VANDENBERG AIR FORCE, Calif. - Known by many as golf's "best kept secret" on the Central Coast, Marshallia Ranch Golf Course has been a popular place for golfers to tee it up for nealy 60 years.
However, later this week on Thursday, Sept. 1, golfers will no longer be able to play 18-holes at the course, which is located on Vandenberg Air Force Base.
"I feel like I'm saying goodbye to a very dear friend," said golfer Bill Prenot. "I've been playing this course since January of 1997 and it's been my home course. This was the course I looked forward to playing every year, every weekend if possible and this is where a lot of friendships were formed and this is really where I cut my teeth on the game of golf."
Base officials have announced rounds of golf will cease operating due to the increasing cost of water needed to maintain the course. The dramatic move was made in order for the base to protect the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) Fund, which is in danger of going bankrupt.
"It's the price of water," said Col. John Moss, 30th Space Wing Commander. "The price of water and what it requires to water the course has just gotten to the point where it's prohibitive for us to be able to afford that. This year alone would have cost us several hundred thousand dollars to water the course and it's just money we don't have."
The course, which opened to public play in 2005, has been sustained by non-appropriated funds during that time span. However, escalating water costs has made operating the course financially unsustainable. As the price of water has risen steadily over they years, the base has had to tap into MWR funds to cover costs.
"We are taking immediate action to ensure we are good stewards of our funds," said Josie Cordova, 30th Force Support Squadron (FSS) deputy director. "When the MWR Fund is in danger of bankruptcy, that threat includes potential closure of our other base support functions."
To help cut costs, the course implemented a series of measures over the past several years to conserve water, including installing more efficient water infrastructure.
"We stopped watering the middle of the fairways and reduced the amount of water we were putting in the course overall and ultimately we're at the point we're at now and we were only watering the greens and the tee boxes and even that wasn't enough," said Col. Moss.
While the 18-hole portion of golf course will be shut down, other portions will remain open, including the pro shop, driving range, putting green and chipping area.
"Those we can sustain with the resources that we have," said Col. Moss. "So the difference in what it costs us to water the practice green, we can manage that kind of money, but compared to what it costs to water the course, it's a significant difference, one we can afford, one we can't."
As regular golf prepares to end after nearly 60 years, base officials are still looking at ways to possibly bring it back at some point in the future.
"We're going to look aggressively at options," said Col. Moss. "Whatever option we have is going to have to address the significant water cost, but there are some opportunities out there and we'll continue to pursue those in the hopes we'll be able to bring full rounds of golf back to Vandenberg."
If it can be brought back, Prenot believes it would be great news for local golfers.
"I hope that efforts that are underway right now that are really future efforts will be realized and we will see golf out here again," said Prenot.video: marshallia closing (1)