Today, I took a petition with around 300 signatures into the mayor’s office addressed to the mayor and the Hawaii County Council asking them to consider purchasing the now closed Kona Country Club mountain golf course as a municipal course. For years, the lack of a municipal golf course in Kona has been an issue brought up again and again. The county was subsidizing the Kona Country Club owner to allow residents to play at a discounted price as our municipal course. According to the management at KCC this subsidy was enough to keep the course running effectively in the past. In 2013, the subsidy was no longer being paid to KCC and the golf course started suffering financially. Personally, I would have paid more to golf the mauka course if I had known the alternative would be to shut it down with no real plans to reopen it.
I feel, as many residents do here in West Hawaii, that a public golf course located in Kona is a basic amenity, not only for residents, but visitors and snow birds who come here to golf. Purchasing an existing golf course makes more sense than trying to develop one from scratch, which was proposed by the county government in the past in the location above the harbor where the new Kaiser Permanente building is being built.
Many people might argue that the county does not have the money to purchase and maintain a golf course in West Hawaii, but the majority of the tax dollars come from West Hawaii and we are maintaining a municipal golf course on the Hilo side. I also feel the county should understand that without this course, many property values — especially in the Keauhou area — will be affected and this will result in less revenue to the county from real property taxes. Being a real estate agent, I have already heard of a sales transaction that canceled when the buyer found out about the golf course shutting down and now some vacation rental commitments are beginning to cancel. This is just the beginning of the adverse effects of not having a public course in Kona. Imagine the number of visitors who are going to be totally shocked and upset when they start arriving in November about the lack of public golfing. There is also the issue of vacation rental owners now having to delete from their websites the availability of golf courses in Kona. Again, this is less money to the state’s general excise and transient tax coffers from lost business.
Tourism is and always will be Hawaii’s number No. 1 industry. To not have a public golf course in a resort area like Kona is a travesty. We could have continued to distribute the petition and gotten hundreds of more signatures, but this issue needs to be addressed now before the mountain course slides into neglect, overgrown as a home to goats, pigs, rats and coqui frogs.
It is puzzling to me that the owner would not keep the mountain course open during the renovation of the ocean course, which has plans to reopen sometime in 2014, and then decide what to do with the mountain course afterwards. Instead, the employees are laid off and no one really knows what is going on with the mountain course. Keeping it open with a skeleton staff makes more sense. I implore the county and state government to get involved in the matter and find a solution.
Dawn R. Clark is a real estate agent and resident of Kailua-Kona.
Viewpoint articles are the opinion of the writer and not necessarily the opinion of the paper.