentially come to an agreement of the scope of services and the price of the contract,” Sullivan said.

Colliers vice president Allen DePuy will attend a Feb. 6 Select Board meeting to finalize the contract in person. In a letter of interest sent to the town on Dec. 14, DePuy described Colliers as “the brokerage industry’s only specialty golf group that combines national reach with best-in-class local market expertise.”

DePuy is also founder of the Commonwealth Golf Group, a consulting company that helps economically distressed golf courses. 

As an advisory board, Colliers would not be allowed to submit their own proposal, despite managing multiple other golf courses in Maine and New Hampshire. Colliers does not currently manage any golf courses in Massachusetts, according to Sullivan, and this is the first time they have acted as an advisor for a municipality.

“Even though we’ve operated the golf course for many years, we obviously haven’t operated it well,” Sullivan said. “We’re losing money every year and we need someone who knows the industry.”

Once the contract is signed, it will become available on the town and Ledges’ websites, Sullivan said. Sullivan will serve as the point of contact for Colliers, representing the Select Board, the town, and the Ledges. 

A Colliers representative is expected to attend two Select Board meetings and as many as three public hearings during the course of the agreement. The town has made available to the company all documents related to Ledges dating to 1996, Sullivan said.

“The way these contracts are built the town could receive money,” Sullivan said. “We still set the rates and want rates to be competitive, but I won’t say it’s likely because all golf courses are really struggling right now.”

Despite running a $1.6 million cumulative deficit since opening in 2001, on Oct. 24, the Select Board unanimously approved a motion to renew the town’s contract with International Golf Maintenance. The company has maintained the course since 2005, and now will through Dec. 1, 2018 after which the new operator will take over.

According to a 2009 report “Advisory on Municipal Golf Course Management Contracts,” there are 63 municipal golf courses in the state, 53 of which operate through leases or vendor contracts for management, while 10 operate solely with municipal employees.

“The Office of the Inspector General estimates that the total annual income earned by municipalities from golf courses exceeds $30 million,” the report read. “Vendors gross significantly higher income. Nationally, municipal courses generate billions of dollars in revenue.”

At October’s meeting, community members shared their feelings about the golf course with the Select Board. Some lamented the waste of money, while others like Dave Mazza, a neighbor to the course, worried about environmental impact. Others see the course as an asset in need of better management and marketing.

The 244-acre Ledges Golf Club, approved by a special Town Meeting in 1997, is a town-owned golf course purchased with state grant money. It cost around $5.6 million to build and at the time, town officials had hoped the golf course would bring in a profit.

South Hadley will accept proposals from interested golf course operators from Feb. 20 through April 30.

Sarah Robertson can be reached at

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