ARLINGTON — Eye-catching water features, longer fairways and a new, larger clubhouse with a restaurant and banquet accommodations are part of a $16 million plan to transform an aging north Arlington golf course into a year-round destination for tourists, tournaments and even local residents who don’t swing a club.The 18-hole Chester W. Ditto Golf Course, 801 Brown Blvd., opened in 1981. Many of the municipal course’s features, from putting greens to cart paths, are overdue for replacement, city officials say. The clubhouse, which has foundation problems, is too small to host tournaments and events, and some fairways are too sloped, sending golf balls off into rocky patches beneath the trees or into unattractive storm-water detention areas, to the frustration of players.“It’s an older-style course that needs to be updated to meet modern expectations,” golf services manager Greg Durante said.The City Council could review the course’s master plan, which has been drafted over the past year, as soon as September. Funding has not been identified, though the council is considering designating at least $3 million for the course out of a proposed $236 million bond package expected to go before voters in November. Voters approved $1.5 million for renovations in the 2008 bond election.About 45,000 rounds of golf are played at Ditto each year, according to the city. The Parks and Recreation Department is hoping to better capitalize on the course’s proximity to the entertainment district, which draws about 6.5 million visitors annually, as well as the new Viridian master-planned community in north Arlington and the planned $160 million Arlington Commons apartment project set for East Lamar Boulevard.“With the redevelopment of Ditto Golf Course, we look to bring more people into Arlington … to provide other recreational opportunities for those tourists, as well as residents of Arlington, to play at a quality golf facility,” Assistant Parks Director Gary Packan said.About half of the $16 million proposal is for new clubhouse, which would have a restaurant similar to the Ventana Grille at the city-owned Tierra Verde Golf Club in southwest Arlington, as well as a 350-seat banquet facility that could host weddings, meetings and other events. The restaurant, which would be open to the public, and the banquet facility would allow the course to bring in money even when weather keeps golfers away. The city can lose up to $30,000 a day in golf revenue in bad weather, Packan said.“The expanded clubhouse gives us the diversity to generate revenue when we’re not golfing. That helps support operations,” he said.Ditto now has a small clubhouse with a snack bar that seats 12 people.Big upgradesMany improvements are also planned for the 157-acre course, including installation of modern greens to provide a smoother, faster putting surface for players. The fairways will be lengthened and reshaped, not only for more visual interest but also for better playability, Durante said. The number of tees at each hole would be increased from three to five to cater to players of all ages and skill levels, he said.Besides landscaping to provide buffers between the holes, the city wants to add more bunkers and more water features, including a 5-acre lake that could be viewed from the clubhouse.“We want to make it fun and exciting but still an opportunity for it to be a challenge,” Packan said.One of the course’s most troublesome holes is No. 15. Regular players say they know to carry an older club — a rock club — for retrieving golf balls that roll off the sloped fairway into the rocks.“You can damage a nice club pretty easily,” Jim Miller of Arlington said.‘Working man’s reach’Some residents say the course is due for improvements, but not all are sold on the projected renovation costs.“I keep asking myself, Is it really necessary to spend that kind of money on Ditto Golf Course? That is a lot of money,” said Jan Barry of Arlington, who lives nearby but doesn’t play. “In north Arlington, the most important thing we need to do is work on the streets.”Some players said they were concerned that renovations might make the course less affordable. “As far as courses in Arlington, this is the nicest one. We don’t see what’s wrong with it now,” Steve Jordan of Arlington said. “Ultimately we are for the renovations as long as it doesn’t raise our rate tremendously, as long as it doesn’t put it out of the workingman’s reach.”Packan said fees would be increased but would still be less than the city’s premier Tierra Verde Golf Club and many competing courses in the area, such as Texas Star Golf Course in Euless, which is also undergoing a makeover, and Waterchase Golf Club in east Fort Worth. Ditto’s peak weekend rate with golf cart rental, currently $39.90, may rise to $59.50, but Packan said the course will continue to offer a variety of discounted rates.“We are looking at providing a high-quality facility at a moderate price,” he said.The master plan also calls for adding a 300-yard driving range, a teaching center with a practice hole, a chipping green and a short-game area.Additionally, the sculpture in front of the clubhouse, known as The Sea, would be moved to the Meadowbrook Park sculpture garden, Packan said.
Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639 Twitter: @susanschrock