Elimination of golf pass irks seniors Cost is doubled at Eisenhower

February 02, 1993|By Angela Winter Ney | Angela Winter Ney,Staff Writer

The county has eliminated yearly passes for senior citizens at the Eisenhower Golf Course in Crownsville, doubling what seniors must pay to play.

The change in the 20-year-old policy may be the undoing of the Senior Men's Golf Club, a group of 45 men who get together for a round of golf on weekdays. Many members say they can't afford the increase that took effect Jan. 1, and expect the club to disband.

"This is going to severely hamper the amount of golf we'll be able to play," said Ralph Price, 63, a retired machinery superintendent at Curtis Bay who has lived in the county for 40 years.

Since he retired, Mr. Price has played nearly 100 rounds of golf a year at Eisenhower with fellow men's club members, using a yearly pass that reduced the cost to about $4 a game. It was a good deal -- a little too good, county officials concluded.

When the county realized that "some folks were getting quite a benefit" from the yearly pass, "we had to make some adjustments," explained Tom Donlin, chief of special facilities for the Department of Recreation and Parks.

Mr. Donlin said the yearly pass the seniors were using constituted "what amounted to a membership program at a public course. That's unheard of in the golf industry," he said.

The new fee structure eliminates a yearly $375 pass for seniors and requires them to pay for each game. The cheapest rates for frequent golfers 62 or older will now be a 20-ticket book costing $160, or $8 a round.

The new rates do recognize seniors. The new regular fee per game for nonseniors is $15 -- a dollar more than last year. But for seniors, the rate is $10 a game, and if they take advantage of the 20-ticket book, it reduces the rate to $8.

Still, that's twice as much as it cost Mr. Price and his friends to play before, and most will have to limit what they say is their sole form of entertainment and exercise.

Fumed Mr. Price: "None of us believes [the change] is necessary. It seems to be directed at our small group."

Pat Corrigan of Glen Burnie, a member of the 10-year-old men's club, said he believes the county hopes to give younger players more time on the course by raising rates for senior citizens.

Mr. Donlin said the rate increase is partly a response to resentment among other players about rates for seniors.

"Those who don't qualify as seniors have been subsidizing the rounds of these folks who were annual pass-holders. We're trying to make the golf course available to everyone," he said.

He agreed that seniors are being hurt most by the change, but said he thinks they have nothing to complain about.

"[The new rate for seniors] is 47 percent off the regular rate, and I believe it to be a pretty significant discount," Mr. Donlin said. "They were getting their golf pretty darn cheap. We're still giving them what I consider a significant break."

But to regular golfers such as Mr. Price, the changes are simply distressing.

"Because of the county's financial situation, we anticipated a raise of some percentage, but certainly not a doubling of the cost," he said.

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