By ALISSA SCOTT
After months of controversy surrounding the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course, golfers will finally get to tee off Monday.
So far, golf commission chairwoman Michele Russo said there "haven't been a lot" of people paying member fees. But, she understands many may be waiting for the open house scheduled at Muni today from 2 to 4 p.m., where a free membership will be raffled off.
Though some golfers may believe with recent changes at the course will cause membership to decline, Russo said a declining membership is nothing new.
"It's been dropping for the past eight or nine years," she said. "That membership has dramatically declined. A lot of it was people moving away; people passing away."
Last year, the course had 390 members, and within five of that number the year prior. However, there used to be more than 700, Russo said.
She said they need to target the younger generation.
"We need to increase our marketing to younger people," Russo said. "They're the future of this golf course. They're the ones who are going to keep the golf course sustained."
The Common Council adopted a couple changes in rates this year. All membership fees received a 5 percent cut, and unlimited use of one of the city's 30 new golf carts is $350 per person.
The city employees who work at the course will be responsible for gassing up the carts, and ensuring they are clean for the next riders.
People who already have their carts stored at the course have been "grandfathered in," and will be allowed to keep them there for seasons to come. No new carts will be added to the sheds.
Those who are grandfathered in will pay storage fees of $365 for gas-powered carts, and $398 for electric carts.
Though the Common Council recently approved a $350 fee for unlimited cart usage, Russo fought to make it $500, because, as it stands, it is cheaper to pay for unlimited usage than keep a personal cart at Muni.
"I would think that would be a slap in the face to members," Russo said. "The rate the golf commission recommended was in line with our neighboring courses."
A foursome is allowed to take up to two carts with them while playing.
To the people who may be dissatisfied with the course's operations as of late, Russo said she hopes to improve that relationship by unifying all involved.
"We're looking to work closely with the pro, the concessionaire, the golf commission and the golf course to help move the golf course forward," Russo said.
Russo said she also understands that the course itself is also a problem when it comes to low membership.
New commissioner Pam Ritter has contacted two Robert Trent Jones entities in hopes of receiving advice of possible changes and improvements they can make to the course.
Russo said she will be meeting with course superintendent Jim Derrick on a weekly basis to discuss the same.
If people cannot make it to the open house, there are several other avenues available for feedback.
"We've heard a lot of concerns and we want people to know we're willing to listen and address the changes that may be needed," Russo said.
Amsterdammuni.com has a comment section, and people can also find the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course on Facebook. E-mails may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Russo said she requests golfers begin taking advantage of golfergopher.com to book tee-times. It's quicker and easier for golfers to see what's available, she said.
Tee-times are book in 8-minute intervals, and golfers can begin to reserve the weekend time slots six days in advance. People can call, or use the website to book Saturday times as early as Monday, and Sunday times on Tuesday.
The golf commission just filled its five-seat board with the mayoral appointment of Fulton-Montgomery Community College President Dustin Swanger.