Pro Tucker, Staff Rely on Innovation & Long-Term Vision Going Forward
By Tony A. Archuleta
Recently placed boundary markers and railing using recycled electrical poles at Truth or Consequences Municipal Golf Course speak to some of the tremendous progress made at the nine-hole Muni in recent years.
But a fire hose running the length of the No. 3/12 fairway is indicative of the work that remains to be done, as the City of Truth or Consequences struggles to bring a long-broken water pumping system up to speed.
For Howie Tucker, the Muni’s PGA pro and contracted superintendent since 2007, running the local golf course has presented some of the greatest challenges of his 38-year career as a golf professional.
Time and again, though, he and his staff have managed to turn setbacks into opportunities, and as the city issues a request for proposals for golf course contractual services, Tucker is hopeful he’ll retain the contract and continue forging ahead with course upgrades.
In addition to the placement of boundary markers throughout the course, which help direct the flow of golf carts and boost aesthetics, a restroom building is currently under construction between the No. 5 and No. 6 fairways.
It will be a significant upgrade from the portable restrooms that currently accommodate the golfing public.
With a strong background in agronomy and course management, Tucker is also working on establishing a Bermuda grass nursery behind the No. 8 tee box, as well as a nearby putting green nursery.
The nurseries will allow golf course maintenance staff to address problem areas on fairways and greens immediately, instead of having to resort to long-term reseeding solutions.
With a budget of $30,000 annually for course maintenance, equipment, irrigation, fuel, fertilizer, weed and insect control, the muni operates on the slimmest of margins, but a can-do attitude staff and an innovative approach to giving golfers the most for their money is paying dividends.
Tucker, during an interview Friday, March 9, said working closely with the city’s Golf Advisory Board has also been a key to recent accomplishments, including the acquisition of a liquor license, which has provided a new stream of revenue (and expense).
Tucker said the golf course’s two signature tournaments, the Fiesta Open in May and the TorC Amateur Open in the fall, are enjoying unprecedented popularity, thanks largely to local and corporate sponsorships.
And players of every stripe, from the tournament enthusiast to the casual weekend player, are finding a course that’s becoming increasingly more playable due to ongoing improvements.
One of the highlights includes the elimination of desert scrub between fairways and in the roughs to speed up the pace of play, along with landscaping projects that are both functional and attractive.
Another major undertaking has been the removal of diseased elm trees and replacing them with evergreens.
The overarching goal has been to better define the roughs and fairways, and in some cases enlarge the greens.
While paid membership at the Muni has seen a decrease in the last few years due to an aging membership base, a decline in winter visitation numbers and even a struggling economy, the number of rounds played annually is on the rise.
The course has averaged 11,000 rounds annually the last three years, according to Tucker.
That doesn’t include course use by the Hot Springs High School boys and girls golf teams and other junior golfers who play free of charge. With junior golfers and other special events combined, that adds another 1,000 rounds a year.
The course averaged about 10,000 rounds annually prior to Tucker’s arrival.
Tucker noted that visitation by out-of-county golfers is also on the increase, and that can only be boosted by the recent launching of the Muni’s new website, http://www.tucksturf.com.
While operating a golf course in a small, rural community can be a tough proposition on course operators, Tucker notes it’s a great advantage for golfers who don’t have to worry about calling in to make a tee time hours or days in advance.
“The best bang for the buck, no doubt,” said Tucker.