Local residents to take back Aspen Golf Course after many were turned away | AspenTimes.com

Local residents to take back Aspen Golf Course after many were turned away

In response to increased popularity of the sport, city officials contemplating qualification system that prioritizes valley residents

Steve Rocco Skiff, left, and Chad Cornish play on the front nine of Aspen Golf Club on Thursday, July 16, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Local residents will have the first shot at getting season passes in 2022 at the Aspen municipal golf course after many were turned away this year.

The golf advisory board voted last week to prioritize pass sales to residents who live in communities from Carbondale to Aspen.

“The issue is we had at least 130 people on the other side of the door this year that didn’t get a golf pass,” said Steve Aitken, director of golf. “Some of these folks are true locals and so to get one step better, and it’s not a perfect world, essentially we’ve got more people that want to play this golf course than we can accommodate.”

There were dozens of people who were turned away from playing golf this past season when pass sales were capped in response to overcrowded of tee sheets in 2020.

More than 100 individuals were shut out March 1, the day they went on sale, and many of them had been playing the municipal track for 20 or 30 years and felt slighted when they were locked out.

Chalk it up to the pandemic, the effects of which had people more interested in outdoor and recreational activities, and the influx of wealthy individuals who bought property here and took advantage of the municipal pass prices.

A subcommittee of the golf board met twice to review the issue and considered two qualification systems, one based on voter registration and the other showing proof of residency with a driver’s license.

“In discussions it became apparent that voter registration, although being very good to qualify a resident, the problem is you can change your voter registration pretty easily compared to a driver’s license,” Aitken said. “So the whole subcommittee decided that the driver’s license is the best way to go on this as far as qualifying people.”

Austin Weiss, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said the qualification process will begin next month, after it’s presented to Aspen City Council for review.

“As we collect the data, we will have a better understanding of where these people are coming from,” he said of the demand of future pass sales.

City officials have been able to obtain software that can qualify people with a driver’s license and that will be accessible to the public for pre-registration in the coming months, leading up pass sales March 1.

Some members of the public, including Aspen resident and Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, said it’s too easy to change your driver’s license and people should qualify as registered voters in the area.

Don Wrigley, chairman of the advisory board, said the qualification system will be reviewed annually.

“We will do an analysis of the passes and how they are being used,” he said. “We went through so much data with the help of the city and data analysis trying to determine a reasonable approach to qualify people, and there’s no perfect system and we have to start somewhere.”

Season pass sales this year amounted to $715,000 in revenue for the golf course, while daily greens fees were $430,000.

Pass prices are set to increase for next year, with the biggest hike on the most expensive one, the platinum, which is going up to $2,250, a 6.7% difference from 2021.

“That’s one of the passes where it’s fairly underpriced compared to our competition and we didn’t want to take it up a whole lot,” Aitken said.

Gold passes are going up 3.8%; Silver passes, 3.4%; and the Twlight pass, 6.6%. Junior passes are set to increase 5.3% and the college pass, 3.4%.

The 10 18-hole punch pass will remain at $690 with no increase, but the ability to pay for just nine holes is no longer available due to the golf course software system’s inability to track half of a round.

“All of these passes we felt really strongly that they hold the same value they had in the past,” Aitken said. “We were very price sensitive on these increases.”