West Seattle Golf Course driving range decision: Canceled

February 1, 2011 at 1:04 pm | In West Seattle news, West Seattle people | 55 Comments

We’re at Seattle Parks headquarters downtown, where acting superintendent Christopher Williams (photo right) has just told West Seattle Golf Club and Camp Long Advisory Council leaders the decision on whether the controversy-beset West Seattle Golf Course driving range will proceed: It will NOT.

Williams says public concern is a major factor – as is the fact what they would have to do would exceed the available budget. The money left over in the design process, $500,000, will initially be applied to Golf Master Plan projects at Jackson and Jefferson courses, according to Parks leaders. (ADDED WEDNESDAY: Parks says $255,000 was spent on design/engineering for the WS driving range before this decision.) And the Jackson driving range will likely now move forward this year instead of the later timetable. As for future West Seattle projects – they remain on the current timetable for now, though it was acknowledged that plans have room to change. What about a new clubhouse for West Seattle? Wilkinson agreed, “We sure need a clubhouse there.”

WSGC is represented at the meeting by Patrick DiStefano and Mike Prittie (photo left); Parks reps also include deputy superintendent Eric Friedli and the citywide golf manager Paul Wilkinson. Camp Long Advisory Council reps Mary Quackenbush and David Kipnis are here too. WSGC’s president Bob Chamberlain was speaking to the Rotary Club of West Seattle just this past hour. (photo and notes added)

Chamberlain had reiterated to the Rotary that once it became clear the driving range would alter part of the golf course itself, the 700-member club was officially opposed, and that’s the viewpoint he had to represent.

(back to original report on announcement meeting) As DiStefano put it, there was widespread support for a driving range – but not for one that would change the existing golf course itself. “This really makes the most sense, looking for the overall … way to move the West Seattle Golf Course forward, toward something that will generate some revenue toward future projects,” he said, while expressing concern that the money originally budgeted for this “will never come back.”

More to come – we’ll add a few more toplines from the briefing, as well as from the WSGC president’s speech to Rotary that preceded it; the official Parks news release about this should be out momentarily, too. Side note: The department says it can’t recall the last time a project was completely canceled this far into the design/review/community-meeting process. “We listened,” Williams noted.

ADDED 2:56 PM: The official news release is now out:

Seattle Parks and Recreation Acting Superintendent Christopher Williams today announced his decision not to proceed with the construction of a driving range at the West Seattle Golf Course, after siting difficulties and public concerns surfaced.

The driving range, the first project to be developed under the 2009 Golf Master Plan, began the planning and design phase in mid-2010. The original plan was to place the range west of the clubhouse along 35th Ave. SW. Engineering studies revealed problems with soil conditions at the site, so Parks then attempted to locate it closer to the clubhouse at the fairway for hole #9.

This option would make it necessary to reconfigure the hole and several pathways, which led to opposition from course users. The design team tried to address users’ concerns through three public meetings and additional analysis. After reviewing the design issues, the costs of the design process, the funding for the project, and the input received through the public involvement process, Williams decided not to go ahead with the project.

“It turns out this project, as it can be physically fitted into the course, is not consistent with the course’s historic design,” Williams said “We do not want to go forward with a facility that does not meet golfers’ needs, but we are pleased to be able to take the rest of the budget and apply it to another upcoming Golf Master Plan project.”

Michael Prittie, vice president of the West Seattle Golf Club, said “The club is very happy with this decision. We look forward to working with Parks on the rest of the Golf Master Plan, particularly on projects that will improve the West Seattle Golf Course.”

David Kipnis of the Camp Long Advisory Council added, “We appreciate Parks’ willingness to incorporate public opinion in decision-making, and hope this decision will be a catalyst for the golf community, Camp Long, and the general public to work together on future projects.”

This decision enables Parks to take the approximately $579,000 remaining in the $834,000 project planning budget, which comes from 2010 General Obligation Bonds, and redirect it to another priority revenue-generating capital project identified in the Golf Master Plan. Parks will also report on the decision to the City Council Parks and Seattle Center Committee at an upcoming meeting.

55 Comments

  1. Huge disappointment for West Seatle!

    Comment by Blair — 1:20 pm February 1, 2011 #

  2. By all means let’s not provide a recreation and a revenue producing facility for the city in West Seattle. And let’s make sure that the club house and restaurant aren’t remodeled to bring in more revenue either. Why would we want to maximize the revenue potential? The city is in such great financial shape with such clear cut priorities.

    Comment by wsguy — 1:32 pm February 1, 2011 #

  3. This is the right answer! I would have used the driving range, but not at the expense of the course or the neighborhood. I played W Seattle on Saturday – coming up the 9th fairway I just couldn’t imagine it becoming the driving range and losing such a challenging and key hole!

    Comment by jgonplay — 1:34 pm February 1, 2011 #

  4. The neighborhood was just fine when the driving range was there before.

    I just don’t get the rational that the course is too sacred to change. Augusta National and Torrey Pines can change – but West Seattle can’t?

    Comment by wsguy — 1:41 pm February 1, 2011 #

  5. in response to wsguy:

    Your comments clearly show you do not understand the economics of golf course operations.

    Also the last I looked neither Augusta National nor Torrey Pines put a driving range in the middle of their golf course as part of the changes to their respective courses.

    Comment by bobc — 2:05 pm February 1, 2011 #

  6. Boooooooooooooo
    Bogus decision. Let’s go back and design a viable solution that makes all parties happy, but to just can it all together? Bogus!
    Sacred ninth hole? Please! That’s the reason this shouldn’t move forward Bob C? That’s ridiculous!

    Comment by A — 2:19 pm February 1, 2011 #

  7. Too bad …..

    New art work and furniture are more important in City Hall.

    Comment by CitizenR — 2:28 pm February 1, 2011 #

  8. bobc – surely you are not suggesting that revenue enhancing features and amenities such as a decent clubhouse / restaurant & driving range and the money they bring in are irrelevant to a golf facility’s bottom line?

    As for the way the WS golf course is operated – the city takes money from it to spend on other programs/ projects.

    I wonder if Kent and Tukwila think their facilities would be better off without such amenities. Leasing conference room space and having a restaurant and driving range keeps money coming in during the times of year when the number of rounds are down.

    At least when “The Bridge” opens across the street we’ll have a decent restaurant/ bar…

    Comment by wsguy — 2:33 pm February 1, 2011 #

  9. Ridiculous.

    I play West Seattle 30+ times per year. I love the course. However, I would certainly appreciate a driving range that I can warm up at prior to a round, rather than worry about maintaining hole 9 the way it is.

    True golfers would understand that.

    My guess is that the folks who were against it just run up to the first tee, chunk their ball around the course, and are more interested in beers at the 19th rather than playing a decent round.

    Comment by Bill — 2:46 pm February 1, 2011 #

  10. How much money has just been flushed in value engineering and site development cost’s, these people at Parks are irresponsible stewards of our money. Just one more example http://westseattleblog.com/2011/01/now-councilmembers-fielding-sports-fee-hike-complaints

    Comment by PO — 3:17 pm February 1, 2011 #

  11. Let’s just make White Center into a driving range…lol. :)

    Comment by onceachef — 3:18 pm February 1, 2011 #

  12. This sucks. Sad that the vocal minority who didn’t want this ruined it for everyone else.

    Comment by bigmark — 3:34 pm February 1, 2011 #

  13. lame.

    Comment by Jacob — 3:51 pm February 1, 2011 #

  14. Another poor decision by the city. Lets take a revenue generating idea off the table and instead build a non money making clubhouse or better yet, reneovate an abondon building for the homeless once they burn it down.

    Comment by Chris — 4:03 pm February 1, 2011 #

  15. Too bad! We would have used it, and it might have brought folks into the neighborhood who would also stay and buy lunch or dinner. We’ll all have to continue to drive to Beacon Hill or Interbay instead.

    Comment by Kim — 4:18 pm February 1, 2011 #

  16. Just another case of NIMBY Seattle treating West Seattle like the red-headed stepchild. Can you say Monorail?

    Comment by Danno — 4:33 pm February 1, 2011 #

  17. It looks like the WSGC (and City) chose the wrong team. Maybe a more local design team would have offered better alternatives.

    Good question PO, how much was spent for preliminary design?

    Comment by Will — 5:05 pm February 1, 2011 #

  18. Per our September story, there was a $1.1 million budget for design.
    .
    Subtracting the remaining $570+K mentioned at this afternoon’s announcement, that would mean they spent about half a million dollars. Will verify with Parks, but may not be able to reach anybody tonight. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 5:12 pm February 1, 2011 #

  19. If you followed the master plan, there are no more proposed projects for West Seattle Golf Course other then perimeter trails. The club house renovation was a alternative that is contingent on the success of the Golf Master Plan and WS Driving Range (revenue). Great start WSGC members, there will be no mulligans!

    Comment by Craig — 5:34 pm February 1, 2011 #

  20. You know, there were a number of public meetings, held by Parks, at each stage of this process. The purpose of which was to gather input and feedback.
    .
    Having seen the presentation by Parks, I can say there were very valid points on both sides of the discussion (myself, I was reluctant to see a Works Progress Administration project forever altered).
    .
    At the end of the day, it was the folks who didn’t want the range who showed up, vocally and repeatedly. Quoting Acting Superintendant Williams, “We listened.”
    .
    Civic activism goes like that sometimes. If you are only prepared to care in retrospect, brace for additional disappointment.

    Comment by mcbride — 5:54 pm February 1, 2011 #

  21. Great decision, the new range would have been a total waste of money. I am a “true golfer” and play all over the world and WSGC is perfect the way it is.

    Comment by Dave — 5:58 pm February 1, 2011 #

  22. Ridiculous. This is not forward thinking. Not only would the facility have brought revenue, it would have meant lessons and a practice facility for kids (think high school teams)to learn another sport. But if the old guard doesn’t want anyone messing with their tee times and parking spaces, then by all means let’s let them make the decision for the city. Let’s face it; if the city went ahead with the driving range the complainers would still play at WS. I bet we would even see their faces at said range.

    Comment by beth — 6:02 pm February 1, 2011 #

  23. I’m a “real golfer” too and I didn’t want to see the course altered. I’ve even practiced at Jefferson and driven back over to WS if I really felt I needed to hit a bucket before a round.

    Comment by jeff — 6:20 pm February 1, 2011 #

  24. Hmmmm lots of interesting comments.

    First let me see if I can clarify one thing. A new clubhouse would be great and I support building one however while it would increase the top line (revenue) they generally do not add to the bottom line (profit). Driving ranges do add to both.

    That said I do not think putting the WS driving range on the 9th hole as proposed would have done both for two reasons:

    It would have cannabalized revenue from Jefferson.

    I believe they would have lost revenue from greens fees as a result of changes to the golf course.

    Second, I attended all 3 public hearings and the vast majority of comments were not supportive of the driving range if it meant radical changes to the golf course. Also everyone I spoke to about this outside of those public meetings were also opposed to the driving range as proposed. So I believe we were vocal but I do not believe we are the minority.

    And finally we have communicated to the Parks Dept. and the city that the WSGC is supportive of the master plan and all improvements to the golf courses in the City of Seattle. We still believe that ultimately we will have a driving range at WS. How and where remains to be determined but WSGC remains committed to finding a solution to that question.

    Comment by bob c — 6:49 pm February 1, 2011 #

  25. I would worry about building a new clubhouse at W.S. Golf Course first. It is waaaaay overdue for one.

    Comment by Jiggers — 6:53 pm February 1, 2011 #

  26. I wish I could say mcbride hit the nail on the head. Except after the Delridge skatepark failure, I’d say Seattle Parks has extremely selective hearing.

    Comment by JP — 6:54 pm February 1, 2011 #

  27. Once again Seattle spends a ton of money on planning, and we get nothing. Reminds me of the monorail. Next up, the tunnel. We had money for a range that would have created revenue year round, and would have helped bring new people in the neighborhood into golf. Sadly, it was killed by a few loud people scared of change. Many of the best courses are par 71 and the new holes looked pretty cool. All I can say is… lame.

    Comment by paul — 7:12 pm February 1, 2011 #

  28. Hurrah! This never even should have started. At least they cut their losses. Well, sort of. Rather than deciding to spend $500k on something else, they should have simply returned it to offset budget cuts elsewhere.

    Comment by Herman — 7:51 pm February 1, 2011 #

  29. “Ultimately we will have a driving range at WS” likely not, if that time comes construction costs will be double. But Seattle likes to sit on plans then pay a premium.

    Perhaps the driving range would offset the ultimate increase in green fees at WS and bring a new generation of golfers. Doesn’t that bring in future revenue?

    WS turned down the opportunity to get a Interbay facility. I hear it’s doing well.

    The proposed design makes a tougher, longer course. What? More exercise? Too challenging? That’s what the range is for. Practice.

    Comment by Craig — 8:00 pm February 1, 2011 #

  30. In the end, it was the GOLFERS THEMSELVES (you know, the people who would use it) who made the difference.
    .
    Glad it wasn’t the NIMBYs.

    Comment by Michael — 8:01 pm February 1, 2011 #

  31. In one of the meetings an objection to the range was the height of the net on the 35th Avenue SW side. It was said to be too tall and would interfere with the views of some of the houses. You pay for a view when you buy a house, but you don’t own it. The golfers (and others) would have approved of a range being built in the place of the original range, but the adjacent property owners were against it. You can’t put all the blame for the failure of the range proposal on the golfers.

    Comment by WestSide45 — 8:09 pm February 1, 2011 #

  32. “Ultimately we will have a driving range at WS” – Really? In what decade? This was the best chance we have had in 30 years and after spending over $500k when is the city going to come around again with another half a million to three quarters of a million dollars to see if they can get West Seattle to accept a driving range.

    This should have also been part of the decision making process.

    But there have been posts that are spot on – those of us who thought it was a common sense idea should have turned out in bigger numbers so the “We’s” who cherish the status quo of the 1950′s would not have had the final say…

    Oops thats right – in the 60′s they had a driving range there – my bad.

    Comment by wsguy — 8:23 pm February 1, 2011 #

  33. Obviously, many on this thread are clueless about the realities of “running a golf course”.

    The “golf course” isn’t a money maker in the operation….the majority of g&cc operations are supported by the MEMBERSHIP…over and above the “monthly dues”. You really have to love it….

    The “amentiites” (i.e., liquor sales, restaurant, driving rage, room rentals, weddings, catering, etc) are where the profit is in these operations.

    Lot’s of cash transactions….where a $50 in the plam can go a long, long way.

    The Parks Department can turn a profit because they can efficiently share the expensive, specialized machines and the labor to make the numbers work.

    Golf courses are struggling to stay afloat, membership is reducing, economic trends are tightening the belt of the targeted new players and there are over 70 courses in King County alone!

    They need to acquire more property….they have the right solution, but need the rest of the industry to band together.

    Comment by Big Money Pit — 8:39 pm February 1, 2011 #

  34. I don’t think anybody thought that canceling the project would be an option. Sad that WSGC could not compromise and look into the future of golf in Seattle versus preserving their handicaps.

    Comment by Will — 8:42 pm February 1, 2011 #

  35. Great decision…this is not wasted money…this is not throwing good money after bad. Wasted money is building a driving range that ruins the aesthetics and competitiveness of the course when there is a range 4 or 5 miles away.

    Comment by Chris — 8:57 pm February 1, 2011 #

  36. Sad day – as a tax payer I am disappointed – the city wastes so much money across the board.
    this is ridiculous – wasted effort by many over many years – wasted money on design – wasted promises by parks dept and elected officials. This is a pathetic decision. This city is too willing to build more $30,000 bike boxes to support a small number of bike riders than invest in a revenue producing activity. This is one activity in the parks system that people pay for – and the brain trust at the parks dept eliminates it. We unfortunately live in a city with insane people at the helm.

    Comment by Rick — 9:11 pm February 1, 2011 #

  37. This is sad for everyone involved, mostly the taxpayers.

    Comment by MLJ — 9:20 pm February 1, 2011 #

  38. I wish they would tear down the chain-linked fences around the course. They’re hideous. Is it a golf course or a prison? Small changes like that would make West Seattle much nicer.

    Comment by Ryan — 9:24 pm February 1, 2011 #

  39. At least take down the chain link that parallels 35th Avenue. Gees, the two cars that hit it over a year ago have the job started!

    Comment by Triangle Resident — 9:39 pm February 1, 2011 #

  40. They spent $500K? ON WHAT?! I can hire an Architect to do what they showed for less than $20K…what exactly was worth half a mil about this process?
    .
    Nice going, Seattle. The local food bank goes begging for pennies while you spend HALF A MILLION DOLLARS on a “study.”

    Comment by lenguamor — 12:58 am February 2, 2011 #

  41. I have an inquiry out to find out the exact number. So please hang on with potential requoting until that comes in.

    Comment by WSB — 1:03 am February 2, 2011 #

  42. The over 700 women and men of the two WS golf course clubs overwhelming were against putting
    a driving range on the 9th hole. These for the most part are the golfers that play WS the most.
    You arm chair golfers, with a few exceptions are more than welcome to join and get involved.
    BTW,
    I agree about the waste of tax payer money. After deciding not to put the range where the original was, this thing should have been buried.

    Comment by Dunno — 7:13 am February 2, 2011 #

  43. UPDATE – WHAT WAS SPENT SO FAR: Dewey Potter of Parks answered our inquiry this morning – “About $255,000 was spent on the planning, design, and engineering work.” – TR

    Comment by WSB — 8:16 am February 2, 2011 #

  44. I know I’ll get flak for it, but I’ve never really liked the 9th hole. I’m a fan of par-5s generally, but the blind shot over the ravine is really weird, and the hole is tucked up in an odd place.

    Now…cutting the whole in half? That might have been overdoing it, but for a driving range? I think I’d be for it in the long run.

    Too bad.

    But it’s not the worst news. We still have a great golf course out here!

    Comment by Admirooni — 11:22 am February 2, 2011 #

  45. Isn’t that a quarter of a million dollars + just pissed away. And they have the nerve to raise field rates 300%. http://westseattleblog.com/2011/01/now-councilmembers-fielding-sports-fee-hike-complaints

    Comment by PO — 12:20 pm February 2, 2011 #

  46. It’s funny to me how there’s always somebody who manages to work complaining about bikes into every imaginable subject. It’s like how whenever there’s a new restaurant announced somebody manages to complain that it’s not vegan.

    Comment by austin — 1:04 pm February 2, 2011 #

  47. Really – the members of the WS Golf course are the majority of the golfers that play there?

    According to the website there are about 63,000 rounds a year played. That means each of you must play about 90 rounds a year there.

    And I thought playing there more than 30 times year was more than average but I guess that just makes me an arm chair golfer who wants some place to practice.

    Leaving WS during the work on the bridge and viaduct will not be easy…

    I have been playing there for a lot of years and so do a lot of people I know and none are members…

    Comment by wsguy — 1:17 pm February 2, 2011 #

  48. Well said WSguy.

    It’s really a shame, isn’t it?

    Big value to local community lost due to short sighted individuals.

    I’m curious to know who plays at Jackson so much that is on the board who made the decision. They will enjoy their facilities sooner now, right?

    Comment by WorldCitizen — 5:05 pm February 2, 2011 #

  49. I personally believe Seattle politics are a joke and similar to mob like practices. Waste first think later. Makes perfect sense – why actually use your heads and make educated choices from the start. WSGC driving range has been a figment from the start.
    I play regularly and would have loved a driving range and can deal with one not being there. All the excuses and waste of money is what really gets me. There are so many other useful and philanthropic ways to spend the money locally – but hey just spend it in other communities why would anyone care about the black sheep?
    Really getting old….

    Comment by Disbeliever — 5:26 pm February 2, 2011 #

  50. Yes! Good decision.

    Comment by fiz — 8:52 pm February 2, 2011 #

  51. WS guy, I did say with few exceptions and meant you. Most the people I play with do play close to
    90 round a year there. I was refering to some of the post on here by clearly non golfers or summer timers.
    I respect your opinion, but where were you when all the meetings were taking place?

    And protecting our handicaps, WTH does that mean?
    lol

    Comment by Dunno — 11:27 pm February 2, 2011 #

  52. Too bad, the people in charge should have looked at Deb’s comment/solution. It seemed to be cost effective, while leaving course relatively intact. I cannot remember when the article was wrote but, it was on wsb.

    Comment by let them swim — 3:31 am February 3, 2011 #

  53. I’m not sure I’m a real golfer–perhaps I’m a fake golfer!?–but this is a bummer. Jefferson isn’t terribly far, but it’s always nice to not have to leave WS.

    Comment by SparkleK — 7:39 pm February 3, 2011 #

  54. Eh Interbay is more fun anyway.

    Comment by KAS — 1:10 pm February 4, 2011 #

  55. @austin

    Yeah, isn’t it funny how the bike-haters inject their dislike of bikes into anything they can? And at least those bike boxes protect people from getting injured.

    Comment by JN — 6:53 pm February 6, 2011 #

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