Flipping through a red photo album, John Fogel’s chuckle grew louder each time he turned a page. Inside the book were before-and-after photos of the greens at Augusta Municipal Golf Course, starting in early-2014 and going through the present.
“You can’t help but laugh a little about how far this place has come since 2014,” said Fogel, president of Cypress Golf Management, which was put in charge of improving the course on July 1, 2014. “It’s remarkable. The Augusta community has really embraced what we’ve done and it’s amazing to see how proud people have become of this course. Many people have golfed here for years, and hearing their compliments is what makes everything worthwhile.”
There are 82 current members at Augusta Municipal, an increase from 35 in March of 2014. This time last year there were 63.
The membership, however, remains well below the 180 mark in 2011.
“We’ve kind of hit a standstill with our membership, but we’re hoping it will increase a lot during summer months,” said Ira Miller, general manager of Augusta Municipal. “All we ask is that people play one round and we’re confident they’ll be very pleased with course conditions.”
Jonathan Carpenter has been a member at Augusta Municipal for more than a decade and says this is the best he’s ever seen the course.
“I’ve stuck it out through the good and bad,” Carpenter said. “I can say for certain this is the best this place has ever looked. The greens are in unbelievable shape and I couldn’t be more proud of what the management has done here.”
When Cypress took over daily operations in 2014, its improvement strategy was to start from the greens and work toward each tee box. Since then, each of the 18 greens has been upgraded, and as Fogel says, “If you hit a quality shot, the greens will hold it.”
“I had a customer come up to me last week saying we have the best greens in the Augusta area,” Fogel said. “Can you believe that? Look, I know there are nicer courses around Augusta, but it still feels incredible to hear our name mentioned in the conversation.”
Management at Augusta Municipal, popularly known as The Patch, focused on improving the fairways last summer and is about to embark on refining tee boxes.
“It’s been a long process, but also a very rewarding one,” Miller said. “People have definitely noticed how far we’ve come.”
Before Cypress was hired, the course had operated at a significant loss over the past few years. Commissioners outsourced it in 2012 to a Scottish businessman who abandoned the lease after a few months and left employees unpaid, according to Augusta Chronicle archives.
Twice after that, negotiations fell through with a pair of management companies.
The city pays Cypress a monthly management fee of $3,000 until the course becomes profitable. Then the fee will increase to $5,000, with 70 percent of profits going to the city.
“The support we’ve received from the city has been tremendous,” Fogel said. “They’ve made all these improvements possible.”
Augusta Municipal will be open for play during Masters Week and still has tee times available. During Masters Week, local residents can play the course for $35, while out-of-town guests will be charged $50.