Area golfers waiting for improvements to Goat Hill

Area golfers waiting for improvements to Goat Hill
Avid golfer Tom Fukuhara of Oceanside, hits the ball off the driving range. Fukuhara describes Goat Hill a fun course with a nice breeze. Photo by Promise Yee

OCEANSIDE — Golf regulars at the Center City Golf Course, locally known as Goat Hill, are wondering when, if ever, improvements to the municipal golf course will be made. 

City Council voted to begin negotiations with the Ashworth group in August 2012, but a management agreement between Ashworth and the city has not been reached.

Doug Eddow, city real estate manager, said since negotiations are ongoing he cannot discuss points that still need to be ironed out.

Last August Goat Hill Partners, which is part of the Ashworth group, proposed the land be kept as a golf course and redesigned by golf architect Tom Doak. Improvements would include a new clubhouse, a two-story restaurant, a six-hole kids course, a community vegetable garden and a botanical garden.

“Great cities in the world don’t turn over all their green space and turn them into concrete,” John Ashworth, of Goat Hill Partners, said. “It can be a destination location to come play.”

Since accepting the proposal from Ashworth, no agreement has been finalized. Speculators think delays may have to do with the cost of getting water to the site.

Goat Hill is an executive level 18-hole golf course that is presently watered with expensive potable water. The ill design of the course, which opened in 1953, adds to the challenge to keep it green. The course design causes water to run off the hills and not stay there.

“The terrain of Goat Hill is rugged and very hilly,” Jim Bellows, owner of Bellows Golf Management that currently manages the golf course, said. “There are a lot of rocks and it’s very difficult to grow grass in the shape of the hills.”

Additionally the size of the municipal course will always limit fees that can be charged to play. Development limitations coupled with the present cost of water have made the golf course unprofitable.

The potential for golf professional Ashworth to manage the course, bring in a top course designer, and make Goat Hill a destination golf course is a great opportunity for the city.

City staff and golfers are hoping the negotiation goes through.

Goat Hill is already a beloved course by many area golfers. Its uniqueness is what draws local golfers and a handful of professional players to the course.

The course is steep and hilly. Golfers say you never play the same game twice. Disc golfers also use the course.

Due to ongoing negotiations, the recent recession, and lack of revenues, the city has directed Bellows Golf Management to give the course minimal maintenance.

The thought is that Ashworth will redesign the course once negotiations are finalized.

In the meantime, the course receives minimum city investment in water and maintaining golf carts.

Staff at the golf course said there has been a significant drop in players over the past two years due to the golf course’s declining condition and lack of working golf carts, which are essential for senior golfers to play the very hilly course.

Last fiscal year 22,300 players used the golf course. This year only 7,450 players have used the course since July.

Currently there is no definite timeline for negotiations with Ashworth to be finalized.

Eddow said the city is still open to other development ideas until an agreement is finalized, but is not actively negotiating with other parties.

“We’re hammering out small details,” Eddow said. “The Ashworth group likes the golf course. They want to make sure they look at everything. Overall they’re jumping into a long-term agreement and want to make the right decision.”

City staff said they do not know of any other agreements that are being considered.

“We’re close to the end, but haven’t selected them (Ashworth group),” Curtis Jackson, city property agent said.

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