Course of Inflation : County May Raise Golf Greens Fees, Putting Some Seniors in the Hole

TIMES STAFF WRITER

While the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors might think raising fees at county-owned golf courses is par for the course, 72-year-old Harold Marzey of Pacoima is a little teed off about it.

For 10 years, Marzey and three friends have been playing 18 holes at El Cariso golf course in Sylmar two or three times a week, and if the county raises the daily greens fee for senior citizens by $1, Marzey said, he might have to cut back the time he spends on the links.

"The fees are high enough," Marzey complained as he prepared to tee off on the eighth hole Wednesday morning.

"They raise the rent, prices are going up; now this. There's not much else for us to do, but this."

Under a proposal from county parks administrators that the supervisors are scheduled to vote on today, greens fees would rise from $17 to $19 on weekdays and from $21 to $23 on weekends. Fees for senior citizens with a discount card are about half that much and would rise by $1.

The county, facing a projected deficit of as much as $1.2 billion, is expected to try to spread the pain around as the supervisors also consider layoffs in various departments and the closure of High Desert Hospital in Lancaster, county officials said.

With tough times for everyone, maybe it's the golfers' turn to make a sacrifice, the thinking goes.

"It's clear that the county has to look at all revenue sources, including raising existing fees," said Joel Bellman, an aide to Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. "I believe it's been several years since we revisited this issue, so it is appropriate at this time."

But some golfers aren't all that annoyed. Even with the expected fee hike, the tariff at county courses is still a bargain, they say.

"I think the rates are probably as low as you can play anywhere," said Jerry Von Buskirk, golf pro at the Knollwood course in Granada Hills. "It's still one of the best golfing values for your dollar, even after the increase."

At other courses around the county, the average fee for non-residents is $19.70 on weekdays and $26 on weekends, according to a Los Angeles County survey. While courses in Pasadena and Downey charge non-residents as much as $35 to use city links, greens fees at other courses owned by the city of Los Angeles are among the lowest in the county at $16 on weekdays and $20.50 on weekends.

Larry Lee, the county's golf director, said that even if the county increases its fees, golfers will not necessarily seek out less expensive courses.

"They want to play on well-groomed courses, and they also want to play for low greens fees," he said. "In the past when fees have gone up, our numbers went down a little the first month, but then picked back up."

At the more popular courses, the fee increase is not expected to affect attendance at all.

"We are a very popular golf course, so there probably will not be any effect here," said Jeff Perry, manager of Los Verdes golf course in Palos Verdes, considered by many to be one of the jewels of the county system.

But at El Cariso in Sylmar, course manager Mike O'Keefe said the hike will have a negative impact.

"For instance, the guys who play three days a week will be cut back to two," O'Keefe said. "We have a lot of seniors on fixed incomes, and raising seniors' fees by $1 is a lot to them."

Oneta Schott, 74, of Burbank, who was trying to sink a putt to double bogey, agreed. "We don't like them to raise any fees, but there isn't much choice for us," she said. "We're at this age where we're glad to be out here no matter what the circumstances."

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