Dec 17, 2014 – With the help of the Wadsworth Golf Charities Foundation, the city of South Portland could meet its goal of turning the municipal golf course into one of the top courses in southern Maine.
At a workshop on Monday the City Council heard about the proposal from the Wadsworth Foundation to assist the parks and recreation department in redesigning the course, which hasn’t seen a significant upgrade since the mid-1960s.
The redesign of the about 25-acre municipal golf course would also include the addition of teaching and skill practice areas, such as for putting, chipping and driving, and would also make golfer safety a top priority.
This past spring Rick Towle, the city’s director of Parks, Recreation and Waterfront, asked the council for $10,000 to create a master plan for the golf course.
Since then, Towle said in a memo provided to the council prior to Monday’s workshop, he’s been contacted by the Wadsworth Foundation, which has offered its assistance.
In fact, Towle said, the foundation has offered to put one of its professional landscape architects under contract with South Portland to provide a written report on the needs at the city golf course, as well as provide a preliminary design and construction documents, all at its own cost.
In his memo to the council, Towle said his department’s overall goal is for “the golf course to become one of the top community-based golf learning centers in southern Maine. Partnering with an established golf development organization – the Wadsworth Golf Foundation – will provide funding and a network of industry suppliers to bring the golf course to the desired goal.”
Towle said the Wadsworth Foundation, which is based in Ohio, heard about the desire to improve the South Portland municipal golf course through stories in local media, including one published in the Current in early May.
According to its website the foundation is “is dedicated to improving communities through the embodiment of the moral, ethical and cultural codes of the game of golf.”
The website adds that, “Golf is a sport that offers far-reaching educational and cultural benefits. As anyone who has tried the game can attest, golf offers a challenging and never-ending learning experience requiring both discipline and patience.”
And the foundation’s website states that golf is a game of courtesy with a focus on “giving consideration to fellow players, emphasizing respect and enhancing the opportunity for enjoyment.”
As local funding allows, Towle told the City Council in his memo, the ultimate goal is make the municipal golf course, which is located off Wescott Road, into a facility similar to the Button Hole Golf Course in Providence, R.I.
Towle said the Button Hole course benefited from the help offered by the Wadsworth Golf Foundation, which used the David Johnson Golf Design Company to design and implement its renovation plan.
Like the municipal golf course in South Portland, Button Hole is a nine-hole course. It is also an urban golf course surrounded by development, as is the case in South Portland.
The Button Hole course offers a driving range, as well as a variety of practice areas, such as a 300-yard double-ended practice range featuring 26 stations and a 6,000 square foot putting green.
It also offers a variety of programming designed to introduce kids to the game of golf and keep them interested in developing their skills, which Towle said is a key goal for the South Portland course, as well.
As part of its new action plan, the municipal golf course would like to add the First Tee youth development program, junior golf programs, adult lessons for both beginners and experienced players alike and also offer socials and scrambles for beginners and intermediate players, Towle said.
Under the action plan, he added, the infrastructure needs of the South Portland course include green repair and hole realignment, upgrades to the clubhouse, irrigation updates and food and beverage options, among others.
In a prior interview, Towle told the Current he wants to ensure the viability of the course into the future, while also having green and other fees pay for both the operation and maintenance costs.
“I want the course to be an asset,” he said.
The annual budget for the municipal golf course is about $221,000, which includes a seasonal maintenance crew of eight, a course superintendent and people to staff the clubhouse, Towle said this past spring.