Drought-like conditions that kept many lawns brown last summer actually helped DuPage County Forest Preserve District golf courses earn some needed green.
Forest preserve officials said their three courses turned a $314,780 profit in 2012, thanks in large part to the dry weather.
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Golf Operations Director Ed Stevenson said it's the first time the golfing operation was profitable since a 2009 fire destroyed the clubhouse at Oak Meadows Golf Club in Addison.
In 2011, the three courses -- Oak Meadows, Maple Meadows in Wood Dale and the nine-hole Green Meadows in Westmont -- lost $437,258.
Stevenson said a consultant's study of the golfing operation found a key challenge for Maple Meadows and Oak Meadows is in the food and beverage area. The consultant recommended the district get control of operating costs.
To cut expenses, the district reduced staff at the courses from 23 full- and part-time employees during fiscal 2011-2012 to 15 full-time employees. The courses use seasonal workers not included in that head count.
Golf-related operating expenses last year were reduced by $114,744. Another $278,026 was saved as the result of changes to the food and beverage operation.
"The changes we've made have very much helped us gain control of those costs," Stevenson said. "We're a meaner, leaner operation at this point."
Still, golfers can't play if a course is flooded. And both Oak Meadows and Maple Meadows must be allowed to flood during heavy rains because that's why the district purchased them in the first place.
Because of last week's torrential rains, Oak Meadows and part of Maple Meadows held stormwater from Thursday to Sunday. District staff members on Monday were cleaning up debris and working to restore course conditions so normal golf operations can resume on Thursday.
"There are many times as golf staff where we're heartbroken to see courses under floodwater," Stevenson said. "But we realize at that point that, hopefully, we're doing our job in saving residents' basements, backyards and businesses from what could be hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage."
Fortunately for the district, 2012 was a drought year. The result was an overall jump in revenue of $371,988.
"We had more time to be an enterprise operation, and spend less time flooded," Stevenson said. "We had more golfers come through who we could generate revenue from successfully. We were not shut down by flooding."
Knowing that hoping for droughts isn't a good business model, district officials are working to develop a master plan for the golf courses that allow them to remain profitable during years when there is flooding.
That effort includes developing a design for Oak Meadows where it can hold more stormwater water.
"But when we flood," Stevenson said, "it won't damage and impact the golf course the way it has in the past."