For Heritage High School golf coach Dwight Patterson, the issue is pretty simple.
“Clark County needs more golf courses,” he said.
The problem is that the county has three fewer golf courses than it had last summer.
In the past six months, two nine-hole course — Lakeview in east Vancouver and Hartwood near Brush Prairie — as well as 18-hole Cedars on Salmon Creek near Brush Prairie have all closed.
And that has caused a crunch on the remaining courses in the county, especially for high school girls golf teams.
“It’s amazing to think that pretty much every high school golf team in the county is playing on just three courses,” Patterson said. “And one of those three is a nine-hole executive course.”
Union and Camas play their matches at Camas Meadows.
Mountain View, Evergreen and Hockinson are playing matches at Fairway Village.
And that leaves seven programs — Skyview, Columbia River, Prairie, Battle Ground, Heritage, Ridgefield and La Center — playing matches at Tri-Mountain.
The outliers are Washougal, which plays at Orchard Hills, and King’s Way Christian, which can play once a week at Club Green Meadows.
Green Meadows was Heritage’s home course, but the club announced this spring that it could accommodate only one high school team on one day a week. That spot went to King’s Way.
Prairie coach Paul Shapard has been coaching high school golf for 33 years, and he has called this spring the craziest season that he could remember.
“We’re at a different place every day, either for practice or playing,” Shapard said. “And every place we go costs money. Luckily, I had a good situation with Cedars for years that didn’t cost us very much, so I’ve been able to squirrel away some money. But that won’t last forever.”
Girls golf teams this spring have been allowed to use the Stableford scoring system to shorten matches, which has helped the schedule.
In the Stableford scoring system, a player scores points based on how few strokes the player needs to complete the hole. Once a player cannot score any points on a hole — usually at three strokes over par — the player picks up the ball and moves to next hole.
“We have some players who could take 10-plus strokes on every hole,” Shapard said. “So without Stableford — with teams playing right in front of each other on the same day — we could be out playing until midnight.”
In the past, Clark County high school golf teams would head to Portland to play. But teams have been more reluctant to do that in recent years.
“Once you start talking about Portland, you’ll have people saying ‘oh, we can’t go over that bridge,’ ” Shapard said.
But the travel to Portland presents a timing problem for Clark County teams, especially in the early weeks of the spring season in late February and early March.
“We had an offer to make Glendoveer (in Portland) our home course,” Patterson said. “But we get out of school at 3:10 p.m. And by the time we would get over there to play, it would be close to 4 p.m. And then it starts to get dark pretty early in those weeks before the time change.”
The other problem with Oregon courses in the spring is that Oregon high schools play both boys and girls seasons in the spring.
“We called Heron Lakes (in Portland), but they told us they already had five high school teams playing there,” Patterson said.
Up in Cowlitz County, it’s a different story where Kelso, Mark Morris and R.A. Long each play on their own home course — Three Rivers, Longview Country Club and Mint Valley.
“Playing on your home course is a big deal,” Shapard said. “When we played at Cedars, other teams didn’t want to play us, because we played so much better on a course we were familiar with.”
Next week, Prairie has a match against rival Battle Ground. Normally, that match would be played at The Cedars, which used to be the home course for both schools.
Now, the match will take place at Three Rivers in Kelso.
“We’re going to play our normal nine-hole match with Battle Ground, and then we’ll get in another nine holes for practice,” Shapard said. “Plus, the district tournament will be played at Three Rivers, so we wanted to get the girls familiar with that course.”
Patterson said he is thankful that Royal Oaks Country Club has offered its driving range to Heritage for practice once a week. He also has an offer to play at Skamania Lodge’s new nine-hole course.
“They totally revamped their course, and I think they want people to see it,” Patterson said. “But I’m waiting for a sunny day before taking them up on that offer.”
But offers like those only make a small dent into solving the problem.
“And no one is even talking about what happens on April 25,” Shapard said. “That’s when the boys can start practicing again to get ready for the bi-district tournament.”
The high school boys golf season is played in the fall in Southwest Washington. But 4A and 3A golfers qualify for state through a bi-district tournament with District 3 in May because District 3 plays boys golf in the spring.
The postseason for the girls begins May 10-11 when the 4A and 3A district tournaments will be played. But the next couple of weeks will be a scramble — no golf pun intended — for girls golfers to find time to practice and play in Clark County.