Links golf course to lift its game

A predicted improvement of $100,000 in the finances of The Links, Shell Cove golf course has received bouquets from some Shellharbour City councillors, and brickbats from another.

The council-owned golf course, which has a colourful history, has been running at losses of more than $345,000 in recent years.

However the council forecasts a budget improvement of $100,000, thanks to an increase in bar sales ($20,000), membership sales ($20,000), improved contractor management ($10,000), a reduction in the materials budget ($10,000) and plant costs ($40,000) because work practice efficiencies had been achieved.

"We are now seeing some financial reward for the long-term strategic marketing and operational decisions made by The Links, Shell Cove management over the past few years," council business performance and development manager Mark Henning said.

Shellharbour councillor Peter Moran pointed out the projected increase of $100,000 was not yet money in the bank.

"If these numbers come to fruition it means the operating loss [will] be reduced down to somewhere in the $180,000 mark - it will be a stellar performance if The Links only loses $180,000 this year," Cr Moran said.

"I can't help think how fortuitous it is that the numbers start to drop just as the council is coming to a decision on the long-term future of that facility."

The full sale of The Links, Shell Cove golf course will be one of the options the council considers as it looks to find a solution to a problem that has been costing Shellharbour ratepayers $1000 a day.

The course has been described by council staff as "underperforming to an unsustainable degree".

In a confidential session last September, councillors debated a report on the potential of private operators or developers to take over The Links .

Options include - but are not limited to - sale of the entire site, sale of the Links Hotel and the proposed accommodation site and the long-term lease of the course.

Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said the council was waiting on a report from real estate consultants CBRE before making any decisions on the golf course.

"It has never been a view of the council to sell The Links and we as a council have an obligation to continue our support for the golf club," Cr Saliba said.

"We are not the only council to have a golf course.

"Wollongong has one that costs them $150,000 a year - and our swimming pools cost us $1 million a year."

The council took over the operation of the controversial course in 2008 when it evicted the long-term lessee, Shellharbour Links.

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