In 1987, the Tri City Golf Course had reached a critical stage. It had been operating for 14 years, yet little money had been available to upgrade, improve or maintain the quality of the course.

But since restructuring management of the course two years ago, a major emphasis has been placed on renovating and upgrading the course - with the goal of making it challenging for the expert player while still enjoyable for the weekend player, said Gary Naylor, Tri City golf professional. And, the course fees remain among the lowest in the state."A course is never in a state of sameness," Naylor said. "It is always improving or deteriorating every day. A golf course is a living ecosystem that is forever changing. If you take the tack to just maintain a course, you will actually allow it to deteriorate. You have to constantly be upgrading it. That is where we are placing our emphasis."

Past renovations have included restructuring the layout of the course, an extensive tree-planting program and the purchase of new golf carts and course-grooming equipment. This year, a resodding project in areas adjacent to the river is being completed, a new tee box is being constructed on the eighth hole and tree planting is continuing.

Future plans include construction of a major irrigation system on the north end of the course, addition of new teeing areas, construction of a golf cart and equipment storage building, placement of strategic sand bunkers on almost every hole, and repaving the parking lot and cart paths.

"We'd like our course to be challenging and enjoyable for all levels of players," Naylor said. "We want pros to come in here and receive a stiff challenge and yet have the 30-handicapper come in and have an enjoyable round of golf. That requires that we be more in tune with the old-style course concepts to make us more easily playable and enjoyable for the weekend golfer."

The "old style" of golf course, which has "wall-to-wall greenery," is difficult to achieve in a desert state and, because of the need to irrigate the course, is expensive. Newer courses in other arid states, such as Nevada and Arizona, are being designed as target courses - featuring narrow greens and fairways surrounded by desert wasteland. The operation of such courses is more cost effective, but they are not conducive to the average weekend player because of their playing difficulty, Naylor said.

While the major renovations that have been under way at the Tri City Golf Course over the past several years have required a substantial financial investment, the course has been able to avoid increasing its fee schedule. Golfers can play a round of nine holes for $5, 18 for $10.

"The golf committee felt it was better to give the golfer a break as long as we could do it," Naylor said. "The governing body's concern is with the golf course but also with the golfer."

The operation of Tri City Golf Course is overseen by a committee made up of two appointed members from each founding city (American Fork, Lehi and Pleasant Grove) and a chairmanship that is rotated every two years among the cities. Also, a member of each city council serves on the committee.

The course will host the third Deseret Bank Open May 12-14. Interested players should contact Tri City Golf Course, 756-3594, for more information.