by Elisabeth Traugott
The Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course may soon be the first politically correct 18-hole course in the country.
As part of the course's redesign, scheduled for completion in summer 1999, there no longer will be men's and women's tees. Instead, gender-neutral, color-coded replacements will put the focus on ability, not which changing room a player heads for after their game.
"(The course) is going to be as long as it is now, but we're going to be utilizing some new tees so we'll be able to have people come in and play the course to their ability," said Paul Dias, director of the city's parks and golf division.
The changes are part of an overall construction and renovation project under the Palo Alto Golf Course Master Plan, approved by the City Council in February. The project will cost $7.7 million.
City staff will update council members Monday night on the plans and will also ask that bonds be sold to fund the construction project. The bond debt will eventually be repaid with green fees.
The money, in part, will pay for a new irrigation system and storm drains. The current system leaves large sections of the course a salty marshland in the winter, and fairways have been badly damaged by years of salt intrusion.
The bonds will also pay for a new, realigned driving range--work scheduled to begin sometime after Labor Day. An expanded pro shop and renovated restaurant will also be included.
But in order to keep the course open while it is under construction, interim greens and tees will have to be grown in. This process will begin this summer, and the interim course will start to be phased in next spring.
On Monday night, city staff will also request that discounts be offered to players as the construction project gets underway. While every effort will be made to keep a shorter, 18-hole course open at all times, there may be occasions when construction interferes with play.
This will make it difficult for golfers looking to improve on their score from the previous week. "One week there may be a shorter hole, but it may change the very next week," said Richard James, an administrator with the Community Services Department.
Reduced fees are also necessary to reflect the shorter holes as the interim course will shrink from 6,600 to 4,450 yards.
In its abbreviated condition, the course will have a different, if not wider, appeal.
"It means to a really good golfer that it's going to be a shorter course and its going to be easier," Dias said. "A lot of our par fours are unreachable right now to the average golfer." During renovation, the par fives will be divided into smaller holes. The 442-yard seventh hole will become the longest.
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