Since becoming president of the Wildcat Golf Course last year, Neal Johnson has been in the process of making changes.
As every golf course has faced the challenge of the sport declining, according to Johnson, it was no different at Wildcat. Because of this, Johnson decided to try to make the golf course a more welcoming place for the public, golfers, and non-golfers alike.
“We … want to note to the public that we’re going to use this as more than just a golf course. We want this to be a community asset. We also want people outside of Kokomo, which they do, to come here and play golf and sit down,” Johnson said.
Along with the full-time memberships and evening leagues, Johnson and his staff plan on having a new public tournament players’ club league. For a small fee, golfers will play in tournaments throughout the year. This will be different because players do not have to be members of the golf course and do not have to participate in every tournament or event held.
According to Johnson, Wildcat has been deemed as an “upscale” course according to prices; however, the new staff decided it would be best to lower prices. Currently, it is $38 for an 18-hole game.
“We’ve always been the most expensive, and we want to generate more people to come here and play golf,” Johnson said.
Additionally, physical changes to the interior and exterior of the course have been made to create a more comfortable atmosphere for community members to sit and visit with friends, Johnson said. Now, the clubhouse has been separated into two sections, one for the pro shop and one for the refreshment area. Additionally, an outdoor patio area has been added.
Typically, individuals played their rounds of golf and went home, according to Johnson. With the update of the dining tables and snack bar in its separate area, Johnson was hopeful this would invite individuals to “hang out” and relax after a golf game.
“It’s always been a place where you play golf, get your clubs, and go home … We’re trying to make it where they at least go to the concession stand, sit down for a minute … We want them to feel free to come in here. We want an environment where they sit down for at least a beer and popcorn and a hot dog,” Johnson said.
Manager Jackie Robertson also commented on the interior changes.
“It's more of an environment to be able to sit down and relax and enjoy a beer with your golf friends. I think the biggest thing too is [adding] that wall. So the atmosphere changed from it was all open, and now it’s kind of sectioned. It made it so this is the bar/dining area where that’s the pro shop. You have the separation,” Robertson said.
Beginning May 7, Johnson and his staff will host a happy hour on Thursday nights on the patio. Additionally on Friday nights, the course will have a non-competitive “couples’ golf” that will be designed to include non-golfers as well. Both of these events will be open to the public.
Besides the new events and changes at the course, Wildcat has a new teaching instructor, former PGA Tour player Scott Steger. Because of the course’s practice facility, individuals do not have to worry about feeling intimidated or embarrassed by others watching them during a lesson, Johnson said.
When asked what he thought made Wildcat a better course than others, Johnson said it’s scenic, the grounds are turf, and are well taken care of by Superintendent Rob Lewis.
“We brought in … probably one of the best golf superintendents turf management throughout the country … He has a good staff … It’s so well-kept. We are able to allow people out on the course where other courses can’t because if the weather’s bad because of the wetness or whatever … I would say best-kept,” Johnson said.
Additionally, Johnson added that other unique aspects of the course were the ability to alter the course for different levels of difficulty and having a rewards point system available for the public to redeem for merchandise or rounds of golf.
Two-year memberships for $89 are available now until late next week. Sign-ups for the public tournament players’ club league are open until Saturday, April 25.