The legacy of Ballinger Golf Course

More than a half century ago, Lake Ballinger Golf Course was a fledgling nine-hole layout near the southern edge of Snohomish County.

Tucked along the north shoreline of Lake Ballinger, the course catered largely to seniors, youngsters, beginners and nearby residents who enjoyed the convenience of a modest, moderately priced golfing venue.

One of the early customers was Jan Japar, who later operated Lake Ballinger GC for many years with business partner Mimi Racicot. But as a younger girl, Japar recalled, “that’s where I learned to play golf.”

For golfers who lived in south Snohomish County back then — before nearby courses such as Lynnwood Golf Course, Walter Hall Golf Course and Harbour Pointe Golf Course opened for public play — Lake Ballinger GC was a convenient and relatively inexpensive golfing option.

But the course also had frequent problems. During the rainy months, the fairways were often soggy, sometimes swampy. And for many years the owners and operators struggled to make money.

Financial problems that became more pronounced during the economic downturn of the past decade — which in turn triggered a corresponding downturn in the golf industry — led to the recent decision to close Mountlake Terrace-owned Lake Ballinger GC.

Former operators Tyrone and Carol Hardy stepped away from their lease agreement with the city in November and the course was closed. Earlier this month, Mountlake Terrace announced plans to turn the property into a passive park with trails, interpretive signs and picnicking facilities.

Japar understands the demise.

The golf course “was always a tough property,” said Japar, who was a Lake Ballinger employee from 1974 to 1979, and then took over management of the course with Racicot from 1979 to 2004. “It’s sad, but it’s not a surprise.

“Everything was always so difficult there,” she said. “I think we had only a few years where we made any money at all.”

Lake Ballinger GC (which in later years was known as Ballinger Lake Golf Course), added a new clubhouse in 1989. The course itself underwent a major renovation in 1999, becoming “a totally brand new layout,” Japar said. “There was not one piece of dirt that didn’t get turned over.”

But in the end, she said, “there were probably too many improvements for what the property could handle. And then the (slumping) economy kind of sunk it.”

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