Teeing Up To Play Quail Hollow 

Boise's Parks and Rec department expands youth programs at Quail Hollow Golf Club

Wade Luthy is just one of many avid Treasure Valley golfers hailing the city's acquisition of Quail Hollow Golf Club.

photo by Patrick Sweeney

Wade Luthy is just one of many avid Treasure Valley golfers hailing the city's acquisition of Quail Hollow Golf Club.

On a cool November Saturday, Warm Springs Golf Course was jammed. Electric carts whirred from hole to hole and along the nearby Greenbelt, and a few weekend warriors in track pants and cross trainers whacked at yellow balls on the driving range. One of them, Billy Gallagher, part of a party of three making its way to the range, has golfed at courses across the Treasure Valley, but said many local private courses are cost prohibitive.

"I don't have enough money in my pocket to know for sure how many private courses there are [in Boise]," he said.

That's why he and his friends, home from Seattle for a few days, were at Warm Springs on a Saturday afternoon.

Gallagher and other Boiseans don't have long to wait for new, inexpensive golf options. Beginning Sunday, Dec. 1, Quail Hollow Golf Course will become Boise's second public course: one that offers views of the Foothills, varied terrain and increased access for players in West Boise--especially for junior players the Boise Parks and Recreation Department is eager to introduce to the game.

Wade Luthy, who has frequented Treasure Valley courses for about 20 years, said the addition of Quail Hollow is an important step forward for Boise's golf community.

"It means tons. We've got a golf course in Boise that we can go to without driving all the way out [to Warm Springs]," he said.

Former Quail Hollow owner Dave Hendrickson, whose donation of the course to the city was announced by Boise Mayor Dave Bieter on Nov. 18 and approved by the City Council on Nov. 19, wrote in an email to Boise Weekly that he's eager to join the ranks of golfers like Gallagher and Luthy, rather than playing an administrative role there.

"I'm looking forward to just being a customer and not worrying about the day-to-day operation," he wrote.

Hendrickson also anticipated some of the changes that will take place at the course after the transition in ownership.

"I don't think moving from private ownership to public will change its value to the community, it may even enhance it," he wrote.

That's in line with Boise Parks and Recreation's plans for Quail Hollow. While the course's new owners won't make major changes to the fee structure there, they will use the course to expand Boise's already booming junior golf programs.

Nationally, the numbers of young golfers are decreasing, but in Boise, golf remains strong. About 600 junior players participate in Parks and Rec golf programs each year through the summer, and between 13 percent and 15 percent of tee times go to junior players. Some of those players are as young as 3 years old.

According to Blake Mason, general manager and assistant golf pro at Warm Springs, one of the most significant changes to Quail Hollow will take place in the realm of youth golf.

"We have the largest junior program in the state by far. We're going to take those programs that we already provide here and take them there. There are so many households up there [in the vicinity of Quail Hollow], and they come down here for lessons," he said.

Mason worked at Warm Springs when it made a similar transition from private to public ownership 17 years ago. Today, Warm Springs is the most played course in Idaho, with between 48,000 and 53,000 visitors every year. Quail Hollow gets between 31,000 and 32,000 visitors yearly, and will likely see more players in 2014.

"I don't know how big a jump it will be next year. We will definitely see an increase in play next year there," Mason said.

With the influx of players will come new challenges. The course will participate in the city's season pass program--currently 125 are available, and that number will likely rise with the addition of Quail Hollow--but Parks and Rec must now strike a new balance between pass-holding golfers and occasional players.

"It gives us a nice mixture of people who own a share in the golf course versus the public," Mason said. "You don't want to get into a situation where you lock out the public [with too many season pass holders]."

What won't change are Quail Hollow's staff or fees, at least for the first year of operation; what will change are the numbers of youth golfers and the dining experience at the course's 8,000-square-foot clubhouse.

The changes will be minimal, said Boise Parks and Rec Director Doug Holloway, because a nine-panel team from various city of Boise departments gave the course a thorough examination to ensure the integrity of the facility.

The team came up with a budget for the course to accommodate what changes will be made to the facility's operations.

By the end of 2014, in an estimate Holloway described as "very conservative," the course is expected to have generated $55,000 in net profit--and that comes after $1 million per year operating costs and $100,000 in capital expenses that would transform the clubhouse and make minor improvements around the course.

Holloway anticipates even greater revenue, in large part due to its proximity to players in nearby West Boise.

Below Quail Hollow in the 36th Street neighborhood is a large group of underserved players and potential players who would have to travel across Boise to reach a municipal course.

"It's in a completely different part of town [from Warm Springs Golf Course]. Even though it's surrounded by very nice developments, there are some real mixed neighborhoods that are really attractive to us," he said.

But the welcome news is that the transition in ownership will be smooth, and Holloway said that conditions permitting, players may hit the links the day t he city takes the reins from Hendrickson.

"As long as there's no snow on the ground, we'll be golfing," Holloway said.

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