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Some Officials Say New Golf Course Would Fit Culver City to a Tee

March 26, 1995|MARY MOORE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Culver City, known for its shopping areas and movie studios, may make a different name for itself if city officials pursue a plan to develop a golf course in the area--a project that could cost up to $15 million.

Some city officials predict that the course would quickly recoup its cost and generate ongoing municipal revenue, given the demand among golf enthusiasts for links on the Westside.

"There is so much money to be made in golf," said Culver City Councilman Mike Balkman.

The course's proposed location is a 350-acre parcel located in the hills behind West Los Angeles College, portions of which are unincorporated county property. The land is owned by seven individuals, said Gordon Youngs, Culver City's personnel manager.

Serious discussion of the project is expected to start next month when the council receives a staff report outlining the factors involved in acquiring and developing the property.

The report will suggest that the city hire a consultant who specializes in golf course development to analyze the city's prospects for going ahead with such a project, Youngs said.

The initial proposal also envisions a multipurpose recreational area: most of it for an 18-hole golf course, some for soccer fields.

Said Councilman Ed Wolkowitz: "If money were created (by the golf course), there would be an incentive to run other recreational programs."

Potential obstacles to the project include the availability and cost of the land, as well as financing options for the city. Further, the land would have to pass the rigors of an environmental impact report.

Environmental issues could emerge as a concern--the property is spotted with a number of oil wells managed by Stocker Resources Co., Youngs said.

Still, the area long has been of interest for open-space development. In the late 1980s, state officials considered purchasing a portion of the property to expand nearby Kenneth Hahn State Park. Ultimately, the officials decided against the idea.

Ironically, Culver City at one time was home to two adjacent golf courses. Both were paved over in the early 1970s to make way for the Fox Hills Mall and an office park.

The closest municipal course to Culver City is also one that officials rate as one of the nation's busiest--the 18-hole course at Rancho Park in West Los Angeles. In 1994, Rancho Park hosted roughly 125,000 rounds of the game on its fairways, according to a Rancho Park employee who helps run the golf program.

Rancho Park employees say as many as 30 players are lined up as early as 5 a.m. on typical weekend mornings at the course, eager to get their names on the list for tee times. But most of the slots are taken by golfers who make reservations, sometimes weeks in advance. With so many players, the fairways are backed up for hours, and playing an 18-hole round of golf can become an all-day affair.

"There's a tremendous need for golf courses on the Westside," said Bob Thomas, director of communications for the Southern California Golf Assn. "The population is a factor, and the demographics lends itself to a lot of people playing golf."

Given the high demand for tee times and the low supply of local courses, Thomas said, Culver City probably could set its green fees at almost any price and still attract players. "If they have a regulation 18-hole course that is a reasonable design, it will be busy, no doubt about that," Thomas said.

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