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Lawmakers debate new golf course

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A proposed new golf course next to the Olympic biathlon course in Midway could present some interesting challenges to golfers who can't keep their golf balls in bounds.

They could be met with gun shots, lawmakers joked Wednesday.

Biathlon, a sport that combines skiing and shooting, and golf are compatible, assured Sen. David Steele, R-West Point. "The (biathlon) shooting range was designed to keep in mind a future golf course," he said.

Steele is the sponsor of SB65 that would allocate a $12 million revenue bond to build a 36-hole golf course at Soldier Hollow, the 2002 Winter Games' venue for biathlon and cross-country skiing events located near the southern edge of Wasatch Mountain State Park.

The proposal was advanced to the Senate floor Wednesday by the Senate Energy, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee.

Supporters say a golf course would be profitable after its first year, making it possible to pay back the bond in 20 years. Despite a number of golf courses already in the area, supporters say the demand is there and financial success is certain.

"The golf course is the economic engine of Wasatch State Park," said Steele. "One of our largest supporters is the Homestead, which already has an 18-hole golf course."

A market analysis shows there's a demand for another golf course in the area, he added.

"The feasibility study is driving this pursuit," Steele said.

Currently Wasatch Mountain Golf Course is overbooked, said Robyn Pearson, head of the economic development for the Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce. The course draws requests for six tournaments a day but only can accommodate one, he added.

That's not surprising to former Rep. Ray Short, a golf enthusiast.

"It's a place where people do come," he said. "I've played over 100 courses in the world, and I'm always thrilled to go back to Wasatch."

Yet the proposed new golf course would be designed for beginners and professionals, Pearson said.

"We don't want to replicate other courses but add diversity," he said. "We want a youth-friendly golf course but provide professionals a challenging lay out for tournament play."

E-mail: donna@desnews.com