By Mr. Mike Bowers (Leonard Wood)May 19, 2016
Fort Leonard Wood's Piney Valley Golf Course may be four months away from shutting down, if the facility does not make enough money to cover operating expenses by the end of this fiscal year.
"The U.S. Army Installation Management Command has placed the golf course on a performance improvement plan," said Megan O'Donoghue, services and support director, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. "At the end of September, the course will be re-valuated. If it is profitable, then it will be removed from the PIP. If not, then the course will be told to close."
The post's golf course is a nonappropriated funds revenue-generating facility, which means it must generate sufficient income to provide for operating expenses, does not receive additional funding and must be self-sustaining.
The course did have a profitable quarter this year. "While small, it marked the first time in a while that we have shown a profit over the 'off-season' months," O'Donoghue said.
Although the facility hasn't made steady profits, the number of rounds played on the 18-hole, par 72 course, situated in a Big Piney River valley, have remained steady during the past decade.
The course, open to the public, features a driving range, putting green, chipping area, pro shop and snack bar. The clubhouse and pavilion completes the golf facility managed by a Professional Golfers'
More than 12,000 rounds of golf were played in 2015, according to O'Donoghue. "We need approximately 21,000 yearly to achieve the profitable benchmark. We need to increase participation and rounds played, in order to increase revenue," she said.
The post's slight decline in permanent-party-Soldier population, lack of awareness of new gate-access procedures and attitudes about golf are factors, O'Donoghue said, that probably contribute to the club's patronage.
"There is the impression golf is expensive and takes time to play," said Gary Groff, director of Golf and a PGA professional. "People do not have as much free time during the week and weekends, because of more intense work and social schedules. Also golf is viewed as being a vintage game played in a technological society. Consequently, the game has a decreasing appeal for younger generations who've grown up playing computer games."
Groff said the course is attempting to change "the way folks think about golf" by offering discounts and specials, low-cost and free lessons. The free lessons will be for active-duty service members. In an effort to attract the younger generation, the course is also introducing FootGolf, which is a combination of soccer and golf.
FootGolf generally follows the same rules of golf, but plays quicker, as one's feet kick a soccer ball. The 18-hole-FootGolf course at Piney Valley is laid out over nine holes, leaving the back-nine holes for traditional golfers.
Currently, FootGolf is offered Sunday and Monday evenings, according to Groff, who added, "We hope to expand as interest grows."
Other golf course initiatives include Wednesday Night Scrambles, Junior Golf, Get Golf Ready and tournaments. "Without the support of the community and participation in the golf programs, we cannot succeed," said Wayne Bardell, FMWR director.
Community involvement in the course has decreased, since implementation of new installation-control-access procedures in 2014 with full implementation at the beginning of this year, according to Bardell. The gate-access change affected predominately those who are not eligible for a Common Access Card or other forms of Department of Defense identification cards.
"Piney Valley Golf Course offers regular golfers the option to receive a one-year frequent visitors pass," Bardell explained. "We currently have more than 30 non-DOD patrons who utilize the visitors pass. Interested golfers simply need to sign up at the course. Once they receive their pass, they can access with ease and get themselves out on the greens."
And historic greens they are. According to golf course records, the 20th Engineer Brigade constructed the greens and fairways in 1951. Soldiers also constructed the bridge that spans the Big Piney River in 1957.
The original golf course water well was drilled in 1943 and believed to be the source of water for a prisoner-of-war camp. There is stonework at the course, designed and built by Italian and German POWs.
Historical significance isn't the sole reason Bardell said the golf course is worth saving.
"The course has been a community recreational resource for more than 60 years," he said. "It's not just a country club, but a place where service members, Families and people from the local area can afford to learn and play golf.
"The course also offers event packages for golfing and non-golfing events; the facility offers a beautiful backdrop for meetings, parties and even weddings. It is a special quality-of-life facility for our community, a recreational opportunity not available within a thirty-mile radius."
For more information on the PVGC, call 573.329.4770 or visit www.fortleonardwoodmwr.com.