Public golf in peril

Like a nasty slice from a luckless hack, this summer's assault on public golf just won't go away, thanks to self-interested developers and the ever-receptive ears of some Urban County Council members.

We had hoped this example of special interest politics would go the way of persimmon drivers and white-only clubs. Not so.

Councilman Jay McChord seems determined to act as caddy for private-club operators who complain that municipal golf is taking an undeserved divot out of their bottom lines.

To date, they have succeeded in forcing fee increases, and now in pressuring the city to create a working group to consider a "golf enterprise fund," the first step of which is to account for every dime spent on golf.

The group's first meeting was attended by parks officials, general service administrators, city accounting, finance and budgeting administrators, McChord and Andy Hightower of the Kentucky Club for Growth.

KCG has long been advocating on behalf of regional private golf course operators, most of them outside the city. They appear to want to force the closure or privatization of public golf courses.

But the backlash against public golf from Greenbrier Country Club, The University Club, Old Silo in Montgomery County, Keene Run and the Golf Club of the Bluegrass in Jessamine County, The Bull in Madison County, Houston Oaks in Bourbon County and others is misguided.

Private golf course developers are hurting from the recession, and seem determined to make public golf the scapegoat, presumably to force public links golfers to their venues.

Never mind the storied history of public golf, the public services provided by city golf courses, and the fact that all but one of Lexington's public courses predate these private clubs — many of which are essentially speculative real-estate developments.

And never mind the reality that few public-links duffers will be inclined to patronize the businesses who forced the closure of their favorite course.

We have nothing against accurate accounting, but the fact remains that there is simply no good reason public golf should be bullied or politically micro-managed into "paying for itself," any more than public pools, public tennis courts or public sidewalks.

The Club for Growth is wasting its own energy, city administrators' time and taxpayers' money in a fruitless and mean-spirited attempt to change the game in their favor.

Golfers know to beware those who try to bend the rules and exaggerate their handicaps. Apparently some council members don't.

McChord, Chuck Ellinger, Ed Lane and others who have turned a sympathetic ear to this narrowest of special-interests should remind themselves whom they represent.