The clubhouse at the Jekyll Island Golf Club and two of its four courses need renovating. The other two courses need to be combined. That was the message a consultant delivered Monday to the Jekyll Island Authority board at its monthly meeting.
A declining golf market, growth of competing courses, conditions of the courses there and size of facility has resulted in the loss of more than $600,000 annually at the club, said Richard Singer, senior director of consulting services for the National Golf Foundation.
He provided a program assessment of the club’s facilities and recommendations for the future. Singer interviewed members, staff, residents and visitors, among others, to develop a report through the National Golf Foundation with the aim of maximizing the golf club’s economic opportunities over a six-year timeframe.
The evaluation concluded that the club’s amenities are consistent with other public courses, but the condition of some aspects are not ideal. While the island has experienced significant revitalization elsewhere, the golf club has not been updated.
The clubhouse and the Great Dunes and Oleander courses all need facelifts, Singer said.
The suggestions are part of a proposed $14 million renovation budget recommendation that would be phased over six years.
The Golf Foundation also recommended an eventual consolidation of Indian Mound and Pine Lakes courses into one 18-hole course and concluded that Jekyll Island Golf Club is well-run, but that fees need to adjusted because they are too low.
Singer also suggested attracting non-traditional users.
He said the golf foundation’s recommendations were to do nothing and expect an increased loss of up to $850,000 a year; make renovations, maintain current 63 holes of golf, and minimize loss to $500,000 a year; or make renovations, reduce to 45 holes, and minimize loss to $150,000 a year.
Authority staff will review the report and work to develop a plan. The full report is available on the Jekyll Island Authority website.
In other business, Ben Carswell, director of conservation for the Jekyll Island Authority provided an informational briefing on the Jekyll Island Beachfront Shoreline Stewardship Permit proposal during Monday’s meeting. Carswell presented the proposal to the Shore Protection Committee meeting recently.
The authority is looking for a permit that would address challenges the authority has been dealing with over the past five years as it implements its conservation program, according to Carswell.
Shore Protection Act jurisdiction on Jekyll Island extends from the mouth of Beach Creek on the Southern end of the island to the mouth of Clam Creek on the North end of the island.
With the permit, Carswell said staff would be able to, among other things remove invasive plants, use sand fencing and dune vegetation to stabilize dunes and create a sand bank to collect what’s referred to as nuisance sand on approved walkways could be beneficially used if staff could collect and temporarily store it.
As the authority moves forward with the application process, the nonprofit, conservation group 100 Miles expressed concerns.
The group sent a letter to the Shore Protection Committee urging it to proceed with caution, stating that “the wide-scale scope” of the authority’s request and lack of details for how the projects will be conducted, undermines the intent of the Shore Protection Act.
Alice Keyes, vice president of coastal conservation for 100 Miles, addressed the Authority during Monday’s board of directors meeting reiterating her concerns that some things in the Authority’s proposal are not in tune with the SPA.
Keyes said Monday the organization is calling for the authority to provide more details about its plans that are required by the Coastal Resources Division.
Without those details, as stated in the organizations letter to the committee, a permit application package is not considered for approval.
As for the timeline for the Beachfront Shoreline Stewardship permit application, Carswell said the Shore Protection Committee will meet near the end of April and will vote on whether to grant what will be a five-year permit with an option to renew for another five years.
Also at the meeting, reports showed February continued the upward trend with record-breaking year to year increases of visitors. Hotel occupancy was 65 percent, up from 56 percent during the same time in 2016. Island traffic was 83,063, up from 76,445 in 2016.
Buckhead America also confirmed at the meeting it has submitted paperwork to Hilton to construct a Home2Suites hotel on land near the Beach Village, west of the Westin hotel. Approval is expected in 60 days.
Also, the Jekyll Island Authority approved an amendment to the lease with Georgia Power for the Southern LINC Emergency Communications Tower to include an additional 272 square feet for construction of a new antenna tower.
The new antenna tower would be to facilitate internal and emergency communications since tree growth has impacted coverage of the existing 100-foot tower. The new tower will extend to 135 feet. Upon completion of the new tower, the existing tower will be removed.