Eastern Oregon golf courses tee off as a team

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

BAKER CITY — Eastern Oregon folks know the value of banding together. “It’s the only way we survive,” says Alice Trindle, executive director of the Eastern Oregon Visitors Association (EOVA) and the driving force behind a new marketing campaign for rural golf courses in the 11 counties east of the Cascades.

Earlier this year Trindle organized several golf courses, a hotel, a travel agency and a couple of visitor centers to promote local destination travel. The group coalesced into Golf Eastern Oregon, designed a magazine ad, created a brochure and built a detailed online catalog on the EOVA website.

The three golf courses involved — Quail Ridge Golf Course in Baker City, Buffalo Peak Golf Course in Union and La Grande Country Club in Island City — all face the same challenges. Their remote locations make luring travelers difficult, while their small size leads to small marketing budgets.

“We’ll go much further if we work together,” says Trindle, explaining that attracting golf visitors to lesser-known Eastern Oregon courses takes an increasing degree of sophistication.

Oregon earns high marks for its well-known golf courses such as Pacific Dunes in Bandon, ranking fourth on the Golf Digest list “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses.” Trindle hopes Golf Eastern Oregon sheds some light on smaller, unknown courses that are just as good but with smaller tee fees.

Financial security is an issue for some eastern golf courses. In May the Union County Board of Commissioners agreed to restructure the county’s $2 million loan for the Buffalo Peak Golf Course. In an effort to help the financially struggling course, which the county purchased from the city in 2000, payments on the loan’s interest will be reduced throughout the course of the loan from $1.7 million to $540,000.

“The debt service is what’s killed us,” says Dennis Spray, director of general services for the county. He hopes to see the course back in the black by next year and is optimistic that Eastern Oregon Golf will help attract visitors for years to come.

Grants Pass-based developer Sean Ward’s proposal to build a 45-lot subdivision on 35 acres around the Buffalo Peak grounds could also bring some much-needed revenue into the area as well as attract more visitors to the course.

Ensuring the future of rural eastern Oregon golf courses will require a group effort. Fortunately that’s something with which locals are familiar.

— Colleen Moran

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