The Mill Valley Golf Course, a gorgeous, 9-hole, 42-acre, par 33 golfers’ staple ever since it opened for play 102 years ago, has a new lease on life.
The City Council voted unanimously on Feb. 22 to approve an agreement with Touchstone Golf, a Bay Area golf course management company whose 40-course portfolio also includes the Presidio Golf Course in San Francisco, Tilden Park Golf Course in Berkeley and Lake Chabot in Oakland.
In addition to approving the agreement, the Council backed a plan to invest $1.7 million in the golf course over the next five years with both public and private capital investment, including $125,000 in private donations and another $575,000 in pending pledges, including support from the Mill Valley Friends of Parks & Recreation. The investments mark a significant boost for a golf course that had been operating at annual deficits of nearly $400,000 in the pre-pandemic years.
City Manager Alan Piombo said Touchstone would operate the course under direction from the city and receive a monthly fee of $4,000. If the course turns a profit, the city will take 75% and Touchstone 25%.
The course has been the source of quite a bit of momentum during the pandemic with both an uptick in play as many residents carved out time to hit the links since they were often working from home. The city also sought to broaden the use of the course, hosting a number of No Clubs, Just Play events opening it to all kinds of community uses beyond golf.
“The golf community stood up,” Mayor John McCauley said. “If this golf facility is going to improve, it needs support from the golfing community, and that is happening. It’s been very impressive, and we have a vendor here who is very focused on making it a success, for both the golder and non-golder.
“We’ve got an asset here,” McCauley continued. “This all hangs together very well with the public and private investment.”
Councilman Urban Carmel added that the proposal matches the way Mill Valley has struck public-private partnerships over the years on some of the community’s major assets, including the library, the community center, sports fields and private support for pubic schools.
Touchstone’s management of the site includes food and beverage service, landscape maintenance and course operations. The group also is responsible for personnel, marketing, accounting, payroll and tournaments, according to the city’s staff report. The agreement does not include the management or maintenance of the Mill Valley Golf Clubhouse, which will continue to be managed by the city’s recreation department.