Many New York City golfers are shying away from the city-owned golf course his Trump Organization manages in the Bronx.
Rounds were down 11 percent year-over-year through mid-September at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, a public course which opened to fanfare in May 2015 after decades of bureaucratic thumb-twiddling, environmental impact study and a lack of willingness to commit money to finish the project converting a former landfill in the shadow of the Whitestone Bridge in the Bronx into a world-class golf course.
Crain's New York Business reported the sluggish numbers as part of an overall look at Trump and his family-owned business' finances in the year since he took office as the nation's 45th President.
According to Golf Datatech, the 11 percent dip is more substantial than the approximate 3.5 percent drop in rounds played at other New York City public courses and the approximate 2.2 percent drop in total rounds nationwide.
The Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point lost revenue in Year 2 (2016) as rounds dropped from 27,859 to 26,500 and revenue dropped 9.5 percent from $7.9 million in 2015 to $7.2 million in 2016. Those figures, reported by the New York Times from city parks department records, reflect calendar-year totals. Keep in mind, Ferry Point was only open 8.5 months in 2015.
After a 4.8 percent drop from partial 2015 to 2016, Crain's analysis shows an 11 percent dip from the 12-month periods of September 2015-September 2016 and September 2016-September 2017. What the Trump Organization claimed was a weather problem in 2016 appears to be more than that.
One clear barrier to sustaining a customer base for the course is cost. The weekend green fee for non-residents is $227 and residents get to play for $175. The per round gross revenue in 2015 was $283.57, while in 2016 it was $271.70. In other words, it's not cheap to play at Ferry Point, so it's a misnomer classifying it as a municipal course. Most New Yorkers would choose to play elsewhere for their regular golf, including any of the city's other 12 municipal courses. The luxury course is also a stark contrast to the Bronx, the most impoverished borough in the city.
Of course, golf on the whole has continued to see a decline in total rounds played as the game's population gets older and millennials struggle to find the discretionary income to take up a costly game.
Then there's Trump himself. Not well-liked in New York before he became President, his approval ratings at the near-end of Year 1 as Commander-in-Chief hover around 33 percent. Considering very blue NYC, his approval rating is likely lower in the five boroughs.
Despite the dip in revenue, Trump's deal with the city helps him make out well. In 2012, Trump offered to step in and help usher the city-funded $127 million project to completion, reaching out to then-mayor Michael Bloomberg with an offer to help finish the course and required facilities in exchange for a management deal which would assure him guaranteed minimum payments and an overwhelming portion of the property's total income. Trump only pays 7 percent of green fees to the city, and he pays at the same clip for other course-related revenue including food and beverage and other merchandise. The Trump Organization has a 20-year lease on the land which didn't require Trump to pay rent until 2019. Trump does not pay concession fees or for water the course uses, which could run approximately $150,000 per year when compared to other NYC municipal courses.
Meanwhile, the Trump Organization is contractually obligated to build a permanent, $10 million clubhouse by March 31, 2020. It will replace the large outdoor tent serving as temporarily clubhouse and the wood building used as the temporary pro shop. Trump previously said he expected the permanent clubhouse to be completed in 2017.
Perhaps suspiciously, Trump claims the course's first hole-in-one, with a plaque honoring the achievement from the inaugural round in 2013, now installed on the course.
“Can you believe that?” he said of the claimed ace to the Wall Street Journal in 2013. “It’s a great omen to the course.”