Local univ. to offer golf course mgmt. degree

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The golf craze that hit American links in the late 1980s and early ’90s is continuing to gain momentum – not just under the sun or at the cash register, but also in the classroom.

CU-The Springs has been putting together a golf-course management undergraduate degree program, to be sanctioned by the Professional Golf Association. Its debut is scheduled for fall 2002. Coursework has been determined and discussions with local golf courses are under way. But the school’s Professional Golf Management program really needed a golf course of its own.

And it looks as though that need is becoming a reality. Although discussions are under way for two undeveloped pieces of land, Joe Rallo, dean of CU-The Springs’ business school, is in putting distance of 200 acres of undeveloped land northeast of Colorado Springs. Negotiations have been in the making to secure territory located where the old Morley Ranch used to be on Old Ranch Road in Black Forest. As of press time, a memorandum of understanding had not yet been signed by CU-Springs Chancellor Linda Bunnell Shade and the representatives of the property. The 200-plus page proposal to the PGA would be in the mail as soon as it was signed, said Rallo. The memorandum provides a release clause that the university could invoke if the golf course and classroom course was not approved by the PGA in June.

The 8,000-yard golf course will be surrounded by high-priced homes with 2.5-acre lots selling for about $175,000. Because of the attractive ambiance a golf course brings, Redstone Developers can justify the lots’ price tags and donate the golf course grounds to the university. Since the university is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit entity, Redstone can also write off the loss on taxes.

“We’ve been careful about making sure we are just about there before we make this public,” said Rallo. “Barring some major asteroid strike in the area, everybody has signed on and we’re feeling very good about this.

“This enables our campus to have an athletic presence … to have a national presence overnight. This is a major commitment to the university.”

Since the university is proposing that this program culminate with a bachelor’s degree, its curriculum and golf course must be sanctioned by the PGA. A proposal for the 18-hole signature course was presented to the PGA headquarters last September and a final proposal will be submitted once land acquisition is complete. PGA officials will probably visit in April, said Rallo, with final approval expected in June.

If the land deal goes through and the PGA approves the application, construction would begin immediately, said Rallo. Grass would be laid by this fall, giving it a “growing season.” Meanwhile, land would be graded, irrigation systems laid, and a clubhouse built. A program director responsible for marketing, recruiting and sponsorship follow-up will be hired by January. Students could use the facilities and begin studying for their degree by fall 2002.

It will cost between $8 million and $12 million to build the links and clubhouse, said Rallo. The clubhouse will include a complete food and beverage department as well as a retail shop and executive conferencing facilities, and should cost about $1 million. Construction of each hole, including grading, sand traps and a sprinkler system, is expected to run about $300,000.

Funding will come from a number of sources, said Rallo, including surplus capital from out-of-state students’ tuition, the CU Foundation and revenue collected from operations. Rallo said he expects that 70 percent of students working toward a golf-course management degree will be from out of state since this degree is classified as “hard to find” in the United States. However, the golf course would still be open to students not in the program, and area residents who pay a membership fee.

Students who enter the program will fulfill 18 months of internships in addition to the four years of classes. In addition to required core business classes, students must also take classes in golf course management and marketing and meet requirements for time on the golf course and hands-on experience in food and beverage management. They must have a handicap of eight or lower to be accepted into the program. With only 11 other golf-management degree programs in the country, Rallo is banking on its success.

“This is a community partnership at the highest level,” said Rallo. “It will benefit the university, the local business community, (and will be) a destination for Colorado Springs.”