Commentary: A compromise worth considering? A world-class golf course at Discovery Park

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A couple months ago, I alerted everyone to a $104,000 study the city of Seattle paid for, targeting the future of the 3 ½ municipal golf courses in the city.

As I mentioned before, ideas like re-purposing one or more of these historic courses for other uses - like affordable housing or extra transit parking for future light rail or even to a different kind of green space – all threaten the benefits unique to public courses, like a broader accessibility for all demographics and income levels, to the fantastic programs like The First Tee of Greater Seattle, teaching life skills to our local youth through the game of golf.

But tonight, I’m willing to compromise. I’m willing to sacrifice a portion of Jackson Park and/or West Seattle Golf Course – but only if the city agrees to a seemingly radical idea proposed in the latest issue of Cascade Golfer.

Let’s preface the idea with the success of Chambers Bay Golf Course, a jewel of the South Sound that has become an asset to the entire community, providing public walking trails through a course that has already hosted a U.S. Open and will continue to attract tourists from around the world. According to former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, Chambers Bay has brought $134 million to the local area.

So why not Seattle? And specifically, as Cascade Golfer proposes, why not take 125 acres of the 534 acres at Discovery Park and do the same thing here? Building a world-class golf course with breathtaking views, public access walking trails, and one that could host the occasional major championship or an annual pro event, bringing millions into our local economy? A course that would also allow city, county, or state residents to play for a discounted price, and even become another headquarter site for the First Tee?

According to the article written by Tony Dear, “The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in the far north of the park would be unaffected. Modern turf designed to be disease- and traffic-tolerant would reduce maintenance requirements and water consumption, aligning with the City’s environmental objectives.”

Cascade Golfer proposes a conservative estimate of no more than $3 million to build the course, citing other success stories like Bandon Dunes in Oregon, where considerable earth-moving was unnecessary - and overall course costs that could be made back down the line.

Now, I know this is an extreme idea – and the knee-jerk reaction from even the green-space community or residents in the Magnolia area might be tenuous at best.

But I don’t see a problem in bringing these ideas to the table to promote compromise. Simply taking a public golf course or two away – courses that have actually covered their own maintenance costs – is really unfair. But promoting an all-inclusive course that’s accessible to golfers and non-golfers alike and meets city initiatives – and one that provides breathtaking views that shows off the beauty of this city - wouldn’t just lessen that blow – it would give us all something to be truly proud of.

I understand that as times change, priorities change too. But that doesn’t mean compromises – as outlandish as some might sound – might not only improve the city, but accommodate many different groups in the process.

Build a jewel of a course like this? I’m sure the golfing community would be more than willing to sacrifice portions of current courses to accommodate other city priorities.

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