Tuscaloosa, AL – (Roll nat sound balls :16s) Bins are filled with range balls while golfers look over the few golf clubs still in the pro shop. These range balls will see their last action on November 30 when the University of Alabama will close down Harry Pritchett Golf Course. Student play has increased in the past three to four years because of promotions like free rounds and free range balls, but course memberships have dropped more than 20 percent. Course Manager Gary Minor says numbers are down at courses around the country.
(minor1 :16s) "Nationwide, depending on which areas of the nation, golf is down up to 25 percent since 9-11. And here we have had competition. Our golf is not down that much but the situation there is there is a lot of competition and that golf is just down in general."
Minor believes that once the economy starts to rise, golf's number will increase as well. The number of rounds played at Harry Pritchett is also down because of some new competition in the Tuscaloosa area. Since the opening of Ol' Colony Golf Complex in December of 2002, rounds at the university course have dropped 10 percent. The added competition of Northriver, Hidden Meadows, and Capstone Club have also hurt. Harry Pritchett's head Marshall John Price, is disappointed to lose a course that he says was "truly" open to the public.
(price1 :21s) "I think it's a big mistake. This golf course is in real good shape. It is real friendly to a lot of people. It's friendly to the handicap, to the elderly, to the minorities, poor people, the students, the faculty. All those people, are going to be affected by this closing."
But that doesn't necessarily mean they will golf elsewhere.
(brown :7s) "Any course in this town that really wants to positively affect its membership or is its use is going to have to adopt some of those same attitudes."
Director of University of Alabama Recreation, George Brown.
(brown1 :11s) "Their golf course is going to have to be accessible, their golf course is going to have to be affordable, their golf course is going to have to really in a sense direct its efforts towards recruiting students particularly. Student play had increased significantly over the last two or three years at the course."
The eight full-time employees, nine student workers, and 25 plus volunteers will be let go at the end of the month. Brown says no final decision has been made on what will be done with the land when the course closes. Part of the 150 acre course serves as the University's Arboretum. Talks are still ongoing to determine if the land will be used for university classes.
For Alabama Public Radio, I'm Bobby Puppione.