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Legends adds Jim McLean school

There's seemingly no end to the refinements and additions at Legends on the Niagara, the upscale 36-hole layout in Niagara Falls, Ont. The Niagara Parks Commission, which oversees Legends, announced just before Christmas a partnership with Jim McLean Golf Schools that will result in new facilities for an instructional academy. A May opening is anticipated.

McLean is an internationally recognized teacher whose golf schools dot the map, including sites at Doral in Miami and PGA West in La Quinta, Calif. He's been an instruction editor for Golf Digest since 1997 and instruction editor and adviser for The Golf Channel since its inception in 1995.

The addition of the golf school has the parks commission primed to move forward with its original plan to build on-site guest accommodations, which would turn Legends into a full-scale resort.

"Creating a full play-and-stay golf experience at Legends on the Niagara may now be feasible in light of the addition of Mr. McLean's school to our golf offerings," Chairman Jim Williams said in a release issued by the parks commission. "The school's focus will be to provide high-end instruction to clients and junior golfers, with particular expertise in teaching over a two- to three-day period."

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Arrowhead goes private

Arrowhead Golf Club, the Akron course that two years ago opened to rave reviews, has gone private. Mike Surtel, general manager at the course since July, said Arrowhead will remain a pure golf experience: no swimming pools, no monthly restaurant or beverage minimums.

"It's going well," Surtel said. "We feel we'll have 250 members by the beginning of the season."

Surtel declined to disclose the membership cap, but courses typically limit membership to 300-350 golfers.

The initiation fee at Arrowhead is $3,000. Dues are $199 a month over 12 months for an individual membership, $299 per month for couples and $349 monthly for a family. More information can be obtained by calling the course at 542-4653.

Arrowhead's move to the private ranks figures to heighten the demand for tee times at the nearby Links at Ivy Ridge, which opened July 1. If that's at all possible. Ivy Ridge General Manager Jim Fiske said the course was booked solid from its opening through the end of the natural season, and continued to experience surprisingly heavy traffic into November.

"We thought we had built a very good course but until we received reaction from the public we couldn't be sure," Fiske said.

Fiske said work on the clubhouse is about to resume, while the driving range should open near the end of the season. Rates are going up this season, from $43 to $47 on weekdays and from $48 to $53 on weekends and holidays. Early-bird specials will remain available.

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Opening delayed

Weather-related construction delays at Harvest Hill have pushed to 2007 the scheduled opening of the public course near the Orchard Park-West Seneca border.

"It's going to be a championship-quality course, we just don't want to rush it," said Fred Zillner, executive director of the First Tee kids program based on the site. "We'd rather hold off until 2007 instead of having people playing a course they know isn't quite ready yet."

Harvest Hill, located at Old Transit Road and Southwestern Boulevard, will play 7,010 yards from the tips to accommodate the technological boom of recent years. Former LPGA pro Patty Jordan will be head instructor.

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Courses make money

How's this for a remarkable turnaround? Not only will the two Erie County golf courses be open for business next season, but Grover Cleveland and Elma Meadows combined to turn a profit of about $500,000 last year, according to Erie County Parks Commissioner Angelo J. Sedita.

"First time in our lifetimes," Sedita said.

The two county courses, endangered over the years by county budget woes, have become viable, self-sufficient entities by trimming expenses, such as labor costs, and heightening revenues, primarily through its tee-time reservation system and self-administered cart rentals. The county formerly bid out its cart concession, receiving a relative pittance in return.

Sedita acknowledged the complaints are already coming in over this season's rates increases, $4 across the board for per-round play and a $50 hike, to $350, for a season pass. But Sedita notes that greens fees ($16-$19 at Elma, $14-$16 at Grover) remain on the low end for municipal courses, and that revenues generated will open the way to course improvements that usually were financially unfeasible in the past. Plus, Grover Cleveland should be in the best shape ever this season as work on a three-year, $750,000 irrigation project reaches completion.

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No change in Amherst

It will be business as usual at Town of Amherst golf courses this summer, said Anne Schiferle, director of recreation. No action has been taken on suggestions within the council that the town consider selling its regulation Audubon course and building a new layout.

e-mail: bdicesare@buffnews.com

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