By JOHN McCALLUM
New Fairways Golf Course owner Buster Heitman decided a couple months ago that the best way to protect his investments was to invest in something else.
Heitman and his wife Laura recently formed West Terrace Golf, LLC, to purchase the 144-acre, 6,541-yard course from
absentee-owner Charles Klar of Scottsdale, Ariz.
Heitman has been involved in the area the past several years, purchasing 94 lots via a development company, North Division Complex, he owns with Mike Hume and Bob Tomlinson, as well as building about 15 homes with his own company, Landmark Builders.
When word came that Klar might be closing the course, Heitman said he decided to step in and buy it.
“It wasn't in my best interest to have the golf course closed,” Heitman said. “So that's why I'm here, and I'm excited.”
Heitman has many changes and improvements in mind for the 20-year-old, 18-hole course.
One of his first moves was to name Dave Lowe, former pro at Coeur d'Alene Golf Club and past owner of the Highlands
Golf Club in Post Falls, as the Fairways director of golf, replacing John Durgan who, along with his late father Joe,
had been leasing and operating the course since its construction.
Heitman said his first major improvement would be to restore the course's condition.
“First and foremost is to make the golf course green,” he said.
The irrigation system is being upgraded, and an aeration program is planned.
Lowe said courses need aeration at least twice a year, and believes the Fairways hasn't had the procedure done in a while – something probably more of a case of Klar not wanting to invest much money into the facility.
“John and Joe Durgan, bless their hearts, they never had a chance,” Lowe said.
Without aeration, grass clippings, roots, and other organic matter combine to form thatch, which prevents water from draining down into the ground, causing runoff and dry spots.
Lowe said core samples from around the Fairways indicate a thick layer of thatch is present.
“There's a layer of thatch that deep,” Lowe said spreading his thumb and forefinger far apart. “I would say it's about three-and-a-half inches.”
Aeration, piercing the thatch with holes and creating drainage, will cure the problem.
Heitman said they will also be doing daily mowing, using hand mowers instead of power mowers on the greens, as well as regular fertilizing and improving the roughs to help the course live up to its potential.
“We want this course to be tops in your mind when you want to play golf,” he said.
Improvements to the driving range are planned, with a concrete slab to be poured and new mats added to allow all-weather practice.
Heitman said new range balls are ordered, as are new washers and 30 new carts for the course.
The Fairways exterior isn't the only place getting fixed up. Heitman plans to upgrade the pro shop, and is in the design process for a full service kitchen and future expansion of the restaurant into a year-round dining facility.
Course fees are also being lowered. Weekday rates drop to $19.50, and $23 on the weekends.
Season passes drop from $950 to $495, and Heitman said they had reached an agreement with the former owner allowing the Fairways to honor all former passes and punch cards.
“We want people having fun, and we want a full course,” Heitman said.
The changes also mean the Fairways will no longer be home to the Lilac Invitational, the 47-year-old, 72-hole tournament founded by Joe Durgan.
Heitman said a new tournament is a future possibility, but it won't replace the Lilac.
And while the Fairways are undergoing changes, some things are staying the same.
Heitman said he convinced club pro Jerry Zink, and assistant club pro, Chris Kallem to stay on, with Kallem handling tournament bookings.
Heitman said that while buying and improving the Fairways is a key component to creating a housing development centered around a golf course, he also stressed it's for all West Plains residents to use.
“We want Cheney, Medical Lake, Airway Heights, Fairchild (Air Force Base); we want this to be their local golf course,” he said.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org