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Country Club looking for new members

Recent rumors that Prineville Golf and Country Club may open to the public are premature

by: LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Dan Reece watches his drive on the par-three ninth hole at Prineville Golf and Country Club on Monday.

Rumors that Prineville Golf and Country Club may be going public are premature. Last week the Bulletin ran a story saying that the club is struggling to keep its membership full and is considering opening to the public, and since then rumors have been flying.
   "We have talked about opening the course to the public maybe two days a week, and it would only be on off days," said board chairman Ron Sloper. "But it would be more of a recruiting tool to get people involved in the club. They might stay for Thursday and play men's day or come out Saturdays, or play Fun and Feast and that type of thing. But right now it's premature to even talk about it. It would take a vote of the membership and that wouldn't come until our next annual meeting in January and things would have to be financially pretty tough before people would jump on it 100 percent."
   Membership in the club is down from a high of 200 to about 130 members currently, but Sloper noted that a recent membership incentive drive has picked up 12-14 new members and the club is on track.
   "We are a family and it is a close knit group," said Sloper. "We have a lot of history here."
   The club opened in 1949 as a six-hole course and added three additional holes the following year. Several players who grew up playing the course have gone on to become PGA professionals. The most notable past member, is probably Brian Whitcomb who is currently the president of the PGA and owner of Lost Tracks Golf Course in Bend. Others who honed their golf skills on the course include Gary Davis, a professional at Shadow Hills in Eugene, and Dustin Conklin, who is also moving up through the professional ranks.
   Sloper noted that the addition of Meadow Lakes to town has impacted membership, but that the two courses are very different.
   "Meadow Lakes and us are really polar opposites," he said. "Meadow Lakes is the first thing you see when you come down the hill and we are probably the last course you will ever find. At Meadow Lakes you can get out of the fairway without any real damage and on our course you better stay in it. We have one green that is probably 40 feet deep with a four foot drop, so you know if you are putting uphill at it it's great but if you are putting downhill or sidehill it's a challenge. People kind of write us off because we are a nine-hole course, but it's a hard course. You earn every shot."
   The club is currently offering membership packages starting at $850 for an individual from Crook County or $1,000 for a family. Individuals from Deschutes or Jefferson County can join the club with a tri-county rate of $600 per year.
   "We keep their price low to entice them to come over and to offset that long drive," said Sloper. "There are a lot of courses in Bend but they don't get to play in the winter because they are all snowed in and we can at least get out and walk a round if there is no snow on the ground."
   The club has only two year-round employees, a manager and a greenskeeper, but adds extra help in the summer months.
   "Right now our only debt is a couple of tractors and our sprinkler system," Sloper said. "We try to keep our rates low and we think that we are a good bargain. We have a nice challenging little course and if you can learn to score well here you can play well anywhere. The course is for members and guests and we would like to keep it that way, but if anyone called and said that they would like to play I would be happy to go out and take them, but I would use it as a recruiting tool. We just think that we have a great little course and if people see it they will want to join."