Enumclaw sprucing up its golf course

Drizzly, winter weather has allowed the city of Enumclaw to ease into the golf course business.

Since taking over operation of the 18-hole course on the east edge of town, the city has maintained daylight hours while overseeing improvements to the clubhouse and gone about the task of getting necessary equipment in place.

“The only interruption has been with the clubhouse renovation,” said Larry Fetter, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and, as such, the person charged with making the course a success.

The city took ownership of the golf course in 2004 as part of a transfer from King County, but farmed out the operation to an independent contractor. The pact with Scott Galbraith ended with the close of 2009 and the city failed to find a satisfactory replacement. So, the city was left with the task of running the course for this year, at least.

An early challenge came when an inspection revealed wood rot in the kitchen area of the clubhouse. Because the former operator had pulled out all his appliances, it was easier to replace the floor and perform other work, Fetter said.

Cosmetic improvements to the clubhouse, he said, will follow a color scheme originated last year when the city paid for improvements to the restrooms.

While the kitchen has been the focus of construction work, golfers have been limited to snacks and coffee.

That situation will continue for a while, at least, as the city has just started the process of looking for someone to handle food and beverage concessions.

Two items of business related to the golf course were tackled by members of the City Council during their Feb. 8 meeting.

First on the agenda was a proposal for maintenance equipment necessary to keep a course in playing shape – things like mowers, aerators and a machine that applies a “top dressing” to the turf.

The city had received three bids and chose to go with Western Equipment, a Toro dealer, which offered a lease agreement in the sum of $65,000 annually. The cost, Fetter said, will be paid through course revenues.

Asked if he had looked at purchasing equipment, Fetter said he had, but a lease situation “made considerable sense to us.” A primary reason, he said, is the potential $300,000 startup cost associated with buying equipment.

A bit stickier was an attempt to get a full fleet of golf carts. The course has a few on hand, but not nearly enough to handle the crowds that will accompany warmer weather.

Fetter went to the council with a rental agreement, but was put on hold when council members wondered if the city would come out ahead by purchasing carts instead. The item was referred to a committee for further review and will likely be on a coming council agenda.

The rental agreement would have cost the city approximately $22,650 annually for 35 carts – 15 carts on hand at all times and 20 more during times of peak play. That represents a sizable portion of the golf course profits, as cart rentals brought in $90,000 in 2009.

The city is upgrading the golf course with an eye toward seeking an outside vendor for 2011. Fetter said proposals will probably be sought beginning in the summer.

A similar process failed in 2009, but Fetter believes the course operation will be a more attractive proposition the second time around.

“We will have finalized a lot of things that needed attention,” he said, mentioning the current clubhouse repairs and improvements planned for later this year to the No. 2 tee box.

“We had tracked a pretty steady decline at the course,” Fetter said, noting that trouble areas, both big and small, will be addressed before a new operator is sought.

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