ROCKVILLE – The future of Rockville’s closed municipal golf course is now final.
On June 17, the Rockville Mayor and Council unanimously decided that RedGate Golf Course should be developed into something new. What that RedGate will eventually become, could be a key topic for the upcoming city election campaigns in the months to come.
While the golf course closed at the beginning of the new year when the lease with the company that managed it ended, the future of the course was still uncertain. Monday night’s vote reaffirms an earlier mayor and council decision to transform the property into something other than a golf course, leaving plans for the site uncertain.
“I certainly don’t see its future as a golf course, and I think we should dispose of that sooner rather than later and get on to other possibilities,” said Councilmember Mark Pierzchala.
For city officials, the course fell into disrepair and became a sign of a bad lease deal for a valuable piece of property that no longer brought the city the revenue it needed to justify its upkeep.
Located on Avery Road, RedGate has been a convenient local course for golfers in Rockville for years. In 2012, the lease for the course transferred to Billy Casper Golf (BCG), a management company headquartered in Reston, Virginia. City officials claim that under the management of BCG, the course fell into disrepair with broken golf cart paths, patches of dirt on the fairway, dead grass and sand traps full of white powder.
Councilmember Virginia Onley agreed with Pierzchala, adding that she believed the course failed, in part, because of a lack of demand for golf in the city.
“I don’t believe that the city’s residents are interested in having it as a golf course,” she said. “It was not successful, and I don’t think that is something we should go back to.”
In 2018, the course lost $91,000 in revenue, according to a study commissioned by the city.
With the course in poor condition and an expiring lease, Rockville officials commissioned the National Golf Foundation to study what it would be worth it for the city to keep RedGate as a golf course. The study found that it would cost between $2.9 million and $3.7 million in investments to make the course viable. While the study concluded that there is a market for golf in Rockville, the mayor and council decided that it was not worth the price and that the 130-acre property would be better off being something other than a golf course.
“It is incumbent upon me to remind this group that RedGate didn’t fail as a golf course; we failed RedGate,” said Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton. “And we failed RedGate in many, many ways. Number one in oversight. Number two, by a lease that was not favorable to the city and by allowing the lessee to not uphold their end of the bargain.”
At the June 17 meeting, the mayor and council decided that it will not come up with a plan for the RedGate property, saying that the debate whether to turn the area over to private developers or keep it for public use is better held off for the campaign trail, given there will be an election in November.
The council directed staff to work on a request for proposal for the course and to bring it back to the new mayor and council in December. While for the next few months, residents and city officials will debate the future of RedGate, Pierzchala said he wants to explore developing the land.
“We’ve heard some ideas, but they’re not cheap,” Pierzchala said. “So, in that context, I’m looking at RedGate as potentially a mixed-use asset for the city.”