Golfers are spending enough on green fees to keep all five of the city's courses open without spending a penny of property tax money.
But the sport is losing popularity in Wichita and across the nation, in part because it's a relatively expensive game and many people are still struggling financially.
Wichita's courses have seen a 20 percent decrease in rounds played since 2001, when 201,396 were played.
Last year, golfers played enough to generate $180,438 in profits.
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But the city has $6.3 million of planned clubhouse renovations, parking lot repairs, cart path bridge rehabilitation, new driving ranges and bunker repairs that the city says it can't afford with the modest profits and decreasing number of rounds played.
So Wichita City Manager Robert Layton proposes shedding one course from the system, perhaps by leasing or selling it to a private operator, closing it for a few years or by converting the course into park land.
The city hasn't decided which course to close, Layton said. That decision will be made after more analysis and discussion by park board and City Council members.
"I don't want to rule anything out at this point," Layton said.
Whatever the case, the city plans to remove one course from its system at the end of the golfing season — perhaps November.
Sim Park, located in the Riverside area, is the most popular and profitable of the city's five courses.
Last year, the course logged 38,878 rounds and generated a $364,419 profit.
Tex Consolver, just west of Mid-Continent Airport, comes in second with 35,796 rounds last year and $213,613 profit.
MacDonald, which is just north of the College Hill neighborhood and east of Wesley Medical Center, had 31,837 rounds last year and $69,098 in profit.
Auburn Hills, on 135th Street West just south of Maple in west Wichita, had 28,492 rounds and $167,065 in profit.
L.W. Clapp, at Oliver and Harry in southeast Wichita, had the fewest rounds last year with 26,176 and $80,914 in profit.
Last year was the first time Auburn Hills — the city's newest and most expensive course — had more golfers than Clapp. It's unclear whether rounds played during tournaments are included in the figures.
From 2001 to 2010, about 21,500 more rounds were played at Clapp than Auburn.
Auburn Hills, which charges more than the other courses ($29 a round on the weekends compared with $23 elsewhere), has about $7 million in debt. No debt remains on other courses.
All the profit figures total $895,109. When the city's administrative costs and debt payments are subtracted, the remaining profit is $180,438.
And even with the debt taken out of the calculation, Clapp has brought in more money in the past six years than Auburn Hills. Clapp drew $527,280 in profit; Auburn had $80,700.
Last year was also the first time Auburn Hills generated more profit than Clapp.
The city assumes that if it closes one course, two-thirds of those rounds will be played on other city courses.
If the city leases a course to a private operator, it's unclear whether it would siphon golfers away from other city courses, perhaps with cheaper rates.
Layton said the status quo simply won't work because the courses don't generate enough predictable revenue to fund improvements, and the city would have to alter its polices to issue bonds backed by property taxes to pay for the projects.
Here's a brief look at the $6.3 million in projects the city has proposed in coming years.
Clapp, 4611 E. Harry ($1.1 million):
Replace the existing clubhouse, which was built in 1977, and repair parking lots and water pumping stations.
Consolver, 1931 S. Tyler Road ($1.26 million): Renovate the clubhouse, which was built in 1968 and has had no major renovation work done. Rebuild tee boxes and bunkers. Remove and replace the parking lot.
MacDonald, 840 N. Yale Avenue ($1.95 million): Demolish the clubhouse, which was built in 1954, and replace it with a new facility. Construct a driving range and practice facility.
Sim, 2020 W. Murdock ($210,000): Clubhouse repairs and cart path bridge rehabilitation.
Auburn Hills, 443 S. 135th St. West ($130,000): Repair the clubhouse in 2020. The clubhouse is 10 years old.
All courses ($1.65 million): Parking lot rehabilitation, rebuild cart path bridges.