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Golf course veteran says Metro plans not up to par

The users of Glendoveer's fitness trail, tennis courts and golf courses may be a bit biased - this reporter included - in terms of changes to their beloved recreational facility.

But what does a totally impartial third-party with 30 years experience in the golfing industry think about the possible changes being bandied about?

Bob Wolsborn, whose family created and still owns Gresham Golf Course, isn't a fan of the options Metro is looking at for Glendoveer, but he understands Metro's need to increase revenue.

Unusually wetter and colder winters and springs over the past 10 years have had a chilling effect on the local industry. Instead of having longer dry spells for the greens to absorb the rain, courses have been wetter, mushier and muddier than usual, he said. None of which makes for a very pleasant golfing experience.

The struggling economy is another factor.

'Golf is expensive, just like skiing is seeing a similar thing,' he said. Now, golfers look for deals. 'Gresham Golf Course did not have a senior rate 10 years ago,' he said. 'Now we do.'

Also, golfers are aging and fewer younger people are taking up the sport. The number of junior golfers, or those younger than 18, has dropped 40 percent in the past 10 years, he said.

'The future of the golf business actually looks a little bleak,' he said.

Not factoring in the drop in business due to the weather, Wolsborn estimates that the number of rounds played at his course drops about 1 percent a year.

But while the number of golfers is falling, 'the golfers who are here are playing more rounds, so it's almost a wash,' he said. The one segment of golfers that is growing is senior women, especially in the Sun Belt, where golfing is more of a lifestyle, Wolsborn said.

As for Glendoveer's challenges, he said the Northeast Portland course tends to attract an older crowd. He estimates that the average age of the golfers at Gresham Golf Course is around 50, while it's closer to 75 at Glendoveer.

'I feel like a young kid out there,' said the 69-year-old.

Wolsborn questions the logic of slicing Glendoveer's western course from 18 to 9 holes.

'That's the one the old guys like the best,' he said. 'It's flatter, easier, shorter. It's more user-friendly, especially for seniors. It's going to cut down on revenue.'

The sport of tennis is struggling even more than golf is, for several reasons, Wolsborn said. Even so, it doesn't make sense to him to get rid of four covered tennis courts to make room for an events space/golf cart parking area.

'They've got plenty of places out there to do that,' he said of creating a storage area for carts. But he doubts an events center will attract more golf tournaments or events, such as weddings.

'The little extra money you make in tournaments is miniscule,' he said. Besides, 'if you want to get married and spend a lot of money, you're not going to go to Glendoveer - no matter what they do.'

He speaks from personal experience.

His own daughter passed on Gresham Golf Course and held her wedding reception at the Riverside Golf and Country Club in Northeast Portland.