Golfers visiting Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority's three area courses, including one in Lorton, may soon be able to enjoy a cold beer after playing a round.

Park authority officials say the lack of beer at their courses has sent some golfers to other public and private courses in the area. They also believe the authority's plans to sell beer will make its courses more competitive, attracting more tournaments and other events--and thus more revenue--to the park system.

"Golfers have been asking for it--when people come off the course, they want something cold to drink," said Jean R. Packard, one of Fairfax County's representatives on the Park authority board.

Packard notes that the Fairfax County Park Authority, for example, has sold beer at some of its area courses for years. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority is one of the few in the state to not sell beer. Packard hopes the new policy to sell beer will woo some golfers back to the regional courses.

"Frankly, it will help our financial situation," she said. "Golf courses are high revenue producers, and we're always looking for ways to increase our revenue. This seemed a logical way of doing that."

Beer will be sold at the courses at Pohick Bay in Lorton, Brambleton in Ashburn and Algonkian in Sterling, possibly beginning next spring. Sales and consumption of beer at the parks will be restricted to certain areas, such as the clubhouse or snack bar.

About 80 percent of the Regional Park Authority's operating funds are self-generated, authority officials say, and they depend on moneymaking ventures like the golf courses and swimming pools.

"The money we get from the courses funds things like nature centers and museums--operations that don't operate in the black," said Jack Robey, the authority's director of operations.

Robey said the board has been talking about selling beer at its courses for years, but that it was only recently that a real need arose from the increased competition from other area courses.

"We've always experienced golfers requesting beer. We're one of the few courses in the state that doesn't offer this service," Robey said. "But of late, we've experienced a lot more competition from some of the new courses in the area, and we've been trying to offer our golfers some amenities to compete. This is just one more thing we can offer golfers that is equal to that which they'd get at the other courses."

The park authority board adopted a new alcohol policy in January 1998 allowing beer sales at the three courses. The board was scheduled last week to approve an operating plan for how the beer would be sold but was forced to delay the vote until September because not enough board members were present to establish a quorum.

Algonkian, which has a conference center and is used for activities such as wedding receptions, will be allowed to serve other kinds of alcohol in addition to beer.

After adopting an operations plan, the authority will be able to establish a corporation that will be able to apply for a vendor license from the state Alcohol Beverage Control office.

If the operations plan is approved in September, officials expect to begin selling beer at the courses by mid-March 2000.

Board members said they have not heard of any problems at courses that already serve beer to golfers and thus believe it's time for the regional authority to join the crowd.

The Regional Park Authority represents the counties of Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun, and the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax City. It is governed by a board of 12 members who are appointed by the member jurisdictions. The authority governs 19 regional parks featuring golf courses, swimming, hiking and other activities.

"From my point of view, most public and government-owned courses already provide beer--the customers expect it," said Joan G. Rokus, a Loudoun County representative on the board. "In what I've heard from staff, there is no track record of abuse at the other courses like Herndon, Fairfax and Prince William. The demand has been there for some time."