Temple Terrace golf club reports progress in adding members, paying its debts

The club is asking the city to help pay for a new irrigation system.
Spanish moss covered oak trees line a fairway at the Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club. The 18-hole course is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Monica Herndon, Monica Herndon  |  Tampa Bay Times
Spanish moss covered oak trees line a fairway at the Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club. The 18-hole course is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Monica Herndon, Monica Herndon | Tampa Bay Times
Published September 25
Updated October 1

TEMPLE TERRACE — Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club has added 89 members, is up 21 percent in private event bookings and continues to make its quarterly payments to the city.

But it’s in vital need of a new, $1.237 million irrigation system for the city-owned golf course, and general manager Jim Musick last week asked the Temple Terrace City Council to help by paying $570,000 of it. He needs to $370,000 from the city by Oct. 20 to get a break on the price.

Council members, after praising Musick and the club for its success so far, voted unanimously to have City Manager Charles Stephenson look for funds in the city budget and through grant opportunities and to report back at next Tuesday’s meeting.

Musick said the pipes in the sprinkler system have been there since the 1950s and have deteriorated, resulting in about 300 leaks a year. Other equipment is so old the club can’t get parts for it. The central automatic system that turns on the sprinklers, which are activated at night when no one is playing, is working on only six of the 18 holes on the course, he said. Someone must manually turn the sprinklers on for the other 12 holes, and because that is done in the daytime, the club has to suspend play or pick a time when golfers aren’t on the course.

Musick said the club was able to get a $255,000 grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District to help pay for the system after convincing the agency that a new system would cut down water use by 33 percent, saving 84,000 gallons per day. It was the first time that the management district has issued such a grant to a golf course, Musick said he was told.

Club members have pledged $262,000 in donations toward the new system, Musick said. Toro, which designs the system and supplies a lot of the parts, is offering a $100,000 rebate, he noted, and a club member was able to get a $50,000 grant from the Hillsborough County Historic Preservation Challenge Grant program.

The golf course is the only 18-hole course in Florida that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Temple Terrace itself was built around the course in the mid-1920s as one of the first planned golf communities in the United States. The city owns the course and the club buildings, and the club leases the property, currently paying $125,000 per year.

Before introducing Musick, Don Whittemore, the club president, reminded council members of the struggles the club went through after their last management company, Integrity Golf Company, abruptly abandoned the club without doing improvements it promised.

“We were successful in coming out of that. We raised the money to bring the loan current. We have made all our quarterly loan payments since then. I believe that the council will be happy to hear that the club is making steady progress,’’ Whittemore said.

Business turned around when Christovich & Associates was hired as consultants in 2017 and Musick took over as the club’s manager early last year.

Musick said revenues for four months ending in July — the first quarter of the club’s fiscal year — have increased four percent over last year and expenses are down 21 percent from last year.

“My philosophy is, if you’re doing better than last year and you’re doing better than budget, we’re making progress,’’ Musick said.

The manager said that the club actually has 160 new members, though the net gain is 89 members, accounting for the number of members who have left since then.

“We’re getting a lot more weddings,’’ he said. “We’re getting a lot more bookings with our private events, and a lot of that has to do with a little bit of our capital work that we have done.’’ He said that, among other work, the club has painted and re-carpeted the dining room and ballroom, installed new equipment in the kitchen, replaced the air-conditioning units in the dining room and bought new china and silverware.

“When a bride comes, or a birthday party comes, or an anniversary comes and they see a nice, clean facility that’s well kept — nice china, nice silverware — it enhances our opportunity to book the business,’’ he said.

Council Member James Chambers, reminding his colleagues that the course ultimately belongs to the city, signaled his approval of the plan, noting that “we can get irrigation on city property for half the cost.’’

The total city cost of $370,000 for the main water pipes and $200,000 for installation would be paid over two fiscal years, with work starting next August.

Council Member Cheri Donohue said she was on board with the plan.

“I want you to be successful,’’ she said, “because I want you to continue running the golf course, not us.’’