The famous Torrey Pines Golf Course is part of the City of San Diego’s Park & Recreation Department. City photo

A performance audit of the city of San Diego Parks and Recreation Department’s Golf Division was forwarded to the full City Council Wednesday, following criticism of a failure to implement key components of a business plan approved three years ago.

The audit found that better technology and marketing programs can improve operations at the three municipal courses operated by the city — Torrey Pines, Balboa Park and Mission Bay. Those are key elements of the business plan.

Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, a member of the panel’s Audit Committee, expressed frustration that the improvements have yet to be implemented.

“It’s three years later, and nothing’s happened,” Zapf said. “I’m just kind of stunned, wondering what happened, and why we didn’t know, why I didn’t know — until this audit came out — that nothing has happened the past three years.”

Mark Marney, the city’s deputy director of golf course operations, told Audit Committee members that a series of problems have delayed implementation.

The prime technological upgrade — allowing golfers to reserve tee times online — ran into delays when a system for taking credit card payments didn’t comply with industry standards. That issue has been resolved, and online reservations could begin in September, Marney said.

Almost every other course in San Diego County offers online reservations.

The business plan also called for the hiring of a marketing director, who would develop a plan to attract more business to the city-run links.

According to Marney, it took several months to determine a job classification for the position. The job was offered in December 2013 to someone who ended up taking a position somewhere else, he said.

When staff regrouped after the snub, city officials began talking about reorganizing all of the city’s communications efforts into one department, causing more delays, Marney said. The city has since consolidated most of its communications functions.

According to the audit, the golf division’s net income in the last fiscal year was $4.5 million on revenue of nearly $20 million. Torrey Pines — where the annual Farmers Insurance Open was held last week — was $6 million in the black, but Balboa Park was in the red by $1.4 million and Mission Bay suffered an $823,000 loss.

“Non-resident play at Torrey Pines is what makes our system work,” Marney said. He said the current automated telephone reservations system was installed in respond to accusations of favoritism in handing out tee times several years ago.

The city actually owns seven other courses, but their operations are leased out. Zapf and a couple of other committee members said they would be open to leasing the Balboa Park and Mission Bay links.

The committee voted unanimously to forward the audit to the full City Council, and asked golf operations officials to return in a few months with an update on implementing the business plan.

—City News Service

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