Hoping to net green from greens

  • Rich Myhre / Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, June 6, 2001 9:00pm
  • Sports

By Rich Myhre

Herald Writer

MARYSVILLE — For any business, nothing is more difficult to overcome than a bad reputation.

And for a golf course, nothing is a bigger obstacle to success than a reputation for bad greens.

So say the folks at Battle Creek Golf Course, which has struggled to shed just such a reputation for most of the past decade.

"We lived for the first five years basically listening to nothing but complaints about our greens," said head pro Jim Pulliam of Battle Creek, which opened in 1990. "That’s where we got our initial reputation, and we’ve been fighting it ever since."

Battle Creek

Where: 6006 Meridian Ave. N., Marysville

Par: 73

Yardage: 6,153 (white tees), 6,575 (blue tees)

Weekday fees: $23, plus tax

Weekends, holidays: $30, plus tax

Other amenities: Driving range, restaurant

Generally speaking, most people will tolerate minor flaws here and there on a golf course, Pulliam said. It could be anything from design quirks to some scattered weeds on the fairways.

But good greens? Gotta have ‘em.

"That’s the No. 1 thing people are looking for," Pulliam said. "If you’ve got good greens, you can get by with a few other (shortcomings). But the greens are the one thing they will remember because putting is very important to people. Basically, that’s where you win and lose strokes."

And that’s where a golf course can win and lose customers.

Understand, this was not just some bum rap cooked up by disgruntled patrons or rival courses. Years ago, as he prepared for tournaments, Pulliam would find some other course to do his putting practice.

"We had bad greens," Pulliam said. "It was just no good practicing my putting out here."

In recent years, Pulliam and his staff have put an emphasis on improved greens to help boost Battle Creek’s place among the area’s large and diverse roster of courses. It must be working because today "these are some of the best greens in the area by far," Pulliam said.

The development of Battle Creek’s greens, said superintendent Gene Connor, is the result of natural maturation plus better watering, fertilizing and general maintenance practices. Also, several thousand trees have been removed from the course in recent years, which improves air flow and permits needed sunlight to the grass.

"The combination together has really improved these greens," Connor said. "Five or six years ago, they used to be really inconsistent. You didn’t know if it was going to be different from one green to the next. Now, if you go from 1 to 18, we’re really hoping you have the same putt, and not the inconsistency that there was."

"This is a whole different golf course than it used to be," Pulliam said. "Now we’ve got great greens. And we have people coming here to practice. My first four pro-ams this year were at country clubs, and our greens had them beat by a long shot."

Battle Creek is located off of Marine Drive west of Marysville, which puts it almost equal distance from three of the county’s most popular public courses — Stanwood’s Kayak Point Golf Course, Marysville’s Cedarcrest Golf Course and Legion Memorial Golf Course on Everett’s north side. Perhaps Battle Creek has suffered by comparison in recent years — Kayak Point has long been recognized as one of the region’s top facilities while both Cedarcrest and Legion Memorial have undergone extensive renovations.

In 1990, its first year of operation, Battle Creek had more than 50,000 rounds. That figure has since gone down, largely because of an influx of new courses in Western Washington. Last year, said director of golf Fred Jacobson, Battle Creek had around 38,000 rounds.

"We don’t need that to go up, but we’d like it to," Jacobson said. "We’re a profit-oriented business. We can make money where we’re at, but we’re certainly not doing what we were when we opened in 1990. Wow, those were banner years."

Among the other amenities at Battle Creek is an adjoining par-3 course, which is "a great place to learn (for beginners) and it’s very popular for seniors," Pulliam said.

What Jacobson and Pulliam hope to emphasize is a time-tested formula for successful golf course operation. That is, offer a quality product with courteous service at a reasonable price. Certainly Battle Creek’s fees do not take a sizable divot from the wallet — $23 on weekdays and $30 on weekends and holidays, with discounts for juniors, seniors and twilight.

"We like to think of ourselves as a good-value type of place," Jacobson said. "A blue-collar golf course for the average working guy."

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