MYRTLE CREEK — Besides its sheer beauty, an appealing feature of the Cougar Canyon Golf Course outside of Myrtle Creek is just how quiet it is. One brochure for the course refers to it as A Peaceful Escape.
But with the closure of the course Thursday, the scores of golfers who frequent Cougar Canyon now fear it will be too quiet.
“Everybody I talked to is just sick about it,“ said Windell Clark, who took the opportunity Wednesday to get in one last round.” It’s going to hurt us golfers, but it’s also going to hurt Myrtle Creek.”
Business was steady at the course Wednesday as Clark and others paid it a visit. An email sent out to regulars who play the course alerted them to the closure, but most said they already knew.
At first glance, it looked like business as usual at the course. The bulletin boards were full of postings for jobs, upcoming events and baked goods available in town.
But signs posted on the doors notified patrons that the course would be closed starting Thursday. “We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause,” the signs read.
Clyde Johnson, who manages the pro shop and has been working at Cougar Canyon since 2011, said he was preparing to lock the front gates Thursday.
On Wednesday, he had golf shoes listed at 50% off and was liquidating other items in the pro shop.
“No one is happy,” he said, adding that one of his tasks was tying up loose ends in billing. “I’m trying to figure out who owes us money and who we owe money to.”
The city owns Cougar Canyon, but it is managed by Myrtle Creek Links, LLC, whose registered agent is Karl Hallstrom. Hallstrom also owns Zip-O-Log Mills, Inc., in Eugene. He could not be reached for comment.
Cougar Canyon actually serves dual purposes — it offers recreation for golfers and provides plenty of land for Myrtle Creek’s treated wastewater, known as effluent.
In August, Myrtle Creek Links appeared before the city council asking for about $30,000 for improvements to the irrigation system. The council declined.
City Administrator Sean Negherbon said the city didn’t have funds budgeted for that kind of expense. Negherbon also said city officials have not heard anything officially about the closure.
“They still haven’t given us any written notice of closing or of their plans,” Negherbon said Wednesday. “We have made an offer to them that if they wish to close and sell their equipment we would buy it from them. But we have not heard anything from them.”
For golfers like Clark, who has been playing Cougar Canyon for nearly 20 years, the closure means a major disruption in his routine. He plays the course three times a week with the same group of buddies he has known for decades.
The group will now have to take golf toad trips to courses in Grants Pass, Cottage Grove and elsewhere, Clark said.
“My doctor said it’s good for me, so I gotta do it,” he said. “I’m not so good anymore, but it’s fun.”
Fellow golfer Otis Clayton said he and a couple of buddies play at least once a week. He is retired, like many regulars from the area, and playing the local course is an enjoyable way to spend time together.
“Mill workers, truckers, this is their thing. They just want to play,” Clayton said. “It’s just a heartbreaker that this is going to happen. We’re all retired. What are we supposed to do?”
Toni Smith is one of 15 employees at Cougar Canyon. She said she came to hit some balls at the course in June and walked away with a job in the clubhouse. She especially enjoys the vibe — “Everyone here is so friendly, there is no stress” — and the beauty of the course, which she calls a sanctuary.
Smith isn’t sure what she or her co-workers will do now.
“It’s been so up in the air. Now it’s finally hitting us,” she said.
Smith wiped down the glass tabletops in the clubhouse Wednesday. Underneath were dozens of letters of appreciation for various fundraisers and other charitable activities Cougar Canyon had been a part of.
There were letters from Casa De Belen in Roseburg, Boys & Girls Club of Southwestern Oregon, Douglas County Cancer Services, Coos County 4-H, South Umpqua High School, and more. Smith also recalled a wedding that took place at the course on a Sunday a few weeks ago. Everyone was so happy, she said.
For Johnson, the pro shop manager, helping out with fundraisers and other such events is just part of the job.”I’m a preachers’ kid. I was raised to help other people when you can,” he said. “That’s what we do here.”