On Nov. 15, the doors to the White Sands Missile Range Golf Course, a facility that has been running for 54 years, officially closed its doors.
Von Weddington, WSMR Golf Course manager, has been working at the golf course for his entire civilian career. The course will still be watered and cut to become a “green space” for the installation.
“It’s a little bit sentimental for (me) because this is like (my) home,” he said.
Weddington has a lot of fond memories working at the shop and has learned the rich history of the course from previous managers. His favorite story is when Rich Beem, a 2002 Professional Golf Association Champion, learned how to play golf with his father Larry Beem in the mid-70s. Larry, who worked as the golf course manager at the time, would bring his son to the WSMR golf course on his days off.
At one point the golf course had a restaurant but the shop moved over to the Frontier Club for two years and the restaurant became a conference room. Weddington said the move to the Frontier club was the then Garrison Commander’s effort, at the time, to make the golf course more appealing and easy to access. Two more holes were added to the course near the club, making the WSMR course the only Army golf course with 11 holes. Six years ago the shop moved back to its original location but the restaurant never returned.
Weddington said he has seen everything from holes in one, albatross, snake bites, people accidentally being hit in the head by golf clubs and a shift in wildlife. He said at first the course was teeming with deer, then skunks and now javelinas. There are always oryx tracks on the course as well.
“They’ve all taken over the golf course at one point,” he said.
Weddington, who retired from the Army as a Command Sergeant Major, will be retiring with the golf course, at the end of the month. Weddington said he will remember the golf course as a great place for the workforce, community members, retirees and people who were just passing through to meet and enjoy a round of golf together. He said he has met the most interesting people at this golf course.
“We’ve gained some new members and lost some good members along the way,” he said. “We’re all really sad to see it go. It was good while it lasted.”
According to Weddington, almost every guest who visited the course would comment on how serene the location was and how well kept the golf course was. He said most people would say it was the best golf course they have used.
“This is one of the quieter golf courses you’ll ever find,” he said. “We’re right at the base of the mountains, you can’t beat the scenery. We always called it the best kept secret in New Mexico.”
The golf course’s last event took place Nov. 9. Some members of the workforce and surrounding community played a round of golf together for the last time and received a free turkey at the end of the event.
WSMR Family Morale Welfare and Recreation Director Steve Zagar was one of the WSMR employees who went to play a round of golf for the last time. He said he was a frequent customer of the golf course and is sad to see it go.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s been directed to close because they have the best greens in the area,” Zagar said. “The scenery and its beauty is unsurpassed.”
In a recent Community Information Exchange held at WSMR’s Post Theater Nov. 7 WSMR Garrison Commander Col. Dave Brown said the site will still be watered and cut so the wildlife in the area can remain. However, Brown said the current budget does not allow for them to manicure the site and have it remain open.
The course officially closed down Nov. 15. A final decision on the future of the “green space,” is scheduled for March 2017.