Happy New Year Friends of the Alamo City Golf Trail –
2023 has flown by, but not without plenty of highlights sprinkled across the Alamo City Golf Trail. This past spring, we took delivery of a new fleet of golf carts. The new EZ-GOs are an upgraded model from the previous fleet, and we leased a few more at each course to ensure there is enough for the steady demand. The driving range at Northern Hills received a nice facelift and we replaced some of the most damaged cart paths there. Mission Del Lago’s bunkers received a much-needed makeover as well as some enhanced cart path work. The pinnacle of the year culminates on January 12 as we reopen Riverside Golf Course. Keeping in step with the last few years, I am honored to share that our dedicated employees received two pay increases this past year. Our updated starting wages are now very competitive with any golf course in the area. Of course, these achievements and our ability to continue doing what we love would not be possible without you; our patrons, our accountability partners, and our friends. As I often tell our staff, without you there is no us, no Alamo City Golf Trail.
This year’s State of the Trail Report is once again constructed by category so, feel free to skip to a topic that you are particularly interested in, or if time permits, read through it all.
Riverside Golf Course
We are thrilled to announce that after 13 months, Riverside will be reopening for play starting Friday, January 12. For the first 10-12 weeks, the course will have a ‘soft’ opening, available to walkers only. With full transparency, while it is important to protect the recently planted turf, the new golf cart storage facility is not complete. We are diligently working to expedite this part of the renovation and once complete, golf carts will be introduced with a portion of the holes being restricted to the cart path. This project has been our most extensive to date with a full restoration of the golf course and by refurbishing or building new vertical infrastructure.
Like our Olmos Basin renovation two years ago, we enlisted the help of the talented Jeff Blume to serve as our Golf Course Architect. As most golfers who love Riverside can attest, the layout and topography provide an excellent template on which to work. Riverside enthusiasts will find a very similar look and feel but the course now fully examines a player’s complete game, requiring decision-making off the tee boxes, an understanding of distance control, and a skilled short game.
There were a handful of unexpected hurdles along the way that slowed down the construction process on many aspects of the project. While most of the turf is in nice shape, a handful of the holes were grassed late in the year and have not fully matured. The course will be very playable but will require a full season of ‘growing weather’ in 2024 from mid-spring to mid-fall to reach its optimal conditions. As for the updates to the course, golfers will find some intriguing shapes to the greens and bunkers as well as some visual eye candy in the form of mounding and shaping. Ponds have been reestablished on a few holes and substantial tree trimming was completed to improve the playability while also helping beautify the course. The biggest changes to the layout include making the 16th hole a Par 4 vs. a Par 5 and the 17th hole a Par 4 vs. a Par 3.
In addition to the future golf cart storage facility, there will be a new maintenance facility, an on-course restroom on the front nine (both in the building stage), a much-needed rehab of the parking lot, and a delightful refresh to the clubhouse and landscaping. The Par 3 Course at Riverside has also been remodeled and will provide a great learning environment for developing golfers as well as a great way to start or finish your golf day on the southside! As many longtime San Antonio residents are aware, Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders trained on the property that would become Riverside Golf Course in the late 1800s. With such, and to honor that legacy, the Par 3 Course will be aptly named ‘The Teddy Bear’ when it opens for play later this spring.
There will be continued construction on a handful of areas over the ensuing months, but this work will not interfere with regular play. Special acknowledgment to our Director of Agronomy, Jake Snyman, and Riverside Golf Course Superintendent, Paul Hernandez, and his team for their exemplary efforts in working through the course renovation. We are excited about this project and believe that once fully matured and the additional amenities are completed, Riverside will become the ‘Go-To’ place to play in San Antonio.
Cedar Creek Golf Course Renovation
Established in 1989, Cedar Creek Golf Course has been a fixture in the San Antonio golfing community, capturing the hearts of golfers with its scenic and challenging layout. To elevate the golfing experience, the course is set to undergo a restoration beginning Monday, January 15, marking the first major renovation since its inception.
Key highlights of the renovation include restoring the green complexes to their original size and resurfacing them with TifEagle bermudagrass (used at Olmos Basin and Riverside), bunker revitalization utilizing the Better Billy Bunker drainage system, re-establishing some of the original water features, restored drainage, upgraded irrigation, resurfacing and restored shaping of the fairways and rough with Latitude 36 bermudagrass (Olmos Basin and Riverside), improved cart paths, and tree trimming around the entire property. Additionally, we will enhance the aesthetics of the clubhouse and facility landscaping.
Cedar Creek has long been one of, if not the most demanding golf courses in the city. However, over the 35 years of its existence, the playing corridors have narrowed with tree growth, the green complexes have shrunk by as much as 40%, bunkers have been contaminated and no longer drain after rain events, the railroad ties around the tees and greens have become a liability, on course drainage has been compromised, and the general wear and tear of the turfgrass has made for unfair bounces, roll-out and, generally speaking, made the golf course too difficult for most players. The planned renovation will reestablish the course as a top-tier championship test as well as a course that players of every ability level will enjoy.
Tee Time Availability
The increased number of golfers over the past few years has made it difficult to secure the most desirable tee times and having Riverside Golf Course closed for the past year exaggerates the situation. Of course, as soon as we reopen Riverside, we will be closing Cedar Creek for a facelift. As a continued commitment to equity and making tee times more accessible to all golfers, we are making every effort to keep two golf courses free from groups, associations, and tournaments every weekend. For those golfers who aspire for prime tee times beyond the normal booking window, there are now options available via the Advanced Booking Fee options.
Thank you to all the golfers who have been more conscientious about booking only the number of players they expect in their group as well as those players making immediate cancellations when other plans arise. Your help and attention to these matters help make space for other players while also helping maintain the lowest rates.
Pace of Play
As I am sure our regular golfers have noticed, we have moved all our golf courses to 10-minute tee time intervals starting this past October. While this reduces our daily total tee time inventory by roughly 10%, it should create a better pace of play and a more enjoyable playing experience.
As everyone is certainly aware, we have seen an uptick in play over the last few years. It has been great to see so many new golfers take up the game but, unfortunately, some new golfers have not yet mastered the craft of ready golf, or as I like to call it, playing golf with intentionality. The typical pace of play on weekends remains at a standard that we deem acceptable, but we know we can do better. We introduced a Course Marshal program on weekends starting this past fall and while it is too early to see any immediate improvement, our team is working hard to help educate players to play quicker as well as guiding golfers on improved course etiquette.
Over the past two years, the Trail has had over 821,000 rounds played. In comparison, during the previous two-year window (2020-21), there were 750,000 rounds played, and in the two years before that (2018-19), there were roughly 585,000 rounds played. While the increase in play has allowed us the opportunity to reinvest back into capital improvements and better compensate our staff, it has also made it challenging to maintain our course condition standards. I share the round counts to help keep perspective on the negative consequences of the abundance of play, particularly from golf cart traffic. Course compaction and turf wear and tear are the biggest indicators and are particularly evident in the winter months when turf is not actively growing.
As I previously mentioned when we introduced our updated rate structure in October, we have increased our agronomy budget to ensure we have the resources available to continue enhancing the playability of the courses. We have committed to a nearly 20% increase in fertilizers to enhance turf health and herbicides to suppress weed growth. The purchase and lease of the best available maintenance equipment to provide our various agronomy teams with every opportunity to be successful continues to be our goal. Furthermore, a few additional staff members have been added to select agronomy teams to better ensure the daily maintenance work is completed.
New for 2024, we will be closing Brackenridge Park, Olmos Basin, and Riverside for five days (Monday-Friday) during the two cycles of aerification late this spring and summer. The intent will be to ensure that the entire course gets its necessary relief of soil compaction completed and repaired as well as other projects that could not normally be accomplished while regular play is ongoing. The remaining ACGT courses will be closed for two days (Monday and Tuesday) during their twice-annual aerification dates. You can find this information and closure dates on the Course Care Calendar on our website HERE.
Capital Improvement Projects
As discussed above, it continues to be our goal to take bold action to renovate the courses on the Alamo City Golf Trail. To this point, we plan to renovate Willow Springs at the end of this year. The intent is to close the course after Thanksgiving for roughly one year. As our design plans crystallize over the ensuing year, we will share the vision.
Although it is already going to be a busy year with finishing and reopening Riverside, restoring Cedar Creek, and beginning a full-scale renovation of Willow Springs, we will stay committed to chipping away at a few additional smaller-scale projects. Continuing to replace cart paths, remodel and enlarge tee boxes, keep trees trimmed, and maintain and enhance irrigation systems are all on our radar screen for this coming year.
As a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit organization, no taxpayer funds are being utilized for our renovation projects as they are paid for out of operating proceeds. These projects serve as a clear demonstration of our dedication to delivering an outstanding golfing experience for enthusiasts and ensuring affordability without reliance on public funds.
Organizationally, we have identified more than $25,000,000 worth of potential projects around the Trail. While the goal is to chip away at this list as we move forward, each time we complete a project, new items get added to the list. Golf courses and the facilities that accompany them are in constant need of upgrades and repairs as there is a lifecycle for every aspect. As one would expect, it would be nearly impossible to ever complete our renovation plan fully; however, we are committed to continually upgrading the facilities to the highest standards possible.
Golf Instruction, Fitness, Club Fitting, and Club Repair
The Alamo City Golf Trail is committed to offering a full suite of amenities by providing top-notch golf instruction through our partners Tom Relf and Joe Caruso and their respective teams at San Pedro as well as the On Par Golf group at Cedar Creek, Northern Hills, and Mission Del Lago. They each offer a mix of individual lessons, groups for ladies and juniors, and advanced golfer development. In addition to these coaching programs, being custom fit for the proper equipment is key to becoming a better golfer. This service is offered at our San Pedro Academy.
For those golfers in San Antonio who want to maximize their fitness levels, we have continued to partner with Craig Brown at Olmos Basin. Craig has worked with PGA Tour winners and major champions with their fitness and can help you with distance and endurance in your quest to be the best golfer you can be.
Ben Carriker and his team at the San Pedro Club Repair Studio are regarded as the best ‘stick and glue’ guys in San Antonio. Visit them for all your repair needs or to shop their wide variety of used equipment during your next trip to San Pedro.
To find out more information on any of these partners, visit our website HERE.
South Texas Amateur Tour
We are pleased to continue our partnership with the South Texas Amateur Tour, the preeminent local golf tour for competitive golfers in the San Antonio area. The Tour plays roughly 25 events a year in flights based on handicaps. It is open to all genders and golfers of every ability level. The tour hosts a variety of formats including team events, and most events cost less than $85. The Tournaments are played under the USGA Rules of Golf, and a separate Tour handicap is maintained to ensure the integrity of scoring is upheld. A PGA Professional administers the league and is assisted by a handful of Tour Ambassadors who ensure everyone has a great time. Each season ends with a FedEx-style playoff series with the top finishers advancing to a Ryder Cup style event against a similar amateur tour group from Houston. If you want to try your hand at competitive golf and meet new friends, learn more about the South Texas Amateur Tour on their website HERE.
The Players Club Membership
We believe that the Players Club Membership reigns supreme when compared to the other local options when contrasted by price and availability. We must recognize the nearly 11,000 members with a hearty THANK YOU for your patronage and support. It will be our ongoing intent to continue to offer great benefits and value to further demonstrate our appreciation. For those of you who have not enrolled in our program, I highly suggest learning more about the Players Club program HERE. With an initial investment of less than $80, it will pay for itself almost immediately. And speaking of that, make sure to get down to Willow Springs or Mission Del Lago for your Players Club only Promotion Round for January!
Customer Service Standards
Customer service has always been the hallmark of a great golf experience and we are squarely focused on providing that to everyone who walks through our doors. We are incredibly blessed to have such a loyal, thoughtful, and dedicated group of coworkers. However, we recognize that some staff members are under-trained or ill-equipped to handle the challenges of a busy environment. We have and will continue to implement enhanced onboarding, training, counseling, and mentoring to continue developing our team.
Over the past few years, we have worked diligently to increase our team members’ wages and benefits. We are constantly striving to create an employee culture that is transcendent to our loyal Players Club Members and patrons. As we often discuss in our staff meetings, our customers are the reason we get to do what we love – “let’s make sure we let them know that by how we treat them.” I am especially proud of our Course Managers who regularly host 200+ golfers a day and orchestrate the schedules of mostly part-time staff members while keenly focusing on promoting the Alamo City Golf Trail.
The bottom line is that we care about your experience. If you ever feel like we have forgotten our basic manners, failed to follow up on a promise, or are not listening to your concerns, we want to know. Please reach out to our management team if we can help resolve any customer concerns HERE.
If you have excellent customer service skills and want to earn FREE golf privileges, we would love to have you join our team. Learn about job opportunities on our website HERE.
What This All Means
While I may not have touched on all topics of interest, I wanted to hit upon the highlights. If there are specific areas of concern, or you would like further elaboration, please let us know. A special thank you to our City of San Antonio partners that we have the pleasure of working with as well as our Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is comprised of 15 involved San Antonio citizens who do a great job of holding me and our team accountable for results. The Board of Directors regularly plays our courses and helps influence every aspect of our operation. A massive kudos to the staff of the Alamo City Golf Trail is in order. We have an outstanding group of committed and engaged employees who enjoy providing great golfing experiences. There is no doubt in my mind, that our ACGT Team is as good as it has ever been, and I am humbled to work with each of them.
Many golf courses in the greater San Antonio area are bidding for your patronage, and we know you have a choice on where you can play. We are honored and thankful that you have chosen to call the Alamo City Golf Trail home, and we plan to show you our appreciation by giving you our best every day.
As always, I encourage you to reach out to me by email. Your thoughts and opinions matter, and I will do my best to respond accordingly. We are not without flaws, but our continuous efforts to refine our skills are aimed at enhancing our service to you.
In the spirit of the game and with great appreciation,
Andrew Peterson, PGA
President & CEO