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Kenton Co. Golf Courses See Uptick in Users During Pandemic, Park Plans Proceed

Kenton County Golf Courses saw in increase in use this year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Tuesday night's Kenton County fiscal court meeting, course officials discussed the two remaining courses popularity in 2020 and the county commissioners approved a contract with a firm to proceed on turning the former third course into a park space.

All are located in Independence.

"It was obviously a shock in March and April (when the pandemic arrived here) which we had to adapt to," said Nick Bednar, vice president of operations at Billy Casper Golf, which manages the courses. "Once we were able to open more fully in May and June we saw record growth. We'll be up over 10 percent this year over last year in total rounds played."

Bednar said that 66,000 total rounds of golf were played bringing in $2.1 million in total revenue, "the highest they have been in some time."

Billy Casper took over management of the courses last December.

"From our standpoint, we achieved and exceeded our initial goals we set out for the year," Bednar said.

The year started, Bednar said, with naming David Peru as manager of the course and Ron Freking as head superintendent. "We were able to build the teams quickly and instill the culture we wanted to bring in," he said. "Without that, we couldn't have had any of the successes."

The courses saw new maintenance equipment and golf carts arrive before the spring season. "It gave a great first impression to our guests and gave our maintenance team the tools they needed to put the golf course in the type of condition that we expect," Bednar said.

A new website was launched along with a new point of sale system and mobile app, he added. The courses also issued a frequent player card for $19 which allows for savings "each time you play golf."

"Our vision at Kenton County - we just want to be the best public golf experience in Northern Kentucky," Bednar said. 

The courses also hosted non-golf events like live music.

"Whether you are a golfer or a non-golfer, you can come enjoy this community," Bednar told the fiscal court.

There are also plans to increase golf engagement through junior leagues, he said.

A water irrigation program is also designed to bring in economic savings, which was bolstered by the elimination of Fox Run from the course list, leaving only Pioneer and the Willows.

Peru, the courses' manager, thanked the fiscal court for their support in the transition and transitional year.

"The numbers speak for theirselves, but as far as boots on the ground and community relations, I can tell you that every day we are getting good, positive vibes from golfers and non-golfers," Peru said. "And we just want to continue this upward trend. We are very impressed with where are at this moment and we are looking forward to 2021."

Meanwhile, at Fox Run, which the county announced in August would become public park space, the former golf course is closer to seeing that through. 

The fiscal court unanimously approved a proposal from Human Nature, a Cincinnati-based firm that specializes in landscape architecture and environmental planning, to create a comprehensive master plan for Fox Run.

Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann is now authorized to negotiate that proposal which is estimated to cost between $50,000 and $60,000.

Human Nature was selected through a competitive bid process which saw five other firms submit.

The plan calls for three phases: awareness, exploration, and vision and is estimated to be completed within nine months of the execution of the contract.

Human Nature has worked locally, nationally, and internationally, according to its online portfolio. Local projects of note in Northern Kentucky include a public park outside Sanitation District 1 in Fort Wright, and work in Fort Thomas's Tower Park, while Cincinnati projects include Washington Park and the Banks.

In the meantime, Fox Run is open for passive recreation activities like hiking, fishing, biking, wildlife observation, and walking.

It is open from dawn to dusk. Visitors are asked to be mindful of the two neighboring golf courses that are still in operation.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: Fox Run

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