Links too far over the card

THIS month marks 10 years since its opening, but the financial future of the troubled The Links Shell Cove golf course remains up in the air.

The course officially opened in January 2004.

Last September, Shellharbour council opted to proceed to a full open tender to alleviate the course's ongoing financial woes, with a sale of the entire site among the options.

The council considered a report on the potential of private operators and developers to operate the course.

The council-owned course has annually lost more than $300,000 for several years.

The council took over its operation in 2008 after evicting the previous long-term lessee, Shellharbour Links.

Options include, but are not limited to, the sale of the entire site, and/or the sale of the hotel and accommodation site and a long-term lease of the golf course.

The council's most recent public golf course valuation was $21 million.

Councillor Peter Moran, a long-time Links critic, recently requested figures from council staff regarding the number of rounds of golf played there since the council took over.

The numbers of rounds played were 29,476 (2008/09), 28,898 (2009/10), 28,316 (2010/11), 32,596 (2011/12) and 29,004 (2012/13).

Cr Moran said there appeared to be "no end in sight" for the significant losses.

"The rounds out there are really cheap; they have special deals and sometimes rounds for $15," he said.

"With our current losses, we're actually subsidising each round by $10.

"Who in their right mind would buy an asset that loses that sort of money?

"Anyone who purchases the course, the only chance of having it trade in the black is if there was accommodation attached to it.

"Who's going to spend tens of millions on accommodation there, in the hope of making enough money to allow the course to trade at a profit?"

Cr Moran said this council needed to "bite the bullet" regarding The Links' long-term future.

"The only way to recoup, we have to look at selling the course.

"If we can't sell it as a going concern and recoup money owed, we close it and subdivide it."

Last year, Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said the council was of "a single mind" to resolve The Links' future.

"The uncertainty surrounding the operation of The Links and its hotel has gone on long enough," she said.

She said any deal would have to be acceptable to all parties.

"If this could not be achieved, then the council would look at other options," she said.

"The Links continues to provide a high-quality golf course, hotel and associated facilities that are well utilised by the community and visitors to the area," a council spokesperson said.

"A report from marketing consultants CBRE will be analysed by staff and presented to council in the first half of [this] year for consideration."

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