City investments in golf courses are starting to pay off, golfers say | Local News

Daniel Massey hit his drive Thursday on the No. 5 hole at Stone Creek Golf Course about 100 yards from the pin.

Not a bad shot. But the big news was where the ball landed – on the grass.

Just a few months ago, the landing zone was a barren patch of hard-packed soil, thanks to nearby trees blocking the sunlight.

The trees are gone now and the grass is growing. For golfers like Massey, that’s good news.

“I think they’re going in the right direction. I would say right now the playability is much better… there’s a big difference,” said Massey, who owns a house next to the golf course.

That’s exactly the kind of feedback Randy Heckenkemper was hoping to hear from golfers at Stone Creek and Olde Page, the two golf courses owned by the Town of Page Belcher.

Heckenkemper, widely considered one of the best golf course designers in the state, is part of a Citizen Golf Advisory Committee that has worked with the city over the past three months to deliver $500,000 in improvements course at Page Belcher.

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“We’ve already made transformational change here and it was just with a little money,” Heckenkemper said. “It’s to give us a boost, but we have to keep building momentum.”

Heckenkemper’s plan has always been simple: Remove the trees that create the shade that prevents grass from growing, and the place will bloom. And that’s the case.

“As of Saturday, our project will be finished,” he said. “We will have sodded 6½ acres of sod, removed 160 trees, repaired a few areas of horribly broken cart paths and probably trimmed another 50 to 100 trees.

“And then a lot of sprinkler heads were raised and adjusted and all that.”

The $500,000 investment is the first step in an ambitious plan by the city and the Citizens Golf Advisory Committee to restore the city’s golf courses – which also include 36 holes in Mohawk Park – to their former status among the top municipal courses in the state.

It starts with providing adequate funding for maintenance. Improvements to Page Belcher were paid for with 2020 and 2021 green fees, when COVID-19 drove the public outdoors for recreational opportunities.

Heading into fiscal 2023, which began on Friday, the city — through Troon Golf Management, the private entity that operates the city’s golf course — will allocate an additional $800,000 for the golf course maintenance only in fiscal year 2022.

Much of this increased investment, Heckenkemper said, will go to keeping golf courses watered and fertilized during the scorching summer months — basic maintenance that has been neglected for years.

“It won’t be a swamp here, but you have to water it properly,” he said.

To help boost the revenue it will need to properly maintain its golf courses over the long term, the city increased its greens fee by $5 on Friday.

Ken MacLeod, publisher of Golf Oklahoma Magazine and member of the Citizens Golf Advisory Committee, said anything that helps the city fund ongoing maintenance and improvements will help.

“We had gotten to a point where we needed significant improvements, and this is just the first step in trying to rectify that and moving forward with a plan to have better support from the city,” said said MacLeod.

This support also includes a commitment to provide golf courses with $1 million in US Bailout Act funding if the Citizens Advisory Committee on Golf can raise $1 million in private dollars.

Heckenkemper said they’re nearly halfway there, thanks to generous local golfers and a $250,000 donation from the nonprofit PGA of America’s PGA Reach Foundation.

“I got a check this week from a golf league that has 24 players,” he said. “They pay dues and they said to me, ‘Look, we’ve always complained about the conditions, and now that you’re making improvements, we want to be part of the solution.'”

The $2 million would be used to make improvements to the golf courses at Page Belcher and Mohawk Park, and Heckenkemper already has a long, detailed list of what needs to be done: adding sod, renovating bunkers, improving the systems of irrigation and drainage, repair cart paths. , and prune more trees.

But they need another $500,000 to reach their goal. Tax-deductible donations can be made to tulsacf.org/golf.

“We have two tee times every Saturday and Sunday morning,” MacLeod said. “These guys are thrilled with what happened, and that’s what I wanted to see is the reaction from golfers who believe in Page Belcher and are long-time supporters.

“I think the regulars are thrilled with the changes… what we need to do is get that word out.”

Michael C. Ford