Optimism Pervades for Mill Valley (Calif.) GC’s Next 100 Years

By | June 13th, 2018

The nine-hole municipal course will mark its centennial in 2019 and while its annual deficits now approach a quarter-million dollars, a coalition of city crews, volunteers and a golf course designer who is largely working on a pro bono basis have been planning upgrades to lower maintenance costs and improve play in a way that will draw new business to a property that is surrounded by towering redwoods.

With a 100-year anniversary around the corner, the Mill Valley (Calif.) Golf Course is getting spruced up for the occasion, the Marin Independent Journal reported.

City crews and volunteers have been working on upgrades to lower maintenance costs and improve play at the nine-hole municipal course, which opened in 1919, the Journal reported, and the big-picture goal is to draw new players.

“We’re all hoping that the community realizes what a gem this is,” said Tony Boyd, the city parks supervisor. “It’s really quite a privilege to have this beautiful golf course in the community and we want to make sure that people know its here.”

The course’s history began when 75 men purchased the 42-acre site in Warner Canyon, according to Mill Valley Public Library documents, the Journal reported, and the course was pronounced fit for play on Nov. 1, 1919, according to “Mill Valley: the Early Years” by Marin historian Barry Spitz.

However, the golf club failed to reach half of the projected goal of 300 members, and after the Great Depression, the remaining members agreed to offer the land to the city for $25,000, Spitz reported.

After three elections, a bond measure to acquire the land received a necessary two-thirds vote. The city of Mill Valley has owned and managed the course since Jan. 20, 1939, according to Spitz.

Like many golf courses, the one in Mill Valley has seen some financial hardships and periods of neglect, the Journal reported, and recently, figures have dipped deeper into the red.

In fiscal year 2011-12, for example, the city had a $59,000 deficit, and that went up to about $239,000 last year.

“There was a time when golf courses made money,” Jim Revoir, a Board member of Mill Valley Friends of Parks and Recreation, a nonprofit group that supports city recreation projects, told the Journal. “That’s one of the driving forces behind getting this course into good shape.”

This year, the nonprofit group has donated about $15,000 to work on the course, the Journal reported. Josh Pettit, President and principal designer at Pacific Golf Design, has been working largely pro bono on many improvement projects, including a new mowing plan that requires less maintenance and enhances play. The city also has budgeted about $137,000 for maintenance this year.

More recently, the Journal reported, the volunteers have been working with Boyd to upgrade the ninth tee. Pettit is removing the synthetic mat to replace it with natural, drought-tolerant grass.

The synthetic turf had been installed near areas where it is difficult to grow grass because of towering redwoods that suck up the available water, the Journal reported. But natural grass is more desirable for golfers because it “adds to the challenge of figuring out where to make contact with the ball,” Pettit said.

The team has also replaced all sprinkler heads on the course, reshaped bunkers and installed new drainage, among other projects.

The golf course has seen more traffic since some of these improvements have taken shape, the Journal reported, and the volunteers think that’s because play has become more exciting.

“The course is underplayed and under-marketed, but it shouldn’t be. It’s a prized community place,” said Alex Cushner, a golf course Board member who has helped to spearhead the effort. “It’s time for the community to come see how beautiful it is.”

Mill Valley City Manager Jim McCann told the Journal that the city is considering several projects in the golf course area, including an access path for the nearby Highlands neighborhood and possible flood-retention work. He said the city could soon be developing a master plan to guide next steps.

Jenny Rogers, Mill Valley’s Director of Arts and Recreation, told the Journal that she is planning fundraising events and celebrations for the centennial year in 2019. The Friends of Parks and Recreation is also planning a fundraising event this fall.

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