Westchester County's plans to beautify its county-owned golf courses is in full swing, with news of improvements big and small -- everything from overhauling cart paths and tees to building a new women's rest room in a clubhouse where facilities for women were not on par with those provided for men.
The popularity of the county's six courses has enabled them to hold their own financially as recreational and tourism attractions, said Westchester County Parks Department Commissioner Kathleen O'Connor during the county's monthly Planning Board meeting Tuesday. O'Connor also serves as a member of the Planning Board.
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"Sometimes we make a little money," she told fellow board members. "Most times, we break even."
New Planning Board chairman Jeremiah Lynch, an avid golfer, complimented the Parks Department for offering county residents an option that in some cases can be even nicer than the region's private courses, but at "a fair price point."
The county owns 18,000 acres of greens and fairways, which opened for the season in mid-March. During the meeting, parks capital projects director Paul Reitano used a PowerPoint presentation to provide a rundown on recent improvements and ongoing projects:
• Saxon Woods Golf Course in Scarsdale continues to be the most popular golf course among the county's holdings and has inspired similar upgrade plans for properties. A $3.97 million makeover in 2011 at the 700-acre course included $1.65 million for irrigation and drainage, plus $700,000 for new golf cart paths and $1.62 million in other renovations. Trees were taken out and the tees on the sixth and seventh holes were moved. A pond was widened at the 11th hole. At the driving range, concrete pads replaced rubber mats and the clubhouse was landscaped with new flagstones and plantings.
• Parks officials now want to bring the Saxon Woods treatment to the 140-acre Maple Moor Golf Course in White Plains. The design work is about to begin on overhauling the fairways, irrigation system, cart paths and some bridges at the county's most flood-prone golf course, with hopes of securing construction funding by 2014 at the earliest. Flooding problems at the course mean "there's a lot of downtime [and] we're closed for days," O'Connor said. She added that heavy rains can turn the tee at the eighth hole into a pond and make the course feel like "a wildlife preserve."
• More than $1.5 million in upgrades is under way at the 130-acre Sprain Golf Course in Yonkers. The third hole -- so steep that "it's almost like a cliff; it's dangerous," according to Reitano -- is being leveled out. A temporary third hole is now in play. Golfers are paying reduced rates during the construction period. The redesign of narrow golf cart paths will make them 8 feet wide and provide cobblestone borders on the paths. Work is scheduled for completion by this summer.
• Because many complaints from golfers have focused on sand traps, this fall, $750,000 will be spent on redoing many of the sand traps -- with better drainage -- at both the 852-acre Mohansic Golf Course in Yorktown Heights and at the Dunwoodie Golf Course in Yonkers, Reitano said. Each course has about 48 sand traps.
• In good news for women who visit Mohansic's club house, the ladies' room will be moved from the basement -- another source of frequent complaints -- and relocated upstairs, next to the men's room.
More funding for Dunwoodie
Parks officials also want to install a new, $2.63 million irrigation system at Dunwoodie, a proposal that on Tuesday received a crucial nod of approval that soon could make the scorched-earth experience of playing there a thing of the past.
The Planning Board unanimously approved a plan to replace the leaky, 30-year-old system now in use at the 126-acre course. Officials said that, in the heat of midsummer, the course is plagued with burned-out greens and fairways that turn golfers off, leading to a loss of revenue from playing fees.
The Dunwoodie irrigation system struggles with "pipes that are breaking under the ground because of the pressure," Reitano said. "It's a mess, really."
With the Planning Board's support in hand, the Dunwoodie proposal goes before the Board of Legislators for a decision on funding.
The Board of Legislators has tabled earlier requests for the funding during the past two years.