Does a Public Golf Facility Make Sense for Moore County's Future?
Moore County is rightly called the Golf Capital of the World. The game brought to Pinehurst by the Tufts family and its famous employee Donald Ross is, after well more than a century, a driving factor of the county's economic well-being. An estimated $349 million is spent here by out-of-state visitors, much of it golf-related.
Ross, who spent his golf architectural career at Pinehurst (with summers spent in Little Compton, R.I.), urged government officials to build municipal and county-operated courses. During the Great Depression, using WPA funds, Ross built such courses at Asheboro, Buncombe, Mooresville, Monroe, Stryker at Fort Bragg and Wilmington.
Today those six courses average more than 40,000 plays a year. Managers of these public facilities estimate that about one-third of their players could not play golf were it not for their courses' affordable prices.
As our population grows, there will come a time when Moore County may wish to provide its citizens with more diverse recreational opportunities than those presently provided. I've suggested that the county establish a public golf course fund with money placed into it each year over a decade or two.
When sufficient money is raised, they could then either purchase an existing course or build a new one. (Real estate history shows that courses are frequently on the market in our county.) The ideal arrangement would be to create a large recreation facility offering golf and a wide range of other healthful activities to benefit all residents of the county, not merely golfers.
In the long term, underprivileged Moore County residents will be able to enjoy high-quality golf at reasonable prices. Young players will learn the game inexpensively. High school golf teams will gain a home course for practice and competitions. A manager and staff would find gainful employment, and the college would gain a tees, greens and fairways laboratory for use in its golf-related educational programs.
Would private, resort and semi-public courses in the county be hurt by the presence of a public facility? Governments that operate such courses find they do not hurt local courses. Indeed, new players added to the game each year from public courses can only benefit the sport. Golfers first introduced to the sport at a public venue will soon be playing the other courses located in Moore County.
Many North Carolina communities operate public courses for their residents. Bryan Park in Brown Summit, Oak Hollow in High Point, Tanglewood Park in Clemmons and Oyster Bay Golf Links at Sunset Beach are among the best in the nation.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, an avid golfer as a young man, favored the creation of public golf courses as WPA projects because they offered badly needed jobs and inexpensive, healthy recreation. He and Ross worked together to build a nine-hole public course at Warm Springs, Ga. (now the Roosevelt Memorial Golf Course).
The Moore County Board of Commissioners has done an excellent job supporting hard and soft baseball, fielding more than 100 youth teams this year at Hillcrest Park. In 2011, Moore County will proudly host the Dixie Youth Baseball World Series involving 24 teams from 11 Southeastern states. In the recent past, the county offered professional golf lessons to kids of all ages for five or six weeks at a modest fee at The Pit, Little River and Southern Pines Golf Club.
Sandhills Community College's educational programs are strongly tied to golf, offering associate degree courses that teach landscape gardening, irrigation, turf-grass management, horticulture, pest control, soil and feeding, and plant sciences.
The federal government operates public golf courses on its naval and military bases. They're run on a break-even basis, i.e., at no cost to the taxpayer. Most public golf facilities in North Carolina follow that same model. In years with good weather, they may make a modest profit. In other years, they may experience a loss. But over time, the goal is to break even.
The May 29 Vince Gill concert in Pinehurst is expected to draw several thousand music and golf lovers to -support The First Tee, a program that benefits young golfers here. An estimated $100,000 or more will be raised. Were the county to establish a Moore County Golf Course Trust Fund, similar events could be held to raise voluntary tax-deductible contributions for it.
Once such a fund is created and a course and perhaps a large recreation center ultimately built, it will serve Moore County citizens for generations to come.
I'd suggest it be named the Donald Ross Memorial Golf Course in honor of the son of Scotland who did so much make the Sandhills the golf Mecca it is today.
Paul R. Dunn is co-author of "Great Donald Ross Golf Courses You Can Play." Contact him at email@example.com.
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