05/29/2012 10:10 EDT | Updated 07/29/2012 05:12 EDT

Vancouver city golf courses scoring turnaround

The Vancouver Park Board’s municipal golf courses appear to be out of the financial rough, with a big jump in business over last year.

The three 18-hole courses and three pitch-and-putts can bring in about $10 million a year — more than 20 per cent of board’s revenue, which helps fund other programs around the city.

Business was down about 6 per cent in 2011, but in the first quarter of this year, it's up more than 13 per cent, compared to last year.

Many courses all over North America are seeing shrinking business, but the city’s facilities are bucking that trend.

"Golf as an industry has struggled the last couple of years,” said Gordon Barber, the board’s manager of revenue services. “I think it's a combination of reduced interest ... what's happening with the economy and an increased supply as the same time as decreased demand.”

Mother Nature has helped out the local courses this year, Barber admits.

"[Last year] was a particularly cool and wet period, especially in the spring and summer, so we're certainly seeing a very good turnaround so far,” he said.

A new loyalty-card system that gives discounts for repeat players is also seen as boosting the bottom line. And if the board gets its way, Vancouver golf operations could become even more lucrative.

The board has applied to have its liquor license expanded to sell alcohol not only in the clubhouses, but also on the courses.

"The focus is really on the service side. I think there is some potential for additional revenue that will come out of it,” Barber said.

Barber is hoping the Liquor Distribution Branch will finally give approval sometime this summer, or in the fall.