Saturday, October 15, 2005

Corpus Christi's Pharaohs CC

Got an email the other day from my mother. No, it was not instructions on what to wear that day. She's a real estate broker in Corpus Christi, where I grew up, and she was writing to tell me that Pharaohs Country Club was on the market for $4.9 million.

Gee, only $4.8 million out of my price range.

But her note got me thinking about the golf situation in Corpus. Growing up, I was convinced - as was just about every golfer you'd run into at Oso Beach Municipal or Gabe Lozano Jr. Golf Center (Gabe's for short) - that Corpus was desperately in need of a third municipal golf course. Oso and Gabe's were always packed, they suffered greatly from the overplay, and the closest other public courses were in Sinton, Kingsville and Alice.

A couple years ago, the City of Corpus Christi hired the National Golf Foundation to study the issue of whether the city needed a third course. The NGF came back with a resounding "no." Take care of the courses you've got before you worry about adding another, was the conclusion. Too few city resources were put into the two existing courses. Adding a third would make a bad situation worse.

While I agreed that the city didn't take good enough care of its two courses, I disagreed with the NGF recommendation at the time. Now, however, after thinking over the fate of Pharaohs, I'm convinced that Corpus Christi does not need a third municipal golf course. Because the golfers there aren't supporting what is now the only other public golf course in town: Pharaohs.

Pharaohs went semi-private, opening to the public, about 18 years ago. I last lived in Corpus Christi about eight years ago, but in my time there I never saw a full parking lot at Pharaohs. Heck, I never saw people waiting on the first tee for a group ahead to clear. This despite the fact that Pharaohs was almost always in better shape than the two Corpus munis, and despite the fact that, with a cart added in, Pharaohs was cheaper than the two munis. The course just couldn't draw a crowd. Golfers I know who are still in Corpus tell me this situation hasn't changed.

How much of a need for another muni can there be when an additional course goes public and can't get anyone to play it? It's as if Corpus golfers are too busy complaining about the munis to notice there's another course now open to them.

I've always thought Pharaohs was a great opportunity waiting for the right ownership. Maybe the new owners will be the right owners. What they need to do is a major marketing push to publicize their semi-private status, their cheaper-than-the-munis status, and their not-overcrowded status. As far as I know, Pharaohs has never tried a big advertising push.

But the money is there waiting to be made. And Corpus Christi golfers might finally realize they can stop waiting for a third muni and start playing the semi-private course down the road.

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