By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Matt Burry is hoping to clear the air with golfers who use Westview Golf Course about proposed changes to holes 19 through 27 at Quincy's public golf course.
"Once they see the plans, they will understand things a little bit more," Burry said. "Whether they agree or not, that's yet to be seen. Once they get all of the facts, it will open their eyes, anyway. There is a lot of information that we haven't told people."
The public will have a chance to hear more information about the proposal and weigh in with their own opinion. The Quincy Park Board will hold a special forum at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Westview clubhouse on South 36th to hear golfer's opinions about any changes that could be made to the course.
Details about the project were first discussed at the March Park Board meeting. The Park District would like to modify holes 19 through 27. The course would consist of five par-3 and four par-4 holes. The Park District is hoping to make enough room for a practice facility that could house a driving range and other practice areas where lessons could be held. When it was first discussed, the project was expected to cost around $450,000.
The final nine holes of the course now play to a par 34. It has two par-3 holes and no par-5 holes. Those holes were added to the course in 1963. Westview opened as an 18-hole venue in 1949.
Executive Director Ed Seger says the Park District needs to look at ways to make Westview more profitable. He believes that by incorporating an initiative by the PGA of America dubbed Golf 2.0, which is about providing a quicker golf experience for players, that Westview could lure new golfers to the facility and bring in new revenue streams.
"The PGA is worried that rounds of golf are going down," he said. "People are choosing to do other things."
Among the ideas the PGA is promoting through Golf 2.0 is shortening golf courses, building small golf courses in city parks and recreation areas, and making six- and 12-hole courses.
Seger hopes changes will help the course to continue to thrive for years to come.
"We're not doing this because Westview is rolling in dough and we're all happy," Seger said. "We're doing this because a frequent complaint is that we should do more. ... The answers to why we don't do more is almost always dollars. We try to keep prices low and try not to make huge amounts of money. We're trying to have (Westview) pay for itself and include as many capital improvements as we can. It really hasn't been doing that. We've had to help.
"The course is a great asset to the city and community, but the trend lines are bad. I don't think the golfers who say, ‘Let's just keep doing what we're doing,' really understand. Our own rounds of golf, the national rounds of golf and all of those things are on the decline."
Westview has averaged a little more than 43,000 rounds per year during the last five years. Last year, 46,550 rounds were played, up from 39,948 in 2011. However, holes 19-27 doesn't get nearly as much traffic as the first 18 holes. Seger guessed that approximately 10 percent of the total rounds played in 2012 were played on the third nine.
Westview regulars primarily see the third nine as a place to play only when it is absolutely necessary. Bruce Moeching of Quincy has been a course regular for 20 years. Moeching plays an average of twice a week and says he plays the third nine only eight to 10 times a year.
"I only play that (nine) if something is going on the front," he said.
He said he wouldn't know how he feels about any changes to the third nine until he sees plans, but right now, there are only rough plans made by the Park District. Seger said the Park District wouldn't move forward with any concrete plans until they get the public's feedback.
Seger is hoping the public gets behind the plan to modify the third nine.
"If the trend lines were to continue and we weren't looking at this and had no plan, what do you do if it's five or six years in the future and Westview has used up all of its cash reserves?" Seger said. "What if it's losing money every year and it literally has to be subsidized?
"You can't build a new playground because we have to take taxpayer dollars and send it to the golf course just to make payroll. I'm not saying that is going to happen, but I'm saying that the worry is that it could happen. To not have a plan in place that might address that is the wrong thing to do."
Burry said he has heard strong opinions for the project and against it. Surveys he sent out earlier this year to Westview pass holders were split, for and against it.
"As I've had a chance to explain things a little bit more, I think that has changed some people's opinions and thoughts," Burry said. "We have to do what's right for us as a business. There are always going to be people who are against it. We have to do what is best for the future of Westview."
Seger said a decision about the project likely wouldn't happen until later this year when the Park District starts to budget for 2014.