Municipal courses thrive despite economy

The proximity would make one wonder if the course could be threatened by another full course minutes away, by the city's Office of General Services Commissioner Nicholas D'Antonio said in the world of golf, competition is not necessarily a bad thing.

"I think we'll both benefit, from them being there, as well as us being there," he said. "They're two different courses, and they're both very good courses."

He said the course has been performing strongly even through the recession, perhaps drawing on that pool of golfers unable to foot a country club membership.

Capital Hills will likely increase rates in 2011 to account for increased labor and supply costs. Daytime rates this past season were $28 per round for nonresidents, $17 for residents. The city runs the course at just over the break-even mark, D'Antonio said.

Private owners fret competition

But even if Normanside were a profitable enterprise for the town, would there be a ripple effect? The owners of the only private operation in Bethlehem say they're concerned another public course could undercut their business.

Joe and Gilda Rappazzo opened up Hidden Meadows, an 18-hole par-3 course off of Route 144 in Glenmont, in July of 2009. It took them 10 years to convert their farmland into a commercial business when farming became economically unfeasible, during which time they received praise from the town for undertaking a project that would preserve green space.

Since making the conversion, though, they've seen the town itself buy up Colonial Acres in 2007 and, now, a fierce debate over whether it should purchase a second.

"That's going to be two golf courses that are against us," Joe Rappazzo said. "The play that we would have had, that gets chopped in thirds now instead of half."

Adding to those worries is the fact costs are increasing, Gilda Rappazzo said. Fertilizer has tripled in price since the course opened, and Hidden Meadows pays over $20,000 in property taxes, a burden municipally owned courses don't have to bear (some, like Guilderland, negotiate agreements with fire departments to pay for services).

"We have an awful lot invested in it. We have a lot of monthly payments we're making out of our own pockets," Gilda Rappazzo said. "It's kind of tough."

Hidden Meadows does not employ many " it's a family run business, said Joe Rappazzo, with his son helping with groundskeeper duties and his daughter and wife minding the pro shop.

"We started this for our family, so they got something when we're gone," he said.""

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