BY KEVIN HOLSAPPLE
This letter is to provide my input to the Parks & Rec Board and to the community in general with respect to the County Consultant’s schemes for enlarging the golf course footprint. In the public meeting I attended, I was led to believe that the impetus for the consultant’s work was to address a safety issue that had been raised about the possibility of golfers being struck by balls hit on the driving range. The County Council directed the development of alternatives for addressing the issue. In doing so, the Council motion clearly stated that planning should be done with an eye to “minimizing impacts to existing trails and open space to the greatest extent possible”. As I understand it, the PRB voted in July to endorse the option presented that had maximum impact on open space and trails — the opposite of what Council’s motion intended. I hope you will reconsider.
Of the options presented by the consultant, Option D clearly is the one that minimizes impacts to existing trails and open space. The expansion area, trail relocation, and tree removal from Option D carry less than half of the impacts of any of the other options presented.
However, the best option consistent with the Council’s direction was apparently not considered – the option to use limited-distance golf balls on the existing driving range. I saw a quote from Cory Styron in the LA Reporter saying that 50% of the golfers asked “were ok” with this solution, but it wasn’t being considered because the consultant “never proposed [it]”. The consultant must not have known about the Council’s interest in “minimizing impacts to existing trails and open space to the greatest extent possible”. Also, this option costs a lot less and can presumably be implemented immediately.
Yet another alternative suggested by a golfer at a previous public meeting suggested creating a virtual driving range facility. This definitely deserves consideration. Such a facility would eliminate the safety issue and free up ground within the existing golf course footprint. It can also offer an interesting menu of value-added capabilities including year-round usefulness, golfer swing analytics, the ability to play famous holes from around the world, engagement strategies for getting non-golfers interested in the game, and the ability to use for other sports if desired (think baseball, hockey, soccer, etc.) On the surface, this also appears to be more economical than a multi-million dollar golf course expansion, but costs are certainly unknown without study.
To my knowledge, no data has been shared with the community about the usage of the driving range – i.e. how many driving range sessions take place by how many users; what revenues the driving range generates. This would be important to know in the event that a large expenditure is suggested to address the problem.
I have friends who are golfers and I support the way our community has supported the current golf course with generous subsidies. I do not support enlarging the footprint of the golf course if it results in encroaching into adjacent natural spaces. The County Council has already directed “minimizing impacts to existing trails and open space to the greatest extent possible” and that is what should be done.