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County Hall Corner: A Good Looking Golf Course

Winston Churchill thought playing golf was dumb. He commented that it was a game designed to hit a very small ball into a very small hole with instruments ill-designed for the purpose. Many in Lycoming County would echo those sentiments. Why does the county need a municipal golf course anyway?

Actually, Lycoming County is very fortunate to have one of the finest public golfing complexes in this region of Pennsylvania. The White Deer Golf Course hosts two beautiful 18-hole courses and a 9-hole practice course, combined with a driving range, a practice chipping hole, a practice putting green, as well as a fully stocked pro shop providing everything needed for the casual fan or the true fanatic.

White Deer has become an asset to numerous clubs and non-profit organizations in our area. Fund-raising tournaments have been sponsored by every facet of life in the county; Little Leagues chapters, Penn College Alumni, Lycoming College Football, the Polish Club, the Young Republican Club, the Harmonia Club, the Chamber of Commerce, the Williamsport Mayor, the SPCA, Hope Enterprises, Montgomery Red Raider Foundation, churches, clubs and others generate hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in support to these agencies. The popularity of White Deer is also growing, as already five new tournaments are being scheduled for the coming year.

Golf is a great sport to promote wellness, and area companies such as the Sun Health, Sylvania, Penn College, and even the federal prisons at Allenwood and Lewisburg as well as dozens of other organizations have created golfing leagues for the benefit of their employees and friends. The tournaments, leagues, course members, and Sunday duffers added up to a neighborhood of 50,000 rounds of golf played in 2018. And this was with one of the wettest years ever, resulting in 24 days of canceled play, even causing the cancellation of one major tournament.

The issue of the county owning a public golf course has been a contentious one for a long time. It is undeniable that a great amount of money has been poured into the course in the past twenty years, and the management and operation of the course in the past certainly left something to be desired. But to the credit of the county commissioners, a decision was made in October of 2015 to take money from a bond-issue designed for recreational facilities and use it to bring the White Deer Course up to professional standards. In early 2016, the commissioners hired Billy Casper Golf (BCG) to operate the golf course, recognized as one of the best golf course management companies in the country.

The result has been that White Deer is now heading towards profitability, and is also gaining a reputation statewide. This summer a Pennsylvania-wide American Legion Tournament was played by 246 golfers over a three-day period, and these golfers stayed in area hotels and patronized the area stores and restaurants. Other groups such as a club from Harrisburg that numbers nearly 100 golfers visits White Deer annually to golf and spend their weekend in the area.

Some point to the decline in golf, but actually, the future is quite bright. In the last five years, there has been a 20 percent increase nationally in junior golfers (age 5-18). That same uptick has been seen locally, and it includes girls as well as boy golfers. The biggest boost to golf is the weather. If there is any decent weather at all, golfers will golf. On Sunday, December 2nd, with temperatures barely in the 40s, there were 60 golfers out playing at White Deer.

At their regular meeting on Thursday, December 13th, after a good deal of discussion, the county commissioners agreed to continue their agreement with BCG, with the expectation that White Deer will be self-sustaining as well as providing a valuable recreational resource to the greater area. Sorry, Winston, I am afraid you are wrong on this one. Golf is a great game.

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