For Heritage High School golf coach Dwight Patterson, the problem is pretty simple.
“Clark County needs more golf courses,” he said.
The problem is that the county has three fewer golf courses than last summer.
In the past six months, two nine-hole courses – Lakeview in east Vancouver and Hartwood near Brush Prairie – as well as 18-hole Cedars on Salmon Creek near Brush Prairie have all closed.
And it’s caused a slump on the county’s remaining courses, especially for high school girls’ golf teams.
“It’s amazing to think that almost every high school golf team in the county plays just three courses,” Patterson said. “And one of those three is a nine-hole executive course.”
Union and Camas play their matches at Camas Meadows.
Mountain View, Evergreen and Hockinson play games at Fairway Village.
And that leaves seven programs — Skyview, Columbia River, Prairie, Battle Ground, Heritage, Ridgefield and La Center — playing games at Tri-Mountain.
The outliers are Washougal, who plays at Orchard Hills, and King’s Way Christian, who can play once a week at Club Green Meadows.
Green Meadows was Heritage’s home course, but the club announced this spring that it could only host one high school team one day a week. This place went to King’s Way.
Prairie coach Paul Shapard has been coaching high school golf for 33 years and called this spring the craziest season he can remember.
“We’re in a different place every day, whether it’s training or playing,” Shapard said. “And every place we go costs money. Fortunately, I had a good situation with Cedars for years that didn’t cost us very much, so I was able to save some money. But it won’t last forever.
Women’s golf teams this spring have been allowed to use the Stableford scoring system to shorten games, which has helped the schedule.
In the Stableford scoring system, a player scores points based on the number of strokes he needs to complete the hole. Once a player cannot score a point on a hole – usually three strokes over par – the player picks up the ball and moves on to the next hole.
“We have players who could take more than 10 shots on every hole,” Shapard said. “So without Stableford – with teams playing right across from each other on the same day – we could be playing until midnight.”
In the past, Clark County high school golf teams traveled to Portland to play. But teams have been more reluctant to do so in recent years.
“Once you start talking about Portland, you’ll have people saying, ‘oh, we can’t cross that bridge,'” Shapard said.
But the trip to Portland presents a timing problem for Clark County teams, especially in the early weeks of the spring season in late February and early March.
“We had an offer to make Glendoveer (in Portland) our home course,” Patterson said. “But we get out of school at 3:10 p.m. and by the time we got there to play it would be almost 4 p.m. And then it starts to get dark quite early in those weeks before the clock change. “
The other problem with Oregon classes in the spring is that high schools in Oregon play both boys and girls seasons in the spring.
“We called Heron Lakes (in Portland), but they told us they already had five high school teams playing there,” Patterson said.
In Cowlitz County, it’s a different story where Kelso, Mark Morris and RA Long each play their own course: Three Rivers, Longview Country Club and Mint Valley.
“Playing your home course is a big deal,” Shapard said. “When we played at the Cedars, the other teams didn’t want to play us, because we played so much better on a course that we knew.
Next week, Prairie has a match against rival Battle Ground. Normally, this game would be played at Cedars, which was once the home course of both schools.
Now the game will take place at Three Rivers in Kelso.
“We’re going to play our normal nine-hole match with Battle Ground and then we’ll play another nine holes for practice,” Shapard said. “Also, the district tournament will be played at Three Rivers, so we wanted to familiarize the girls with that course.”
Patterson said he was grateful the Royal Oaks Country Club had offered its driving range to Heritage to practice once a week. He also has an offer to play on the new nine-hole course at Skamania Lodge.
“They’ve totally revamped their course, and I think they want people to see it,” Patterson said. “But I’m waiting for a sunny day before accepting this offer.”
But deals like these only make a small dent in solving the problem.
“And nobody even talks about what happens on April 25,” Shapard said. “That’s when the boys can start training again to prepare for the bi-district tournament.”
The high school golf season is played in the fall in southwest Washington. But 4A and 3A golfers qualify for statehood through a bi-district tournament with District 3 in May, as District 3 plays boys’ golf in the spring.
The girls’ playoffs begin May 10 and 11 when District 4A and 3A tournaments are played. But the next two weeks will be a scramble — no pun intended — for female golfers to find time to practice and play in Clark County.
Tim Martinez is the assistant sportswriter/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4538, [email protected] or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.