Posted at 1:14 p.m., Friday, April 20, 2007
Golfers say Waiehu fee hike 'still easy on the budget'
By MELISSA TANJI
The Maui News
In Mayor Charmaine Tavares' 2007-08 budget proposal, greens fees at the county's Waiehu course will increase by as much as $15 depending on the status of the golfer and when the rounds are played.
As a "pilot project," the parks department proposes a twilight rate for golfers playing nine holes beginning after 3 p.m.
"It's still easy on the budget for the players . . . even with the increases," 59-year-old Malcolm Akiona of Waiehu told The Maui News.
"You cannot go wrong over here. Even if it's $2 more or $4 more. It's good for the retirees."
Akiona, a retiree preparing for a round Thursday, said many of his friends still work and would probably take advantage of the twilight rate – $5 for residents, $12 for Hawaii residents and $25 for nonresidents.
Even though non-Hawaii residents would pay a higher rate, Doni Matthews of San Diego said she probably will still play at Waiehu.
"It's still a lot less than the resorts," she said.
Currently, the highest green fee at Waiehu is $45 for nonresidents playing on weekends and holidays. Private courses start at around $50, with the resort courses charging up to $300 for nonresidents.
Matthews said the proposed twilight rate – a lower rate that is also offered at other courses on Maui – "would be good." She said she and her husband take advantage of the lower afternoon rates at courses in San Diego.
Meeting with the council budget committee, parks officials said the increase in green fees is to keep up with the rising costs of operating the course. Rates at the Waiehu course have gone up twice in the past 15 years, once in 1999 and the other in 2005.
With the twilight rate, the department hopes residents will be encouraged to play a round after work in the afternoons, said Parks Director Tamara Horcajo.
"We're just looking at this as an idea," she said during a committee session Wednesday afternoon.
The parks department requests were among a number of fee increases under review by the Budget and Finance Committee this week. The committee is expected to begin making decisions on the spending plan, tax rates and fee proposals next week to provide sufficient time for public review of the council version of the budget that must be approved by May 31.
While council members questioned elements of the twilight fees, none appeared to oppose it.
Council Member Bill Kauakea Medeiros said he thinks the twilight fee is "a good change to consider."
But Committee Vice Chairman Riki Hokama, a golfer, wanted to know how the department derived the 3 p.m. start time for the twilight rate, saying other courses have earlier twilight starting times.
Waiehu Superintendent Ron Kubo said initially the idea was to establish a nine-hole rate but he said that implied that if the golfers started earlier than 3 p.m., they could go more than nine holes.
Twilight rates assume that an average golfer would not be able to complete a full 18 holes before sunset, but would be interested in a nine-hole game.
Hokama suggested there could be a nine-hole rate offered at any time of the day instead of offering it just as a twilight rate. But Kubo said providing for nine-hole play at any time could cut revenues.
Council members did not oppose the overall fee hikes.
"These are a set of fees I can support," said Council Member Danny Mateo.
But there were suggested changes to the department's proposal.
Council Member Mike Molina said he wanted to see the burden of the increased fees be placed more on the non-Maui and non-Hawaii residents versus Maui residents.
"On the surface it seems unfair," he said.
Molina acknowledged that Waiehu fees are the lowest on the island, while Kubo said Waiehu probably has the lowest in the state.
Council Member Jo Anne Johnson said she remembers discussions on increases of greens fees while it was in committee several years ago and questioned whether previous fee increases hurt business.
Kubo said there has been a reduction in the number of rounds played as new golf courses opened on Maui, saying any loss in play is not due to higher rates.
At Waiehu, not all golfers were aware of the proposed rate increases or the proposed twilight rates.
"What? When is that?" asked Russell Romo of Lahaina when he was told rates could go up. But he said he could accept an increase. "If it's for the course I don't mind."
"It's better than Kaanapali or Maui Lani," golfer Al Basioa said. "The drive from Lahaina is worth it."
Heidi and Jim Farmer of Kihei also said the Waiehu course provides good value for the money even though it is a county-run course. Heidi Farmer said she thought the twilight rate is a "good idea" as she and Jim take advantage of the lower rates at other courses.
The golfers said they also hoped the increase in fees could go toward better maintenance of the course and the greens, although they thought the course was adequate and quite beautiful with its ocean view.
At the budget committee, Hokama and Budget Chairman Joe Pontanilla shared the golfers' concerns, urging the parks department to look at upgrading the greens and clubhouse.
For more Maui news, visit The Maui News.