Golf course not on par

Eagle Valley Golf Course has fallen on some hard times.

At this time last year, the course had booked 44 tournaments on the West Course for the year, down from 65 in 1998. This year, only 29 tournaments have booked Eagle Valley for play.

The numbers mean less money flowing to the city-owned golf course, which is already struggling to break even.

Once the only game in town, eight other golf courses have come online in the last decade, forcing the community golf course into competition. The golf course went from hosting 102,000 rounds in the early '90s to 67,200 rounds last season.

But competition is only one of the course's problems. The West Course, the more difficult of the two and a large tournament draw, needs a new irrigation system estimated to cost $1.7 million. The course took in about $1.5 million last year - just enough to break even.

The city recently refinanced the golf course's $2.3 million debt, which freed up money for improvements around the course. However, the available funds of roughly $200,000 a year comes nowhere near paying for the irrigation system.

"The irrigation system is the heart and lifeblood of a golf course," General Manager Mike McGehee said. "Without it, you have no course."

The current irrigation system runs on effluent water which, combined with warm temperatures, creates the perfect breeding ground for algae. The algae gets into the system and wreaks havoc within the system, Golf Course Superintendent James Walker said. Algae clogs the lines and prevents parts of the course from getting water, causing it to "brown out."

Last year parts of the course browned out in August, a critical month in the golf season.

The course's wilted condition as well as overgrown sand traps, standing water in some areas and cart paths with potholes caused the course to lose tournament bookings from local casinos.

Several casinos wrote letters apologizing to course management for the drop in bookings, but noted their golfing customers wanted to play on courses in better shape.

"Most of the customers I took or sent last year do not want to book this year," wrote Dominic Tanzi, executive host of Harveys Resort at Lake Tahoe. "The problems they are having are the conditions of the course. Some areas are dry and hard, others standing in water, bad drainage. The cart paths are in need of repair. The list goes on.

"It is a shame to let the West course get in the condition when it could be the most challenging premiere course in the area."

In a January letter to the Carson City Municipal Golf Corp., irrigation specialist Chuck Cloud of Temecula, Calif., wrote of the West Course irrigation system that "in my 32 years of golf irrigation and construction I have never seen anything so inadequately designed and built.

"You could use temporary Band-Aids, but in my opinion the patient is terminal."

City Manager John Berkich wouldn't be specific on what funding options the city is examining, but said the golf corporation and city finance personnel were approaching the problem as creatively as possible.

Mark Sattler, chairman of the golf corporation, said the group had no desire to raise rates as its mission is affordable golf. The idea of raising city room taxes has surfaced but hasn't really been explored, Berkich said. Any decision regarding the funding for a new irrigation system ultimately lies in the hands of the city board of supervisors.

Using the money raised when the debt was refinanced, the corporation and management at the course have sunk about $100,000 into improvements.

Addressing some of their customers' concerns, about 3,000 tons of new sand have been added to the reshaped sand traps on the West Course alone, Walker said. While some parts of the course suffer from lack of water, other parts are drowning. New drainage is being added to some areas. Cart paths will be repaved when the weather is consistently warm. All the work is being done in-house to save money.

"This course if fine," Walker said. "It just needs some TLC."

Cabinets and carpeting in Eagle's Landing Bar & Grill were also replaced.

"We've addressed every complaint we could," Sattler said. "When we open this spring, we'll be as pretty as we've been for a long time. How long can we keep it looking that way, though? We can't let it decline any farther."

Coming Up

The Carson City Municipal Golf Corporation will have a public meeting April 24 to discuss issues related to Eagle Valley Golf Course. Call 887-2334 for information.


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