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[whitespace] Residents teed off by lack of preference

Sunnyvale--Sunnyvale City Councilmembers on March 7 approved a plan to explore granting Sunnyvale residents advantages in booking tee times at the city's two municipal golf courses. City staffers will examine the issue this spring and summer before presenting results to councilmembers on Sept. 19.

Golfers currently receive reserved times on a first-come, first-served basis, without regard to residency. Beginning at 6 a.m. in person and 6:30 a.m. on the phone, players can book times a week in advance.

Local golfers say the competition for prime early spots is fierce. Lines begin to form long before daybreak.

Chuck Crabtree, a local retiree, plays at Sunnyvale golf course twice a week. To book his times, he wakes up at 3:45 a.m. to be in line by 4:30 a.m. "I'm 82-years-old. I shouldn't have to do that," Crabtree says. He and about seven other golfers voiced their approval of the tee time preferences plan to councilmembers .

Weekend golfers face even stiffer competition for prime times, locals say. Curtis Black, the city's Superintendent of Parks, said people who want early weekend spots will often arrive at midnight, six hours before sign-ups begin.

Crabtree said he dislikes having to compete for tee times with non-residents. He lives in Sunnyvale, does most of his shopping in Sunnyvale, and pays taxes here, he says. He said he feels he should be given an advantage over those who only come to the city for golf.

Getting an early start, Crabtree says, allows him to play without being slowed by later golfers. With a 6 a.m. tee time, he can complete 18 holes in three and half hours. At a later time, an 18-hole round may take four to five hours. At 82, Crabtree says, standing around for that extra time is a strain.

Crabtree would like to see Sunnyvale adopt a policy similar to that of Santa Clara, where residents can make reservations one day in advance of other players.

While city officials would like to grant resident golfer's wishes, the fact remains that officials also don't want to disrupt to a service that draws business.

According to Black, Sunnyvale's golf courses are economically self-sustaining, requiring no tax money support. "Golf services are definitely holding their own," he said. "They're bringing in more money than they expend for operating."

Officials say they hope to continue making a profit on the courses. Councilman Manuel Valerio said income from the golf course funds many of the city's other parks and recreation services. Granting Sunnyvale residents an advantage that would discourage use by other golfers would be detrimental to the city's other services, he said.

In past years, Black said, city residents did have priority on weekends, but that policy resulted in frustration and low customer satisfaction. "Use was declining each year," he said.
Sam Scott

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