Golf course faces uncertain future

By By Justin Myers

By Justin Myers

When golfing legend Ben Hogan declared in 1944 that the U’s golf course was the “most unfair golf course” he had ever played, he probably would have supported the idea of making it into a parking lot.

Today, some students and administrators think that campus parking, not the golf course, has become unfair.

“It’s crazy how you have to park, like, 40 miles away from your classes,” said Corey Costomiris, a sophomore studying architecture.

While Costomiris’ remarks were clearly an exaggeration, the parking problem at the U has long been in existence.

In August 2003, then-U President Bernie Machen said that the need for additional parking would soon result in the closing of the campus golf course. Machen said that he would not close the course, but that “it (would) be something some future president has no choice in,” Machen told The Daily Utah Chronicle in October 2003.

The golf course hasn’t been altered since then, other than slight modifications during the construction of the hospital TRAX stop. However, a new engineering building has now closed one parking lot near the golf course and pushed others past their limit.

“I paid all sorts of money for a U parking pass, but I still can’t find anywhere to park,” Costomiris said.

Mike Nickas, assistant pro of the University Golf Course, admits that those in search of daily parking spots might not see the course favorably.

“We know that the golf course won’t last forever,” Nickas said.

Nickas and fellow assistant pro Eric Johnson pointed out the many positive aspects of the course.

“It’s really the sparkling gem in the crown that is campus recreational facilities,” Johnson said.

During the 1940s the course was in fact a “sparkling gem” for the whole country. Back then, it featured 27 championship-level holes and was a regular PGA Tour stop, hosting such golf greats as Hogan and Sam Snead.

Then it was donated to Fort Douglas, which turned it over to the university. The U has been encroaching on its boundaries ever since, Nickas said.

Even in its current nine-hole condition, the course benefits the community, Nickas said, and “it might be the least expensive golf course on the planet.”

Green fees are $4 for students on weekdays.

“Golf courses usually have an elitist attitude, but we throw out all that pretentiousness. Anyone who can pick up a club can play here,” he said.

The course is also financially independent, whereas a new parking lot or structure would require money that the school does not currently have.

“From what we’ve been told, nothing is going to happen to the course for at least seven years because the university still has to pay off outstanding bonds from the Olympics,” Nickas said. “[The golf course] doesn’t receive a dime from student money.”

In the meantime, Nickas and Johnson said that they would continue doing all they can to provide a top-notch experience for the course’s patrons.

When the inevitable need for more parking does occur, Johnson said he feels there is a solution that will allow golf to remain on campus.

“However, much of the golf course remains should be converted into a premier practice facility,” he said. “It would have two or three holes, practice greens and a full-size driving range.”

While such a compromise would likely please both student commuters and golfers in the future, some U students are finding a solution to the problem on their own.

Business sophomore Erik Simper said that more students should take advantage of the TRAX transportation system, since they’re paying for it in their tuition anyway.

Simper, an avid golfer, didn’t understand why the already small golf course should be reduced to two or three holes.

“Why don’t (administrators) turn half of the baseball diamond into a parking lot and just use first and second base?” he asked.

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