Bowden Golf Course gets makeover

jgaines@macon.comApril 19, 2011 

Macon Parks and Recreation Director Dale ‘‘Doc’’ Dougherty acknowledges that the city’s Bowden Golf Course hasn’t been very attractive for a long time, from tatty greens to its “prison look” cinder block clubhouse.

But intensive work during the winter has changed the course’s look, and he hopes a new fee structure and various promotions, including a new disc golf course, will draw players back.

All the improvements, including the disc golf course, have been inexpensive. But they may be enough to turn the 70-year-old course from a financial liability into an asset, Dougherty said.

“That’s been a big issue over the years, that it’s not a profit center yet,” he said.

A new fee schedule and business plan lays out sweeping changes in the course’s basic approach, moving from bare-bones simplicity to offering many options that seek to draw a variety of golfers.

Most important, Dougherty said, is a list of regular promotional features such as free club rental and discounts on slow days. Those and others will be rotated year-round to compete with other area courses, the plan says.

Right now the city course offers limited options: $500 annual memberships, with six-month limited memberships for senior citizens and the ladies’ golf association, according to the posted fee schedule.

The new plan changes that with a wide variety of choices, from cheaper weekday-only memberships and discounts for young people to a blanket family membership for $900 and corporate discounts.

More senior citizen discounts will be available, as will “twilight” discounts Monday through Thursday, plus six-month membership options and a $250 summer membership aimed at students.

Most other fees will increase only slightly or stay the same, the plan says.

At the end of March, Macon Mayor Robert Reichert referred the plan to City Council. Council members haven’t voiced any opposition, and without their intervention it will go into effect at the end of this month.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Community Resources and Development Committee will tour the course at 3111 Millerfield Road, viewing the recent upgrades.

The cinder block clubhouse is ringed with rose bushes, now in bloom; and the interior has been finished and decorated, with new furniture, Dougherty said.

Workers stripped many tee boxes and laid new sod, then a work detail of prisoners laid cobblestone steps to the tee boxes, he said. That cost just $15 in mortar.

The current slate of upgrades will be finished in the next couple of weeks, as work crews have to be reassigned to summertime grass-cutting jobs, but more will be coming next winter, Dougherty said. With continued attention and work on smoothing fairways, the course should soon be in good shape, he said.

Dougherty said he’s not sure why much of this work wasn’t done years ago. He figures the course just wasn’t a priority for previous officials, who focused money and effort elsewhere.

Now the course has a new golf manager, Nathan Caffarelli, who just started work three weeks ago. And soon he’ll oversee more than traditional golf.

Once there was a nine-hole “executive” course on 40 acres in the center of Bowden, but it’s been overgrown for years.

“Right now it’s just a big hay field,” Dougherty said.

That’s being turned into a disc golf course, which requires no more than erecting simple metal goals and cutting fairways, he said. The hard part was setting out lines of play, which a local disc golf group has done. It should be open for use in a couple of weeks, Dougherty said.

The course’s business plan says fees for the disc golf course have yet to be set, but when it’s in full swing accessories will be sold in Bowden’s pro shop.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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