By Joel Thomas, CBS 11 News

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) –  While the city’s public golf courses are supposed to pay for themselves, finances for the municipal grounds have veered off course in recent years and are costing the city millions.

Overall, the city’s five courses lose half a million dollars a year. Over time, the put the city in a financial hole. With city planners facing an expected $31 million budget shortfall, officials said they’re reevaluating how to treat the municipal courses.

“Right now our reserve fund is underfunded by $7 million,” said city Park Director Richard Zavala. “And if you go back 20 years that reserve fund was overfunded by $4 million. It just goes to show how everything has changed and how the market has changed.”

The benefits of the municipal grounds are readily apparent for those who tee off on the public courses. They’re affordable and offer humble settings for an afternoon of golf, frequenters say.

“I love to drive the courses,” said Linda Green who frequently visits Meadowbrook Golf Course in Fort Worth. “Its nice. Real nice.”

Twenty-plus years ago, municipal courses were the only game in town for those who weren’t members of a country club.

But the city fell into an economic trap when dozens of new, affordable private golf courses were built.

About 65,000 rounds of golf a year were played on Meadowbrook Golf Course years ago, city officials say. Close to 35,000 were played there last year.

“We’ve got some questions to ask, which are, do we run this like a business? And that will drive us to certain decisions,” Zavala said. “Or is it a service we want to provide to the citizens? If so, like parks and libraries and stuff like that, do you subsidize it?”

Zavala said some coursess are on land that could be converted to park space. A North Fort Worth course, Rockwood, is receiving some private sector help.

An organization geared to involving youth in golf, First Tee, is building a training facility there, Zavala said.