PROVO — Yes, Tiger, you can golf in Provo on Sunday.

And now it's cheaper than playing any other day of the week.

The city that closes its swimming pool on the day considered the Sabbath by the area's prevailing religion is raising greens fees across the board at The Reserve at East Bay — but slashing them for Sunday play.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to bump greens fees up $2 for play Monday through Saturday, pushing the rate for 18 holes on Fridays and Saturdays to $26.

The vote also created a new category for Sunday play, cutting an 18-hole round from $24 to $20.

The new Sabbath discount slipped right past the man who took all the heat when he closed the pool on Sundays.

"I didn't notice that," said City Council chairman George Stewart, who in his first month as mayor 13 years ago also proposed closing the golf course on Sundays.

Stewart never did close the course, but he did close the swimming pool on Sundays in 1994, a decision that still stands.

"My preference would be for the golf course to be closed on Sunday," Stewart told the Deseret Morning News on Friday. "I wasn't able to get the parks and recreation board to support that while they did support closing the pool on Sunday."

Stewart backs Sunday closures based on his perception of the community standard. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches members not to recreate on Sunday, and sports teams at church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo refuse to play on Sunday.

The NCAA accommodates BYU's ban on Sunday play, as it does for several other colleges and universities. Stewart also pointed to Loma Linda, Calif., where mail is delivered Sunday through Friday in a largely Seventh-Day Adventist community.

Stewart isn't bothered by the Sunday golf discount, though, and didn't think the council would have voted differently if it had been discussed.

"It used to be one of the course's better days and now it isn't. They're just trying to increase their share of the golfers who do play on Sunday."

East Bay is losing golfers and bleeding money. Rounds played fell from 76,988 in 2004 to 69,469 the next year and 61,122 last year.

City leaders attribute much of the drop to a glut of golf courses in Utah Valley. Nationally and locally, golf experts believe a rebound is on the horizon.

"We feel the future for golf in Utah County is bright," Provo finance director John Borget told the City Council. "We actually had a good season this fall. The weather was nice, and our revenues for the fall exceeded our revenues for the fall of 2005."

Stewart hopes the otherwise slightly higher prices, which golfers have already signaled they'll pay and match hikes at other area courses, will help stem course losses.

Revenue fell from $771,000 in 2004 to $651,297 last year. The City Council has had to subsidize the losses out of the general fund, Stewart said.

"It needs to pay its own way," he said. "The golf course is losing substantial amounts of money."

The new fees raised the cost of season passes for Provo residents by $25 to $35 and created a new category for non-residents, who will now pay $65 to $75 more for a season pass.

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"Several courses in Utah Valley have resident and nonresident fees," Borget told the council. "We're doing it only for our season passes. We looked at doing it for all our fees, but we determined it would be difficult to administer."

The new season passes now cover the entire year. Previously, the passes weren't valid if weather was good enough to play between December 1 and March 1.

Golf cart rates will rise a dollar to $7 for nine holes and from $12 to $14 for 18 holes.

A bucket of medium range balls will cost $5.50 instead of $4. A large bucket will be $9 instead of $7.


E-mail: twalch@desnews.com