An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

HomeNewsArticle Display

Vandenberg golf course faces changes in search of financial relief

After close to a decade of losing money, mainly due to skyrocketing water prices -- Vandenberg's Marshallia Ranch Golf Course is requiring immediate intervention to remain open. With the course's very existence hanging in the balance, Marshallia Ranch employees encourage members of Team V to at least give the course a chance and try to utilize it as much as possible.

After close to a decade of losing money, mainly due to skyrocketing water prices -- Vandenberg's Marshallia Ranch Golf Course is requiring immediate intervention to remain open. With the course's very existence hanging in the balance, Marshallia Ranch employees encourage members of Team V to at least give the course a chance and try to utilize it as much as possible.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

After close to a decade of losing money, mainly due to skyrocketing water prices -- Vandenberg’s Marshallia Ranch Golf Course is requiring immediate intervention to remain open. 

With the inability to predict California’s current drought drastically affecting water prices, Vandenberg leadership entered into a contract for state provided water, in 1992.

“The golf course has been losing money for nearly 10 consecutive years,” said Col. J. Christopher Moss, 30th Space Wing commander. “At our current loss rate the golf course is going to be bankrupt in one to two years. The primary reason for this is the increasing cost of state provided water. If we do not take immediate action, we will lose this course.”

Although the Air Force provides substantial budgets for mission-related programs through appropriated funds, profit-making organizations like golf courses have to be funded through a separate allocation of money known as non-appropriated funds.

“By law, the Air Force may not use appropriated funds to support golf courses,” said Moss. “Appropriated funds are the funds we get in the Air Force to do our mission, so the money we spend launching rockets is from a different pot of money from what we’re allowed to use for things like golf courses. Instead, all of our funding for the golf course has to come from what we call non-appropriated funds. Non-appropriated funds come to us from the profit making activities we do at the 30th Space Wing. For example, the bowling alley and our Outdoor Recreation make some profit and those profits go into a single pot of money we call non-appropriated funds. All of the expenses of the golf course have to be covered by those non-appropriated funds.”

Without immediate intervention, the course’s operating costs would have serious ramifications impacting more than golf, but could affect all base morale activities which rely on non-appropriated funds.

“If the wing’s non-appropriated funds are depleted, we will have no money to fund any morale activities on the base,” said Moss. “The operating costs at Marshallia have risen dramatically over the past 10 years. Water is the primary reason for this cost increase. In 1992, the base entered into a contract with the state of California for us to buy our water from the state provided water system. Since 1999, our water cost is up more than 500 percent. Last year we spent $270,000 just on water. This year, our rates went up by another 30 percent. So, if we don’t do anything different we will spend $400,000 just to water the golf course – and that $400,000 has to come from non-appropriated funds.”

Despite an increase in revenue at the course over the years, the soaring water prices have negated any kind of actual profit.

“The water cost has really increased over the past few years,” said George Stiles, 30th Force Support Squadron golf course superintendent. “It’s very expensive to maintain the course. It does bring in quite a bit of money, but we just can’t compensate for the increase in water prices.”

In an effort to mitigate water costs and save the course, Vandenberg’s current leadership even attempted to get approval for a pipeline project which would funnel the base’s well-water to the golf course. The project, however, was denied due to financial infeasibility.

“We have gone through a proposal to petition the Air Force to help us build a water pipeline and pumping project to access our own wells,” said Moss. “With the thought that if we can tap into our well-water it would be significantly cheaper than the state water. Here’s the problem, this project would support a golf course which means it can only be funded by non-appropriated funds. The cost of the project was estimated at about three-million dollars. Across the Air Force, non-appropriated funds are scarce these days and three-million dollars is a very significant investment. We submitted the proposal which went all the way up to our instillation management command. They did a full analysis and came back and said they don’t support the project because the return on the investment wouldn’t meet the congressionally mandated limits for what constitutes an approvable project.”

With the course’s very existence hanging in the balance, Marshallia Ranch employees encourage members of Team V to at least give the course a chance and try to utilize it as much as possible.  

“I know people aren’t golfing as much as they used to, but it’s really a safe and relaxed atmosphere where anyone can come, bring their families and friends, and just enjoy their off-duty time,” said Stiles. “This course also has a lot of great history, we’ve hosted various golf championships in the past. It’s really one of the best courses in the entire Air Force. It has a great layout, it’s just fallen on hard times because of the high cost of water. It’s vital for people come and support the course – now more than ever.”

Wing leadership intends to fight, employing numerous adjustments in an effort to keep the course functioning and preserve one of Vandenberg’s vital recreational options.

“We need to implement some emergency actions in an effort to save the course,” said Moss. “We have ceased all watering on the fairways and tee boxes. We will continue to water and maintain the greens. Our intent is to install artificial turf on the tee boxes and we’re looking at installing artificial turf on each hole that would serve as a par-three distance. We will reduce our maintenance staff, reduce the pro shop and clubhouse hours as well as implement a new pricing structure. We’ve worked very hard to make the course profitable, but the current losses are putting the course and the overall Vandenberg morale fund on a path to bankruptcy. Our goal is to continue to provide a golfing experience here at Marshallia while we look for solutions to be able to access water and allow us to maintain the course in the way you are used to, but is also affordable.”