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Duncan Park’s improvements good for county

Duncan Park seems to be on the up-and-up as far as golf is concerned.

Recently instituted tee times for Saturday golfers is the first step in the course adopting tee times for every day of the week, according to Golf Course Superintendent Greg Brooking.

“Tell me a course that doesn’t have tee times,” Brooking said. “We were behind the curve, and it was time for us to work out way up to a first-class golf course.”

Brooking is right. The course has seen an uptick in golfers lately, and Saturdays are its busiest days. Tee times are a necessity to keep order and not have everyone wanting to tee off all at the same time.

The increase in golfers for the park is somewhat of a seasonal phenomenon. As it warms up, more people want to get outside and play than they would during the colder months. But at least one long-time member said there are other factors to increased golfing at Duncan Park than just seasonal ones.

Clay Arnold, who has been playing golf at Duncan Park for 41 years, said there’s an overall attractiveness to the course that he hasn’t seen before. Arnold pointed to the course’s practice greens as an example.

“We have grass on these greens, and in my 41 years playing, we’ve never had grass on these greens this early.”

Arnold went on to talk about how the look of the course has improved because of limbs around trees being removed and the drainage problem on hole No. 8 being fixed.

All of these make for a more aesthetically pleasing course. And frankly, our community is fortunate that people like Brooking, Mayor Butch Brown and the Board of Aldermen seem to recognize how much of a gem Duncan Park is.

Toward the end of last year, Brown and Alderman Mark Fortenbery, together with local consultant Dan Bland, decided to increase membership prices and other fees at Duncan Park. Not everyone was pleased with this, but those in charge felt it was time for the golf course to stop losing money.

According to Brooking, March was the only rough month for the golf course. Rains caused a downtick in the number of golfers, but Brooking said they matched their income from March 2012. Every other month since the price increases, Brooking said income has risen.

“We’ve increased anywhere from 30 to 50 percent compared to last year,” Brooking said.

Part of the changes from late last year included giving Brooking more control of the golf budget. The increase in income combined with more say on how finances are allocated will naturally lead to a better-looking course, Brooking said.

“As time goes on and I’m in control of the finances, then the money gets spent on the right things,” he said. “I don’t have to go ask my superiors to buy fertilizer. I can look at the budget and know if we have money or not.”

A nicer-looking course that’s making more money and trying to operate like a first-class operation can only be good for the community. Too often, public services simply go through the motions and do the bare minimum. The Duncan Park golf course appears to be making an effort not to be what Brooking called a “sub-standard dirt ranch.”

Golfers in Natchez should show their support for these efforts — making sure to call ahead of time and reserve tee times on Saturday, of course.