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1/29/2013 10:30:00 AM
Elephant Rocks golf course paid in full
Course breaks even last season, city officials look to turn a profit with new managment

Marissa Freireich
Williams-Grand Canyon News Reporter

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - The city of Williams paid off a bond used to pay for work at Elephant Rocks Golf Course at the beginning of this month.

City Manager Brandon Buchanan said he hopes the golf course can start making a profit now that the bond is paid off.

The 2002 Municipal Development Authority Bond was for $5.5 million. In addition to construction on the golf course, money from the bond also went to the general fund, electric system, water and sanitation departments.

In fiscal year 2012/2013, the budget to maintain the course and the revenue the course generated both totalled $539,000.

Part of the budget for the golf course comes from the Bed, Board and Booze (BBB) fund since the golf course is a recreation facility.

"That's part of what we're trying to get away from with trying to increase revenues up there to make it self-sustaining out there," Buchanan said.

While the golf course receives less money from the BBB fund than in the past, Buchanan said in the future he hopes the course doesn't require any BBB money.

"Just breaking even isn't sufficient anymore," Buchanan said.

The city will soon need to replace some of the equipment used to maintain the course - one of the reasons it is important for the golf course to make a profit.

Buchanan said some of the possibilities for other revenue sources at the golf course include having more business meetings and weddings.

"Just because it's a golf course doesn't mean the only thing we have to do there is play golf," he said. "I'm not taking anything off the table right now. I'd like to talk about all the different options."

Buchanan said he hopes the new golf course manager can help promote the course. The council voted to terminate the management contract with Brent Redman at its Dec. 13 meeting because council members felt Redman failed to maximize revenue.

Gioia Goodrum, president of the Williams-Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber and Redman worked together to market the course.

Goodrum says the chamber promotes the city of Williams as a whole, rather than the golf course specifically.

"The golfing is only part of coming to this destination, and we want to show that Williams is a destination," she said.

Golfers played 14,000 rounds at Elephant Rocks during last year's golf season, which typically lasts from March to November, depending on the weather.

Three city staffers maintain the course, with more during the busy season. Marty Yerian, the superintendent of the golf course, has worked there for 23 years.

Course history

Elephant Rocks wasn't always the 18-hole championship course golfers know today.

People first started golfing at the course in the 1920s with the formation of Williams Country Club. The course was originally nine holes.

The country club owned part of the land for the golf course and leased part of it from the U.S. Forest Service as part of a recreational use permit. Railway workers completed the clubhouse in 1932, according to the course's website.

Don Dent, owner of Farm Bureau Insurance and Williams City Council member, has been golfing at the course since about 1965.

At that time, the original nine holes had oiled sand greens.

"You mixed the oil with the sand so that the sand had enough texture to it so it didn't blow away when the wind blew," Dent said. "The fairways were natural, they were not watered at all. So whatever weeds or whatever grew naturally that's what was mowed down to make it look as much like a golf course as you could compared to what they are today."

Dent said this type of course was fairly common at that time.

"Once other courses up here started getting grass on them, then the popularity of the older courses with sand and cottonseed greens went away and people could go within a day's drive and go play golf on a grass golf course," he said. "So this either needed to be developed or closed down, one or the other."

At that time, Williams Country Club members gave the agreement for the golf course property to the city at no cost, Dent said.

"(The country club members) didn't have the resources to develop it, but they also realized if the city would develop it it would become an attraction for the city, which it has," he said.

Gary Panks redesigned the original nine holes, which reopened in 1990. The redesign included the installation of an effluent water line to water the course, Dent said.

"He just added obviously the water hazards, which needed to go in in order to have a place to store the water, he added some contouring, some mounding, sand traps, those type of things to what was existing and already there," Dent said.

It was at this time that city officials named the course "Elephant Rocks" after the large lava rocks that resemble elephants at the entry to the course, according to the course's website.

In 2000, construction started on an additional nine holes, which Panks also designed. The second nine holes were built on land in the Highland Meadows subdivision.

"The developer gave the property to the city in exchange for the city putting the golf course on it," Dent said.

A new conference center opened across from the first tee in May 2005. The 4,000 square foot pavilion can accomodate between 200 and 300 people.

The January/February 2013 issue of Highroads magazine named Elephant Rocks one of "Arizona's Hidden Golf Gems."

"It's become a very beautiful golf course that's I think well used by community members and guests alike," Dent said.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, March 11, 2013
Article comment by: Glen Clark

i am a fairly new resident to the Flagstaff area that makes the commute to Williams to play golf on a regular basis. I am from the east coast where public courses are everywhere and are not well maintained. The city of Williams has a gem in in its golf course and the scenery is unmatched for the area. With all of the private courses located in Flagstaff that you have to take out a small fortune of a loan to be a member of, it makes Williams an appealing place for golfers to commute to as long as the rates are reasonable and the course stays in the great shape it has been for the last couple of years that i have played there. I am not a citizen of Williams and not sure that i have any right to put my 2 cents in. However, Williams is a really quaint town that many people enjoy visiting to play golf as well as visiting some of the other activities available in this remarkable town. Elephant Rocks is a favorite for many of my coleagues.

Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013
Article comment by: Fred Thompson

So why should Williams grow? I like it just like it is.

Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013
Article comment by: Joe Dirt

Dear This Town is Hopelss:

I like small towns, that is why I live in Williams. The town has grown since the golf course was put in, which I was strongly in favor of. I do believe that building the pavillion was and is a waste of money. The golf management team should be judged on how they run the golf course, not how many weddings there are, or how many hot dogs they can sell. If people are leaving the city daily, it certainly isn't because their weren't enough weddings at the pavaillion.

Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013
Article comment by: James Foster

Figure the average fee at $32.00 per round times 14,000 rounds last year comes to $448,000 . Lets see what the new management can do this year.Many of the golfers that I met were from out of town. The out of towners stayed,shopped and ate in Williams.How much was the annual bond payment ?

Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013
Article comment by: this town is hopeless

Joe dirt, people like you are the reason this town will never grow, and will be a shell of its former self in 20 years once the people who still care are all dead. How dare the city manager try to move this town in a new direction! What we have had is good enough! That's why our town is broke and people are leaving for better opportunities by the day, because of people like you and our current city leaders who won't make the effort to bring better things to this town. And will criticize those who will.

Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Article comment by: reading comprehension fails you part 2

I suppose that the question could have been phrased differently. What "construction" costs at the golf course were paid for by the 5.5 million dollar bond? Was the golf course used to pay back the entire bond, where money also went to the general fund, electric system, water and sanitation departments??

This is a very simple question, how much did the so called PAVILLION cost?????

Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Article comment by: reading comprehension fails you

"In addition to construction on the golf course, money from the bond also went to the general fund, electric system, water and sanitation departments."

Perhaps you should read the article first, "thats what I thought" instead of looking like the average uneducated Williams complainer?

Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Article comment by: joe dirt

So how much money was wasted on the "pavillion"??? That seems to be the crux of the problem. Someone decided the nice municipal course should be more like a country club and wasted money building a pavillion that does not get much use. Now the new city manager is insisting that the golf professionals now become involved in the restaurant business!

Good luck finding someone who wants to work under conditions where the city manager can decide that you aren't selling enough hot dogs and then the council cancels your contract.

What a joke.

Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Article comment by: thats what I thought

What was the 2002, 5.5 million bond used for? To construct the pavillion that was not needed???

Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Article comment by: a thought

seems to me, based on this article, if the club isint generating a profit some of the blame should go the the Chamber then...not just redman?...whats is the town paying them for we seem to be losing events

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