Tucson has a large central park with playgrounds, picnic areas and ramadas, a dog park, a walking/running path, a zoo, horseshoe pits, a pond, streams, a rose garden, a performance center, a swimming pool and baseball fields. And two golf courses: Randolph and Del Urich.
A group called “Expand Reid Park” would like to see the golf courses eliminated and folded into a larger Reid Park because Tucson “deserves a great iconic park,” according to the group’s Facebook page.
The stereotype that many non-golfers hold of the sport is that it is for rich people who ride around in carts. Expand Reid Park’s Facebook page even points to a survey that said the average annual income of golfers is $90,000. In reality, public municipal courses (“munis”) are mainly used by middle class golfers, many of whom walk the 18 holes.
I personally know and play with at least 40 men who have each spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours playing golf at Randolph and Del Urich. Most of them are retired educators who taught for decades in Tucson classrooms and now, 12 months a year, enjoy the exercise, challenge, socialization and camaraderie that golf offers them.
Expand Reid Park says these golfers can just go to El Rio and Fred Enke, two courses that were almost shut down this past year. City golfers already play both, as well as the fifth muni, Silverbell. But, this proposed solution doesn’t work for two reasons.
One, El Rio and Enke could not absorb the numbers who play Urich and Randolph. Second, they are decent courses but not near the quality of Randolph and Urich. Non-golfers may think that a golf course is a golf course but, like ski slopes, kayaking rivers and rock climbing cliffs, all golf courses aren’t the same. As the Star’s Tim Steller noted, Randolph and Del Urich “are the two most-used and best-loved courses among the five belonging to the city of Tucson.”
Fundraisers for local charities are regularly held at Randolph and Del Urich. Their courses are not only first-class, but so are the facilities to host post-golf ceremonies. Enke, El Rio and Silverbell cannot provide similar facilities. Also, many high school golf tournaments are held at the Randolph-Urich complex.
The local economy receives significant income from tourists, among them a number of golfers. Many middle-income winter visitors choose to play Randolph and Urich because of their quality and their central location.
Expand Reid Park and even Tim Steller bring up the image of the fence around the golf courses, implying that the masses are being kept out by the cart-driving elites on the inside who don’t want to mingle with the hoi polloi on the outside.
I challenge them to name any urban golf course that isn’t surrounded by a fence or houses for obvious practical reasons that involve safety and prices for admission. Anyone can play at these courses; it just isn’t free. They need to look through the fence and see how many golfers are regular folks, young and old, men and women, walking.
I’m sure the Expand Reid Park people are well-intentioned and in an ideal world there would be space for both a mega-park and two golf courses.
I love public parks and I, my children and my grandchildren have greatly benefited from those in Tucson, especially Reid Park, which I don’t live far from. I don’t, however, see the need to aspire to an “iconic” park that will eliminate two well-designed, popular, central golf courses that have served and can continue to serve the public for many years.