Golf course hits hard times

By Kathe Malouf
Special to the Sun

Photo by Kathe Malouf / Special to the Sun:
Brad Taylor, (left) and Joel Walling (right) practice their swing at the Kern Valley Golf Course while discussing ideas to increase membership at the local golf course. Taylor, who serves as the professional golfer at the golf course will be offering a free golf clinic on Saturday, Dec. 16. A membership drive was recently launched offering reduced monthly dues as a way to raise funds to help improve the golf course.

Residents who frequently travel the road between Wofford Heights and Kernville have undoubtedly noticed that the Kern Valley Golf Course seems to be struggling.

Ongoing problems with the irrigation system has turned the once green golf course into a sprawling area of brown.

But plans are underway to not only keep the golf course going, but hopefully make it stronger. And all that is needed is a little help from the Kern Valley community.

“We are trying to bring the golf course back,” said Brad Taylor, who wears several hats at the golf course, including professional golfer, greens chairman and Board Treasurer. “The course has gone through some trouble, but we have some ideas to raise money to bring it back.”

One of the ideas is a membership drive that is currently underway offering reduced monthly and yearly memberships.

Membership numbers are low right now at the Kern Valley golf course, prompting golf course staff to offer reduced membership rates in hopes of not only increasing membership, but igniting an interest in the game of golf for individual golfers and families.

During the membership drive, monthly dues are being offered at $70 for a single membership, and $100 for a family membership. These rates are considered “walking” memberships, as they do not include the use of a golf cart. Memberships with a golf cart are $140 for a single and $200 for a family membership. Each membership comes with unlimited golf.

“We want to get the dues where they are affordable for either individual golfers or for a family,” said Joel Walling, who serves as the promotional manager and Vice President on the Board. “And we would like to get families back to our course.”

As an added incentive, Walling said those who sign up for a year membership will only pay for 11 months, as they will receive one month free. He added that the golf course has numerous sets of clubs that are available to those who wish to sign up, but don’t have their own clubs.

Taylor said that along with a declining membership, Kern Valley Golf Course has had more than its share of maintenance costs, which he said has taken a toll on the course. Officials are hoping that the membership drive will generate money for the golf course allowing them to fix some of the equipment that is in disrepair.

And right now, their biggest maintenance issue and cost is with the irrigation system. The golf course pumps water out of the Kern River for irrigation, but along with river water comes a lot of silt that can – and has – clogged the irrigation lines.

Taylor said they are also working on the golf course greens and trying to bring them back into shape. “There is a lot to do, but we are taking it one thing at a time,” he said.

The Kern Valley Golf Course has been a part of the community for the past 57 years. Opening to the public in 1960, the Kern Valley golf course operates under a special use permit by the U.S. Forest Service. “The Forest Service has been great to work with and they are very helpful,” said Walling.

The golf course was originally planned as an 18-hole course; but the course was never expanded, and it has remained as a nine-hole course since it opened, providing a golfing experience that is considered to be both challenging and fun.

Taylor is a firm believer in the benefits of a good golf game, and said he and the other Board members are doing all they can to keep the golf course going.

Another program being offered this month is a free golf clinic. Taylor held a golf clinic last weekend and will be offering another on Saturday, Dec. 16, from 11 a.m. to noon and from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

“We want people to not only improve their game, but have fun doing it,” Taylor said. “The trick of the game is to always do better and there are a lot of ways to improve your score.”

Taylor invites people with an interest in golf to come out to the golf clinic and learn how to improve their game, or experience the game for the first time.

“Golf is a great game for the entire family,” Taylor said. And he should know; he has been golfing since he was four years old.

Taylor said weekend golfing was part of his childhood saying that his family would golf almost every Saturday and Sunday. “My mom would pack a lunch of chicken and potato salad and we would go out to golf and make a family day out of.”

Taylor has worked at several golf courses, including at the Mt. Whitney Golf Course in Lone Pine for 27 years, where he served as the professional golfer and superintendent. He also played on the Australian Golf Tour from 1979 through 1986. He has since retired and moved to Ridgecrest when he learned that the Kern Valley Golf Course needed some help and ideas to help raise money.

During his first board meeting at the local golf course, he was appointed treasurer and decided to take on the project of working toward improving the course.

“We are trying to keep the golf course alive by generating new members and getting people back on to the course, and we are trying to solve the problems and generate money,” Taylor said. “This is a great little course,” he said, adding that the course is playable for a variety of golfing skills. “It is not too challenging, and I would say this is an easy to middle course. But it is a lot of fun.”

Kern Valley Golf Course is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday and offers single day rates. Cost for one-day of golf is $21 for 9 holes with a cart, or $25 for 18 holes. Every Tuesday, the course offers a special “Dollar per hole” rate, including a cart, which equates to $18 for an 18-hole round of golf, a fee unheard of at other golf courses, Walling said.

“If this golf course isn’t going to make it, it won’t be because we all didn’t try,” Taylor said. “We will do what we can to keep it alive.”

For more information about the membership drive or information about the Kern Valley golf course, contact Joel Walling at 760-376-2828 or 760-549-9554.