Free Market

South Jordan Double Bogeys on Public Golf Courses

The South Jordan City Council hit into a massive hazard Tuesday night. By deciding to purchase the Glenmoor golf course, South Jordan will now own not one, but two golf courses. Long-time residents will recall that back in 2004 the city purchased Mulligans which has struggled to ever earn a profit.

As South Jordan is looking to double-down on its involvement in the golf industry, it raises the question: should local governments be involved in the business of golf at all?

A golf course is a great example of a non-essential service that is quite often also provided for by the private market. Local governments directly compete against private golf courses, often using taxpayer dollars to subsidize their struggling enterprise.

But its not just just golf courses. Theaters, pools, recreation centers—the list of government enterprises that can be built for the sake of recreation and entertainment goes on and on. Too often, local elected officials and groups of overly eager residents lose the perspective between the “needs,” which should be provided for, and the “wants” of a community.

To add insult to injury, government enterprises don’t operate on par with private businesses. They can be subsidized, often have legal immunity, avoid business taxes, and don’t necessarily have to respond to market signals when it comes to prices, services, and even their continued existence.

As for South Jordan, it doesn’t matter if they bond, raise taxes, find a pot of extra money, or hold a bake sale in order to buy Glenmoor golf course. If the course itself is still a profitable endeavor then it should be sold on the open market, otherwise it will be another drain on taxpayers for years to come.

Government should maintain a level playing field for private industry—not compete with it. State, county, and city governments need to find ways to divest themselves from businesses that should instead be privatized. South Jordan needs to take a mulligan on this decision, otherwise they risk getting stuck in a sand trap.