By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
Improvements to the Los Alamos Golf Course are long overdue. The last major capital improvements to the course occurred in 1970 and its irrigation system is 30 years old.
If passed, the $20 million recreation bond would provide an estimated $4.5 million to fix up the golf course. The proposed project would install a new irrigation system, aerate tees and fairways, improve greens and drainage, fix T-boxes and perform some bunker restoration.
The golf course is one of five projects included in the bond. Other projects are a multi-activity recreation center, softball field improvements, a splash pad and a multi-generational pool.
Voters will decide whether or not to pass the general obligation bond during a special election in May. The election will be mail-out ballots sent out May 2 and the County Clerk must receive them by 7 p.m. May 23. If the bond is passed, then Council anticipates utilizing up to $13.4 million of Capital Improvement Project funds in order to supplement the bond proceeds toward the construction of the projects.
Course Manager Sam Logan said the proposed project is the best and most cost-effective way to improve the Los Alamos Golf Course. He pointed out doing a complete renovation would cost, minimally, $50,000 per green to get the course up to USGA standards. “We came up with a more cost effective method,” he said.
Logan added it would be money well spent. He said the golf course is a $15 million investment and “We need some capital improvements on a regular basis.” Logan added he would hate for the County and the public to see their $15 million investment become a dirt patch.
Plus, an improved and enhanced golf course is a great way to bring in tourism, which falls in line with the County Council’s objectives and strategic plan. “The golf business is a $70 billion dollar industry and the better the facilities are the better they are at bringing local and outside golfers,” Logan said.
Los Alamos Golf Course Head Professional Donnie Torres said the course has played a big role in the Los Alamos’ civic life. “We raise well over a $1 million for New Mexico charities,” he said, by hosting different charity events. A few organizations that have turned to the Los Alamos Golf Course are Big Brothers Big Sisters, Los Alamos Family YMCA, Elks, Knights of Columbus, Special Olympics and Make A Wish Foundation. Los Alamos High School golf teams also utilize the course. In total, the course hosts 40 events a year.
In addition to that, the course stays busy during its regular hours. “We do over 20,000 rounds a year,” Logan said.
Torres added the course is due for improvements. “We have been in line for a very long to get CIP funds and the users of the facility really feel for our course to become more sustainable in the future we need to these improvements.”
He mentioned while some of the proposed recreation projects would require an increase in operating expenses, improving the golf course might actually lower its costs. By installing a more water-efficient irrigation system,
Torres explained, “there’s a good chance maintenance and operation costs will drop because we’ll use less water and we’ll water more efficiently.”
Currently, Logan said, the total maintenance cost at the golf course is $500,000.
If the bond passes and work begins on the improvements to the course, Logan assures the community that the golf course will continue to serve the public during construction. “We would not close the golf course 100 percent.” Logan said work would probably be done six or nine holes at a time “so we would always have golf available.”
The course has a long history in the county. It was created in 1947 and Logan said it is “one of the oldest in New Mexico.”