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(June 14, 2008 publication, page 65)
Saving the Classics, One Course at a Time
By: Bradley S. Klein
Dan Bergman loves old urban munis. The kind you line up for at 4 a.m. to get a tee time. Where the regulars come from all sorts of demographic and ethnic backgrounds. Where the golf courses, even if they’re on the short side and a little (or a lot) worse for wear, have quirky features that favor players with local knowledge.
A successful business real estate lawyer based in Woodland Hills, Calif., Bergman 56, grew up in west Los Angeles, where he learned golf from his father at Rancho Park Golf Course, one of the city’s legendary tracks. His experiences there and at other local munis such as Griffith Park and Baldwin Hills made a powerful impression. Now he wants to make sure that future generations of golfers can enjoy those traditional munis, which is why he has created a foundation, “Keep It Classic,” to rescue historic city-owned courses.
With the help of two golf course architects, Bergman is searching the country for willing and worthy beneficiaries of his tax-free, 501(c)(3) organization. The plan is to select one or two courses at a time, develop a master plan, implement restorations, provide a complete owner’s manual of maintenance and operation specifications, and make sure the course is preserved for future public access.
Golf architects Forrest Richardson of Phoenix and Mark Fine of Allentown, Pa., have signed on to provide initial design analysis of candidate courses. In addition to doing course designs and redesigns, the two are co-authors of an architecture book, “Bunkers, Pits & Other Hazards.” Bergman says it was clear that Richardson and Fine “understood that this is about long-term maintenance, about city pride and ownership, about old-fashioned values and an ethics program for Kids as well as the public.”
They’re also working with Bill Kubly, CEO of Landscapes Unlimited, one of the country’s leading golf course construction firms. Together, they are pursuing a four-step program of identifying dozens of historic public and municipal courses that are possible candidates. A handful will be targeted for preliminary architectural assessments. Next would be meetings with town officials and key course decision makers to pursue funding grants through the Keep It Classic Foundation. Selected courses would get a complete renovation as well as an owner’s manual detailing course operations, maintenance standards, and benchmarks for developing junior golf programs.
Bergman said the restoration work would be tied to having a viable business model for each course helped by the foundation. With the capital improvement and architectural program provided, the goal would be for the course to enjoy revived play and another opportunity to make a go of it as a feasible business while providing affordable public access to all age groups.
Financing would come through major corporate underwriting, in-kind construction services and private donations, which Bergman is soliciting directly and through the foundation’s Web site (www.keepitclassic.org).
Attention already has been focused on several high-profile municipal and public layouts in need of renovation. Among the courses being considered for the program are Griffith Park in Los Angeles, Balboa Park in San Diego, Cobbs Creek in Philadelphia and Oakmont East in Oakmont, Pa. ◦