Is pitch-and-putt the futureat Ponderosa Golf Course?
July 13, 2004
The owners of the Ponderosa Golf Course have requested in writing, and in their meeting participation, that the Truckee Town Council and town planners consider a zoning change of the golf course. The course is currently zoned recreational open space. The zoning change presently proposed by the owner would allow approximately 150 residential units and some light commercial buildings to be built and to reconstruct the golf course to accommodate the construction.In the workshops and town council meetings I have attended, it has been voiced almost unanimously by the public participating that the golf course remain, as is, recreational open space.The owners of the golf course have appealed to the Truckee Town Council and planners, claiming the present nine-hole, seasonal course does “not well” financially, as do 18-hole courses, and that patronage has dropped off in the last several years. (It seems that Old Brockway at Kings Beach, a nine-hole seasonal course, stays fairly active). So what’s the problem? What does the expression “not well” mean? Have any zoning decision-makers seen financial audits or reports indicating financial hardships? Does the Town Council get involved in these personal matters?Local people, second-home owners and vacationing people should be aware that the course was built approximately 40 years ago by a utility company – mostly by volunteers – with loaned equipment. It was bought for approximately $160,000 around that time from the utility company by three partners. The surrounding property was then sub-divided by the owners and the lots sold for custom housing. The majority of the homes you see today on the golf course are on the original sub-division. The golf course remained, and is now owned by the family of one of the former partners. It would be imagined that the original buying costs would be paid by now, since patronage in past years has not been bad. So what’s the problem? Is there any way that we residents and business owners of Truckee can help the owners with marketing, advertising, tournaments, etc, to increase patronage? This should help increase revenue and change the “not well” to “very well,” in the interest of sincerely saving this course as it is today, zoned recreational and open space.It is proposed by the owners that the course be converted to an “Executive” nine-hole, all par 3, non-Northern California Golf Association-rated course with approximately 150 high-density dwelling crammed into it. “Executive” course sounds great to buyers, but would not be considered a true executive course in the golfing world since their proposed plan would have no par 4 or 5 par holes. I wonder if the zoning decision-makers are aware of this. The owner’s proposed layout would be considered a pitch and putt, rinky-dink, play-land course, just one step above pee-wee golf, when compared to our presently rated NCGA executive course or any qualified NCGA-rated executive course. What happens to the men and women’s clubs whose membership is composed mostly of non-golf course homeowners, and other players who post handicaps? The large percentage will play elsewhere if they can afford it rather than play the par-3 course presently planned.For a course that is not doing well, has there been any great attempts to increase marketing, i.e. at least developing a web site; advertise in local newspapers and golf magazines, flyers and coupons for 2-for-1 play with cart, tournaments, discounts, etc.? This could go on and on if there is a sincere desire by the owners to increase revenue. Many other golf courses and other types of businesses do the above, particularly when revenues are off. The request for re-zoning should not be a spear-throwing contest between the golf course owners and the homeowners. This course, as it is now, is zoned recreational and open space, and is affordable compared to other local courses. It belongs the way it is, in the Town of Truckee. The effort to keep the course as it is should not be solely by the homeowners on the Ponderosa Golf Course, with vested interest to protect, but as residents and business owners of Truckee. Imagine this beautiful course, built years ago with local volunteer labor, squeezed down with high-density housing, and losing the beautiful view along Brockway Road.In addition, can we tolerate more traffic on Brockway Road, particularly with the Martis Valley and other developments planned and those now implemented? What happens to the open space concept we all desire, and have been gifted with on the present golf course? Let’s not give it up. Let’s find a way to ensure that the course is kept as it is now zoned: recreational open space.Bob Ahearn is a Ponderosa homeowner and Truckee resident.