June 04, 2002 11:00 pm

Buffalo Peak Golf Course needs time to develop a player base more than it needs the "drastic changes'' recommended by a recent analysis of the course's first year of operation. What Buffalo Peak needs is to find a way to make sure that a lot of people come to recognize it for the gem that it is.

BUFFALO PEAK has made several changes since it opened for its first full season in 2001. The course was daunting then. The fairways were narrow, the rough was really rough and long, blind shots were more common than at many courses, and it was dusty and dirty. But since those first few months a year ago, the course has made several significant changes to ease the playing field. Anyone who has played the course a few times has come to realize it isn't as tough as it first seemed.

The community of Union and the region needs a public course in Union County. The county has taken over management of the course and is in the process of trying to make it financially viable. Neither the county nor local golfers should give up on the course. Buffalo Peak is a recreational opportunity that Union County needs, and it can be an attraction that will help both the community of Union and the county as a whole. But it's going to take some time to get it to the point of breaking even. All good things take time.

BUFFALO PEAK NEEDS a good local and regional marketing program and affordable rates. The course's bread and butter will be local golfers or local folks who want to take up the game. The course has a nice driving range and lessons are available for those learning the game or who want to improve. Local golfers are the ones who will have to keep the course afloat, so it's essential the course has several pricing options available that make playing there reasonable.

The secondary target market should be people from nearby counties. Golfers in Wallowa County, Baker County, Umatilla County and even Grant County could be enticed to drive a few miles to play a round of golf. They simply need to know that Buffalo Peak offers an opportunity unlike the courses in their communities — and does so at a reasonable price.

THE BIGGEST LONGSHOT for Buffalo Peak would be to try to entice golfers from afar. Making sure people know about the course is one thing, but spending mega bucks to market the course in the Willamette Valley would be foolish. The return on investment wouldn't be there.

Buffalo Peak needs to entice local people to come out and play — not only on weekends, but after work. It only takes a couple of hours to play nine holes. An evening spent on the course can be relaxing and fun for an entire family — if the price is right.

Union County officials should be commended for their commitment to make Buffalo Peak successful. The county needs a public golf course. As a community we should do all we can to help see that Buffalo Peak succeeds.