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By Design


here’s a great sense of pride

among the community that

we have a really good golf

course,” says Cliff Keheley, city

manager of Mesquite, Texas.

The municipal course holds a special

place in golfers’ hearts. For some of

us, it may be the one local course

that is accessible and affordable, and

therefore our only opportunity to

enjoy the sport. For others it may be

where we first picked up a club. And

with city-owned courses regularly

featured on pro tour schedules—think

Torrey Pines, Bethpage Black and

Chambers Bay—they even allow us

to walk in the footsteps of our golfing

heroes, an opportunity that is rare in

any other sport.

Throughout the United States—

which, like the UK and Canada, is

one of only a few countries where

municipal golf is widespread—

local governments face common

challenges when providing golf

facilities to their community.

In the case of Mesquite, the city

sought the help of Jeff Brauer, ASGCA

Past President, to deliver a renovation

with an emphasis on value. “We have

a large number of senior golfers,

it was important to maintain an

affordable green fee,” says Keheley.

The initial goal was to rebuild greens

and tee boxes. “But with Jeff’s help,

we were really able to maximize the

budget—we even relocated several

greens to add length, and redesigned

three complete holes which really

changed the character of the course.

We got much more than we expected.”

Keheley explains that upon

completion, play increased

dramatically, surpassing their goals for

numbers of rounds and attracting a lot

of new golfers to the course.

“The key to success with this project

was the relationship with Jeff and

the contractors,” says Keheley. “We

worked together and were committed

to the same goal.”

A sound investment

It is accepted that many recreational

activities provided by local

governments—like basketball

courts, fitness centers and trails—

will incur a cost. But investments in

golf often seem subject to greater

scrutiny. As a result, municipalities

can go long periods without

investing in their courses.

“A typical challenge for municipal

projects is that their infrastructure

has simply worn out,” says Richard

Mandell, ASGCA, who was responsible

for the highly acclaimed 2014

renovation of the historic Keller Golf

Course in Maplewood, Minnesota.

“Municipalities have put a great deal

of emphasis on cutting maintenance

costs, and foregoing capital

expenditure,” says Kevin Norby,

ASGCA, who last year completed

renovation projects at Coal Creek

Golf Course for the City of Louisville,

Colorado, and Elmwood Golf Course

for the City of Sioux Falls, South

Dakota. “But they find themselves

losing golfers due to poor conditions.

So often when they are looking for

help it’s a case of them saying ‘we have

done all we can to cut costs, we are

looking for ways to increase revenue’.”

Renovation projects to repair

infrastructure can deliver the improved

conditions that will not only attract

more golfers, and more revenue, but

also free up resources to focus on

more positive activities. “With new

infrastructure the golf club can start

managing and maintaining the golf

course, rather than constantly fixing


The renovation of Mesquite Golf Course in Mesquite, Texas, prompted a sharp upturn in play

Photos: Jessica Larson