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Gateway's new management drives course upgrades

By Patrick Desmond | 37th Training Wing Public Affairs | Dec. 11, 2009

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — With $175,000 in renovations this year alone, the Gateway Hills Golf Course will be a far cry from its former self by the time new management is satisfied.

Major improvements were made in tee and green beautification while elements such as cart paths were reconstructed to increase playability.

While carting along fairways and around doglegs, Gateway's management team-director of golf Craig Brooks and assistant manager Vance Mims' saw a course in need of attention, through their rangefinder, they envisioned one approaching USGA standards not too far off in the distance.

"The day I arrived here five years ago, I started my own list," the director of golf since May said. "Now, money invested in the course goes toward improving the playability and the customer experience."

Since Brooks took over Lackland golf in May, some substantial benchmarks have been reached:

· Leveling par 3 tee boxes on the 12th and 17th holes;

· Adding 50 pallets of Bermuda sod to green surrounds and fairways;

· Improving 18th hole's green complex and water drainage;

· Replacing old water cooler stations and tee signs; and

· removing dead trees and other debris.

"We have returned a lot of turf grass to major areas in play," Brooks said. "Right now, it looks like sod but in the spring it will be gorgeous."

A major $1.4 million cart storage facility construction is currently on schedule for completion by next year.

A new fleet of "green" electric carts will be added this fiscal year as well.

Though the dream is still in the distance, Brooks and Mims said, ultimately, the goal is to provide active-duty Airmen and retiree golf players with a course they deserve.

"We want to establish a source of pride in the San Antonio Air Force golf community and for the retirees, so they have a product they can be proud of," Mims, a PGA pro from Oklahoma said about building a place for community to engage. "That's what we are moving toward."

Reaching that goal is challenging.

Unlike mission essential services such as fitness centers or child development, the golf course is self-supported, relying on its own income to reinvest in the maintenance of the course.

Excluding costs for the snack bar, pro shop and employee pay, the course spends more than $500,000 for course maintenance annually and had additional high costs ($70,000) for recycled water during this summer's drought.

In the past, maintenance labor is cut during the winter, but this year Brooks plans on keeping hours up to clear neglected areas of debris and prepare for the growing season.

"The course has made big strides," Brooks said, "We do know that Gateway Hills is still the best value in San Antonio."

"Anyplace else, you are going to spend thousands of dollars a year (for annual fees).

And here, our customers can be proud of the fact they are supporting Air Force golf and the course, which helps keep it available for our Airmen."