By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer
WEST CHESTER TWP. - Township officials are negotiating with operators of a popular golf course to keep an adjacent practice range open.
The tee to the driving range at Beckett Ridge Golf and Country Club off Beckett Ridge Boulevard likely will be moved back 50 to 60 yards from where it now sits on a ridge overlooking the township's newly acquired Beckett Park below.
The driving range has existed since the course opened in 1975. However, the township officials have begun developing the 150-acre Beckett Park below it. They are concerned by the possibility of a flying ball striking someone.
"I am still concerned about that, but they assure me they will put up 20-foot high nets all over that area to keep children out," Trustee Catherine Stoker said.
In 2001, when the township took possession of the land below the golf course that has become Beckett Park, the deal included the six-acre piece used as the driving range.
In 2001 and 2002, the driving range was closed for the first time since opening in 1975 with the 169-acre golf course that straddles Beckett Ridge Boulevard.
But this year, the township permitted the golf course operators to open the driving range. And golf course officials are eager to keep it open permanently, saying it's a key part of their business.
At times, the driving range has been used by up to 100 people a day, said Craig Fanning, chief executive operator and co-owner of Beckett Ridge Country Club.
"A golf course today without a driving range is definitely at a disadvantage," Fanning said. "If you don't have a driving range, you are not able to practice.
"It minimizes your lesson capabilities and your junior programs," he said. "The practice element is becoming stronger and stronger as part of the overall game. Golfers are spending more and more time practicing than ever before."
In exchange for keeping the driving range open, Fanning said he has agreed to let the township use one of the golf course's wells for free to water the park.
The water also will go to lakes planned at the park.
But now township leaders want the golf course to buy and give to the township 12 acres that a church owns in the middle of Beckett Park's Union Centre Boulevard edge.
"We are hoping the golf course owner, the township and the church can work out some kind of arrangement so everyone will be satisfied," Stoker said.
Fanning, however, said that suggestion is "a new one on me."
"We aren't sure we can afford that," he said, adding that the golf course already will pay $60,000 to move the driving range tee back and thousands more to address the other requests.
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