This is a painful post to have to write, but I’m compelled to do it. I was horrified to see heavy equipment in operation this past Saturday at the fabulous Bonneville Golf Course. Bonneville is a municipal course which was designed by William Bell and has been providing the public great golf and fantastic greens since 1929. It’s really a gem and is an extremely popular course. “Bonney” is the first real golf course I played as a beginning golfer many years ago.
Unfortunately the heavy machinery was not there to level out the uneven tee boxes, work on improving the greens, fix the bad bunkers, or rip out the crumbling cart parking strips by the tee boxes. I was shocked to find equipment and workers digging out new cart paths. Lots of them.
One of the great things about Bonneville was its LACK of cart paths. Lacking cart paths makes a course much more aesthetically enjoyable. Plus, with no cart paths by the greens, errant approach shots aren’t bounced into the next county. That’s over. The ironic thing is that having cart paths is what makes specific parts of the course shabby and downtrodden. The paths basically force cart riders to enter and exit in the same places and cause a ton of damage to those areas. With no paths cart traffic is spread across a wider area and less damage is done to the course. I know, I’m talking crazy talk, right?
Apparently those who are making the decisions want Bonneville to look like some resort course in Orlando, rather than wanting it to be a great golf course. Seriously, WTF are they thinking? Not only that, we keep hearing about how Salt Lake City courses are losing money faster than John Daly loses alimony. Somehow they scraped up the money for cart paths though. Got it.
Below are a few photos I captured with my phone during that round, showing a few places they’ve begun work on the new paths. I hope this is all, but I doubt it. Under each photo are my comments. If you disagree, I’d love to get your opinion.
Above is the look from the snack shack which is by the #2, #4, and #11 tees. You can see two paths not very far apart. Yeah great idea to lay down two times the amount of pavement. Wouldn’t it be smarter to lay down less pavement? I know. Crazy talk.
Above is a view of the par-3 17th green with the new path just a few steps right of the green. Pop quiz: Do you know where most amateurs miss? You guessed it! Where that new cart path is, to the RIGHT. Strategically that cart path is great. If players miss right and hit the path, their ball will either bounce over to the 11th tee and kill someone, or bounce down the path to the ROAD and hit someone’s car, causing them to swerve and hit golfers coming off of of #1 green. Brilliant.
Above is another view of this great new path which runs from the 17th tee to the green. You can see the rest of the hill where many thousands of carts have come down over the years. No damage of course. No cart path needed.
Above you can see a photo of the par-4 14th green. Some 5-10 steps left of this green will be a new cart path. This is such a great strategic placement. You see, right of this green is a hill with some trees which can eat balls and never give them back. So the “default miss” for people who bail a little bit on this hole is left. Now if someone goes left, their ball will bounce on the cart path into trees, or toward the 15th tee. The ball likely won’t reach the 15th tee, but will give the golfer an enjoyable impossible flop shot from a downslope over trees. I’m sure that’s just what William Bell had in mind.
Wow isn’t the photo above beautiful? The view back up to the par-3 15th green from the 16th tee used to be the great green Bonneville bent grass. Now it’s this God-awful “Y” shape of future pavement. Fantastic! This is another strategic blunder too, but even worse than the one by the 17th. This is a 230 yard par-3. Players are always missing this green, mostly right. Yes, new cart path will be right. There will also be path to the left, for those who double cross themselves. And finally, path long for those who over club. Congratulations! You’ve just created a 230 yard version of the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, but instead surrounded the green with pavement instead of water!
Not Likely to be Final Thoughts
Some of the greatest golf courses in the world have no cart paths. The world’s two greatest courses come to mind: Augusta National Golf Club and the Old Course in St Andrews.
Somehow the 87 year-old Bonneville Golf Course has managed to be the most popular course in the state for decades without cart paths. Despite having golf carts, Bonneville’s great drainage, resilient bent grass, and hard ground has meant carts do little damage to the course. So why the change? To me it reeks of someone making decisions who knows nothing about golf, or perhaps doesn’t care. This is someone who doesn’t “get” the experience and authenticity of this great old golf course. This is someone who spends their time sitting at a desk, not walking the golf course. Their vision of golf is carts, cart paths, and cart fees. This isn’t some Disney course in Orlando. This isn’t a country club. These new paths are an unnecessary expense which will make the course less appealing visually, and produce all sorts of problems from a playability standpoint.
If you disagree with me and think adding cart paths will improve Bonneville, I’d love to engage in some conversation with you. I mean it.
Last year Salt Lake City Golf Division allowed the Arthur Hills airport course Wingpointe to close and has been looking to close another course called Glendale. Now they’re messing with their cash cow Bonneville. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
What will Salt Lake City Golf Division screw up next? Perhaps the best thing for them to do would be to continue to own the courses and bring in a management company to run them and make the decisions they’re clearly not smart enough or equipped enough to make.
On the bright side, Top Golf is opening soon in Salt Lake…
UPDATE May 5, 2016
A week later… They are putting in nice looking new sand into the bunkers. See instagram photo below:
I have to give credit where credit is due. Good so see them improving the bunkers, which were previously just dirt with rocks.
During a golf round last week I ran into a guy I’ve known for years who has done club tech work at a local shop for many years. He told me he’s got a new gig coming up at the new PGA Superstore. That was the first I’d heard that a new PGA Superstore is opening here. Then I heard an ad on the radio saying the store would open in early April, just a week or two away.
PGA TOUR Superstore is known for its large-format interactive stores across the country. The 25,000 square foot interactive store will feature four state-of-the-art simulators, four practice hitting bays and an expansive putting green measuring more than 750 square feet. Its new Sandy location at 10355 S State Street, east of I-15 off of State Street next to PetSmart and Nordstrom Rack (in a previous Staples location), will be the largest golf retail store in the area.
The location is literally about five minutes from HOG world headquarters. Sandy is a suburb of Salt Lake, and in the middle of the most densely populated areas between Ogden and Provo.
I guess Salt Lake and northern Utah is growing well enough for golf business expansion. There’s a Top Golf opening soon here as well. Unfortunately though, despite this the city closed one of its best courses, Wingpointe.
It will be interesting to see what effect the new PGA Superstore has on other local golf stores, and even golf course pro shops. My loyalty lies with my local course pro shops when it comes to buying golf gear.
Last week I was happy to play my first round of 2016 at one of my home courses and favorites, Bonneville Golf Course. Bonneville is the most popular golf course in the state, home of some of the best greens around.
Last season they switched from manual/hand watering and installed a controversial automated irrigation system. That’s all done now and a byproduct of said irrigation system is a change on the first hole. The first is a very reachable par-5. I’m usually approaching this green with anything from 9-iron to a 5-iron depending on conditions. Just short of the green is a very steep slope which historically has had very deep grass. That deep grass typically ate balls up, keeping them from bouncing up to the green. It also made chipping a challenge.
Shot taken with my phone, so not the best quality. This is the slope which is now cut short.
That long grass is gone now. Apparently one of the reasons for the long grass was a watering issue. Now that there is a better irrigation system, that grass can be, and is cut short like the fairway. I’m not sure how this will play out yet. It could mean many more 2nd shots will bounce up onto the green. It could also mean that short shots and bad chips which don’t make the green may roll back anywhere from 10-30 yards.
It’s going to be interesting to track the scoring and analyze my approaches on #1 this coming season and see how what seems to be a minor change affects the outcome.
Yesterday I played a round of golf at one of my all-time favorite courses here in northern Utah, Valley View Golf Course. Valley View is a tree-lined course, always plush and healthy, with a lot of very interesting elevation changes. It’s a fairly difficult course as well.
I’ve been struggling so bad with my game lately that I’ve been fantasizing about quitting golf. As a (now former) 1 handicap I had some real struggles and couldn’t even break 80 for a whole month. Very frustrating, and I was beginning to feel like I was wasting my time on the course.
Then out of the blue yesterday at VV I shoot an even-par 72, including a double bogey on the par-3 16th. I made birdie on the 18th to get it back to even. The only other real booboo besides the 16th was making par on the par-5 2nd, when I was chipping from the back of the green for eagle, about 20 feet from the pin. A bad chip led to a par.
So I shot even par. I guess that means I won’t be quitting the game this week. I feel like the game knows your state of mind, and throws you a little tiny nugget at just the right time. It’s like gambling in Vegas. You lose your ass and that one small win keeps you there, giving you hope.
So I’ll be staying in the game this week at least but you can’t fool me, golf. I know what you’re doing.
Sadly, an Arthur Hills “links” style course here in Salt Lake looks to be closing at the end of this season. I could go into the politics of why this is happening, and talk about mismanagement and all that, but I’ll just say that we have a lot of new bike trails in town now.
View of Salt Lake City from Wingpointe’s 4th tee – click to see more
I played Wingpointe a few days ago and the greens were as good as ever. Unfortunately the fairways are not that great and the only good lie a player is guaranteed is on the tee. But that’s the nature of the beast when you are on soil full of salt from the Great Salt Lake.
Wingpointe Golf Course
That round a few days ago might be my last there. As much as I love the design and the greens, the whole experience is tainted by the poor fairways.
I have many great memories at Wingpointe, like the time I shot 31-41 for a very irritating 72. Won a tournament there too a couple of years ago.
Sad to see this course closing. It won’t be the last golf course closure here in Salt Lake I’m afraid.