Future of area’s 9-hole courses not so green
Is the expansion of golf resorts in Truckee and North Lake Tahoe creating a David versus Goliath scenario for nine-hole courses?
Lane Lewis, owner of Old Brockway Golf Course in Kings Beach, thinks so.
“The nine-hole stand-alone courses are a dying breed,” said Lewis, referring to the overall decline of the golf industry he’s observed since 2001.
The Truckee Planning Commission recently opposed a special study area for housing development proposed by the owners of Ponderosa Golf Course at last week’s 2025 General Plan discussion.
Robert Himsl, whose family has owned Ponderosa Golf Course for 43 years, said he doesn’t know what the future holds after hearing the planning commission’s decision.
“We’ll sit down as a family,” Himsl said. “We’ll be open for the ’07 season… figure out how to pay off debt, then I don’t know what we’ll do.”
Himsl said the family presented the town with the special study area proposal three years ago, offering future possibilities of redesigning the course, re-zoning the 53 acres for workforce housing, or leaving it as open space. If re-zoned from recreational as it is now, the property would allow for up to 150 residential units.
With the number golf rounds being played on the decline nationally, Himsl said there is a need for courses to position themselves differently in the market in order to be successful.
“My idea was to create a par-3 course” to offer beginning golfers a place to practice, Himsl said. Otherwise, “We need to redo the golf course.”
While there was a rumor that a group of Ponderosa homeowners had formed a committee with the intent to buy the property from the Himsl family, Himsl said nobody approached him. However, he said there have been inquiries from developers.
For 26 years, Lewis has been the owner and operator at Old Brockway Golf Course in Kings Beach. Changing demographics around Lake Tahoe, new 18-hole golf courses popping up in the area and a decrease in the golf industry have made the competition to stay afloat difficult, he said.
“We were fortunate back in 1998 to build a new clubhouse here,” Lewis said.
Lewis said Old Brockway Golf Course has invested more than $2 million to construct the clubhouse and to cover golf course maintenance expenses.
The expansion of new golf course developments in Truckee, such as Old Greenwood Golf Course, The Club at Gray’s Crossing and Tahoe Donner Golf Course doesn’t make sense given the decline in the industry, Lewis said. He said Ponderosa Golf Course has been overlooked by the town.
“Unless [golf courses] are attached to a hotel or something, it’s very hard to survive,” Lewis said.
Himsl said Ponderosa Golf Course used to get “overflow” golfers when Northstar at Tahoe Golf Course or Tahoe Donner Golf Course were overbooked, but said
Ponderosa can’t compete any more since other resorts have been built.
Instead of a full day spent on the greens, Lewis said, “We can offer [golfers] two and a half hours and then be back with family on vacation. That’s our niche.”
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