Thursday, January 8, 2004

Blue Ash golfers can buy cold one

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BLUE ASH - The city's golf course probably will be wet this spring - in more ways than one.

For the first time in the course's 25-year history, hackers can buy a round of beers with that round of golf. City officials are hoping it will give them a competitive boost.

With most other public courses in the area serving beer, Blue Ash golf professional Bill Mayer said the city decided it was time to get in the game to recoup a decline in rounds.

The drop follows a national trend blamed on a lagging economy and bad weather, as well as fierce competition in the local market attributed to a sharp increase in the number of courses in the Cincinnati-Dayton area.

Recreation Director Chuck Funk said golfers are playing 5,000 to 7,000 fewer rounds annually - 12 percent to 15 percent less - than the high point five years ago at the Blue Ash course.

Until now, city leaders wanted to keep the 18-hole course on Cooper Road - rated by Golf Digest as one of the top 75 municipal courses in the nation - dry to avoid the potential of alcohol-related problems.

"We've made it clear ... to be competitive, we need to be able to offer the same amenities that most other courses offer," Funk said. He thinks adding suds to the menu will attract more golfers and corporate outings, and help the golf course pay for itself.

City officials applied for a liquor permit last month and hope to start offering bottled or canned beer in late April or early May, he said.

That's good news for Dave Tieman, a Reading resident who plays the Blue Ash course. He said he'll relish that beer after his next round there.

And, as golf director at Middletown's city golf course, he also sees it as a good business decision for Blue Ash.

"They are an oddity," Tieman said.

He isn't aware of any large municipal courses that don't offer beer, and Funk thinks Blue Ash was the lone holdout.

Beer has been available for decades at courses owned by the city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Park District.


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