This former PGA Tour (and current Champions) course is the source of a tug-of-war between county and village

An outdated irrigation system at En-Joie Golf Club in Endicott has sparked a debate over the course’s future management and ownership.

At a press conference on the En-Joie grounds, Broome County Executive Jason Garnar was joined by Chairman of the Broome County Legislature Dan Reynolds and En-Joie employees Thursday afternoon. At the event, Garnar announced the county, which manages but does not own the golf course, has ordered a study to be conducted by Ramboll Engineering, which will determine the full price of the system’s replacement.

According to Garnar, the county has offered to assume ownership of the property from the Village of Endicott, citing the county’s increased budget, which he says will create the ability to fix problems as they arise.

Endicott Mayor Nick Burlingame, who says neither he or any Endicott representative was invited to the press conference, held a media availability event shortly after in response. He said the village will be ordering its own assessment from another engineering firm in order to identify the condition of the course and potentially appraise and review management operations.

Chairman of the Broome County Legislature Dan Reynolds and Broome County Executive Jason Garnar speak at a press conference at En-Joie Golf Club. (Photo: Riccardo Monico, Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin)

What is wrong with the En-Joie Golf Club irrigation system?

According to Garnar, the course has been managed by the county for 17 years, through multiple executives and governments. The irrigation system requires a complete replacement, he said, as the system is over 70 years old.

Burlingame, who spoke at the Endicott Municipal Building following the county press conference, said the village was first made aware of an engineering firm’s recommended upgrades to the irrigation system by the county in February, but the report the recommendations were based on was never shared.

“The village immediately requested a copy of the engineering study, so that the Board of Trustees could review it and make an informed decision on how best to proceed,” said Burlingame. “To date, the village has not received a copy of the engineering report from the county. When we receive the report from the county we will analyze our options and it will allow us an opportunity to get public comment. We want the Endicott community to weigh in so we can make an informed decision based on their wishes.”

Endicott Mayor Nick Burlingame addresses the media regarding the future of En-Joie Golf Club. (Photo: Riccardo Monico, Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin)

According to Sullivan Murphy, who works closely with the irrigation system in his capacity as golf course superintendent, the current irrigation system is extremely outdated and has already received seven repairs this year, totaling thousands of dollars

Currently, the golf club’s irrigation system uses an average of 10 million gallons of water from Endicott’s only water well per year. In June 2023, Endicott issued a water conservation advisory due to low water levels. The advisory ran from June 1-23, and encouraged residents not to fill up pools, wash cars or water lawns, though Burlingame said residents were not asked to stray from their ordinary lives and the village has never been in a critical situation with water to date.

The village is actively working on getting another water well online, Burlingame said, but the process will take time.

According to Garnar, the new irrigation system could pull water from a different source, such as the Endicott Waste Water Treatment Plant or the Susquehanna River.

“It is our desired intention as we construct this new irrigation system that we will use water from those sources, not from the last remaining water well in Endicott, freeing up tens of million of water,” said Garnar.

Future of Dick’s Open at En-Joie

Garnar and Burlingame both brought up the importance of the Dick’s Sporting Good’s Open for the village and the county, and expressed their commitment to maintaining En-Joie’s quality to ensure the tournament continues.

The 2024 Dick’s Open tournament events run from June 17-23.

According to Reynolds, the total cost to replace the irrigation system could be up to $6 million. Garnar said the offer was intended to help the village, citing multiple county projects over the past few years meant to help Endicott, including the demolition of the former Red Carpet Inn across the street from the course.

Garnar said that the village could not sell the course to a private entity, given its status as a park, but would be able to give the county ownership of the course. According to Reynolds, paying for the work through grants or bonds would negatively impact taxpayers in the area.

Reynolds and Burlingame both said the engineering studies will likely finish around the end of the year.

Burlingame said that the Board of Trustees has not ruled out any option, including transferring ownership to the county, but want to first explore every option.

“The county asking us to hand over the golf course with zero information is negligent — maybe even grossly negligent,” said Burlingame. “We can’t make an informed decision, an educated decision, we can’t represent the taxpayers, we can’t represent the community without having all the facts on hand.”

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek