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Saturday, December 5, 2020

Lake Padden Golf Course doing well despite budgeting hurdles

View of the Lake Padden Golf Course on a cloudy day. Photos by Patrick Koenig.

After predicting a 57% projected loss in Bellingham’s preliminary budget, the 18 hole course is still expected to do well.

By Ryan Myrvold

As the City of Bellingham begins to unveil drafts for the 2021-2022 budget cycle, the Golf Course Fund and Lake Padden Golf Course seem to be in good shape.

Lake Padden Golf Course’s funding comes from the City of Bellingham’s Golf Course Fund. This enterprise fund is maintained by the city; its primary source of funding is the revenue the course makes under the management of their external partner, Premier LLC. Some essential functions — such as water — are paid for by the city. Lake Padden Golf Course is the only golf course the City of Bellingham owns.

Steven Janiszewski, the City of Bellingham’s park operations manager, said he believes the course would not struggle or decline in quality due to the city’s budget cuts. Janiszewski explained that the course experienced a record-breaking month in terms of revenue this September.

“We’re working with them now to reduce expenses for the winter months,” Janiszewski said. “Usually by April, weather improves, they’ll start earning quite a bit more revenue.”

Janiszewski said the course has additional plans available to reduce costs during the winter months, such as closing the golf course during some weekdays to reduce costs.

“In January, the golf course fund was in a negative balance,” Janiszewski said. “Then what happened is COVID hit, the golf course had to close for four weeks and the deficit even grew to a total of $324,000.” 

Janiszewski said as of August, the fund’s balance was $124,000 in the positive. 

Rick Blankenburg, who has been a golf professional for over 25 years and is an assistant golf professional at the Bellingham Golf and Country Club, said the differences between golf courses with more money and courses with less money is visible in how well the course is maintained.

“If they’re not putting their money into having enough employees to adequately take care of the golf course you end up with tee boxes that aren’t being maintained,” Blankenburg said. “The greens over time will go downhill because they’re not able to do the required greens aeration.”

Blankenburg also said maintenance of the wooded areas near the course is essential. Well-maintained wooded areas allow for people to find lost balls easier and get through the course faster, ensuring more customers can use the course each day.

Dylan Hardwick, an avid golfer at the Lake Padden Golf Course and president of the Western Washington University golf team, said he has not seen a decline in the course’s quality.

“In my experience talking to the current members of the course, playing in professional-amateur tournaments … it’s in the best condition it’s ever been in now,” Hardwick said. 

Hardwick said that new irrigation systems installed near the ponds of the course have immensely improved the course and kept it dry in the fall and winter months.

“The greens are running purer than they ever have in the past,” Hardwick said. 

Hardwick said the course is doing a good job of keeping the greens dry and balls rolling easily, creating a good experience for golfers.

Having played on multiple golf courses, Hardwick said this is one of the busiest courses he has ever played on.

At the course, people can play 18 holes on weekdays for $29 and $34 on weekends and holidays.

“This is actually a very affordable course. I’d consider it the best bang for your buck course in Whatcom County,” Hardwick said. “Whatever they’re doing, they’re definitely making ends meet without charging a premium.” 

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