Local golfers taking advantage of good weather, down economy to hit the links

Struggling economy means more players in city, leaders say

Lawrence golfers are soaking up the pleasant weather and the stressed economy.

Golf courses in the city are reporting an increase in players this summer, at a time when other courses in the country are struggling.

The biggest reason for the local increase appears to be the country’s economic situation, according to golf course leaders.

“People are forgoing the $2,000 family vacation and … having a stay-at-home vacation,” said Randy Towner, Alvamar Country Club head golf pro.

John Morris, the golf superintendent at Eagle Bend Golf Course, which is owned and operated by the city, also credits the recent lower-than-normal temperatures.

“People are expecting July just to be a bummer,” said Morris. “We’ll take this any July we can get our hands on.”

Eagle Bend, 1250 E. 902 Road, has marked a slight increase of about 500 rounds this year, and projects about 24,000 to be played in all.

But it comes one week after city commissioners increased some fees at the golf course, to address recent budget woes. Weekend green fees increased from $23 to $25 for 18 holes. Cart rentals increased $1.

The increased fees went into effect Friday, and Morris predicts they will play little role in the number of golfers who hit the links.

“We had a really busy weekend,” he said. “When you have a good weekend and the fees go up, I think that’s always a plus.”

“It is reasonable,” Melanie Wilson, one golfer who recently moved to Lawrence from Atlanta, said of Eagle Bend’s price and value. “I had not played here before, and the conditions are very nice.”

Towner said the number of players on Alvamar’s private course has seen an increase of about 200 new members since a year ago, while numbers at its public course have remained flat. The private golf course now has 527 members.

“It’s weird,” Towner said. “We knock on wood every day, but we’re getting new members every day.”

The increase could be credited, in part, to a recent drive to privatize the entire golf course, 1809 Crossgate Drive, making it a 36-hole course.