Problems land Claw in the rough

The future of USF’s golf course, The Claw, is up in the air.

According to the minutes of the November 2004 meeting of the Academic and Campus Environment Work Group of the Board of Trustees, The Claw has been operating at a loss. It currently operates as a part of the Sun Dome, Inc. and has been a drain on funds for the company. At that meeting The Claw requested permission to negotiate with the Florida State Golf Association on a plan to set up a partnership between The Claw and the FSGA. The ACE Work Group unanimously decided to allow the negotiations.

The FSGA is the governing body of amateur golf throughout Florida.

FSGA would renovate The Claw and take a controlling interest in the operations of the course.

“We are also entertaining conversations with the Florida State Golf Association to locate their headquarters at USF,” said Jim Fee, the director of golf operations at The Claw and head coach of the men’s golf team.

The FSGA headquarters are currently located next to Lettuce Lake Park just off of Fletcher Avenue between Interstate 75 and USF.

All negotiations are still in the preliminary stages, according to Jim Demick, the executive director of the FSGA; no big changes or renovations would occur anytime soon.

“The FSGA would operate the golf course after the renovations, but in conjunction with an appropriate agreement with USF,” Demick said.

“The vast majority of any capital funds would come through the FSGA,” Demick said.

He also said that the amount that the FSGA would be investing in the renovations is still undetermined but that it “would be well over $5 million.”

With that money would come a variety of renovations.

“If the FSGA was involved in the renovation of The Claw, the course would be significantly improved and several holes would be reconstructed to allow for a much larger practice area,” Demick said.

Lara Wade, media relations coordinator for USF, said The Claw had a revenue of $795,233 for 2004, which ended June 30, 2004. The expense for the golf course was $1.2 million and it had a net loss of $493,672. Wade added that during 2003 the golf course was closed for renovation from July to August.

Fee said that even though the FSGA would be in charge of operations, the golf teams would still be able to use the course without any new fees.

“The USF golf classes would also be held at the much-improved practice facility,” Fee said.

The length of any agreement with the FSGA has yet to be determined, but Demick has said he would prefer a longer-term agreement to “provide the stability that the project requires.”

“We understand that USF is a growing university with land needs, but we would like to see that land remain a golf course,” Demick said. “It is a beautiful green piece of land with mature oak trees and wild animals living throughout it and it would be a shame to see it covered in buildings.”

A partnership with the FSGA is the most likely option for The Claw’s future, but it is not the only one.

“There are also some ideas about getting rid of the golf course altogether,” said Student Body President Bijal Chhadva. He mentioned at a Student Government Senate meeting earlier this year that, if the agreement with FSGA falls through, the land where The Claw is might be used for other things like housing or academic buildings.

The Claw is located on the corner of 46th Street and Fletcher Avenue, across the street from Mu Hall. Fee roughly estimated that The Claw has about 80 acres of irrigated land and about 40 acres of water.

“The Claw definitely needs some improvement, but that is not a reason to just simply get rid of it,” Chhadva said.

Chhadva is not alone in his opinion.

“It’s a great course and a valuable asset to students with its student discounts,” junior Chris Kemper said. “It would be a shame to lose it.”

Fee said The Claw is “a valuable asset to USF” beyond its relationship with athletics.

“We host many university and community fundraisers,” Fee said. “We also serve the golf community.”

Fee also said that, as he understands it, there is still a possibility that the course could continue operations as they are even though it is currently a financial drain.