Elephant Rocks golf course paid in full

Course breaks even last season, city officials look to turn a profit with new managment

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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