Golfers in the public sector, not to be confused with the more affluent private country club set, continue to be woefully neglected. The area has an appalling lack of facilities. There are five courses in Baltimore City, three in Baltimore County, one in Anne Arundel County and none in Harford and Howard counties.
It would seem that men and women running for office could be assisted and maybe even elected by the "golfers' vote" if they promised to build courses. The pleasing part of any such proposition is golf courses pay for themselves and return funds to government.
The most golf-conscious county executive Maryland has ever had is Dale Anderson, who headed Baltimore County from 1966 to 1974. Now retired and living in Queen Anne's County, Anderson believes the metropolitan area -- Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard -- could use from six to 10 more courses.
Anderson built the last two public courses in Baltimore County -- Rocky Point and Diamond Ridge -- during his administration and sparked the vote for Longview, the original layout, while he was a county councilman. Rocky Point will host 70,000 or more rounds of golf this year and the other two will each show in excess of 60,000.
"When we built them, there were complaints, in the council and from constituents, that such funding was foolhardy," Anderson recalled. "But we proved they could make money almost from the day they opened. And they are still making money. I'm extremely pleased to have been responsible in leading the way for the creation of those courses. And I'll take the credit.
"Why at Diamond Ridge and Rocky Point, I even discovered the locations. I was at a party at Carl Santer's and looked across the horizon and saw what turned out to be Diamond Ridge. I remember saying 'What a great place for a golf course.' I told Hubert Snyder, who was director of parks and recreation, to see what he could do about the county acquiring the land."
At Rocky Point, which has been in existence for 20 years and passed the million-round milestone this summer, Anderson personally put the deal together to buy the Page farm and also property from the adjoining Porter's beach property. "As I recall, the whole thing was bought and built for around $1 million, but it has more than paid for itself by the fees of the golfers. I wanted to build another course somewhere near Sparrows Point but the steel company owned the ground and wouldn't sell it at what was thought to be a fair price."
Since Anderson left Baltimore County, three subsequent county executives -- Ted Venetoulis, Donald Hutchinson and Dennis Rasmussen -- have talked about building more courses but that's all it has been -- talk. Nothing has happened. Stories are told of environmentalists slowing the plans, but golfers point to what Anderson accomplished and can't understand why his successors have been non-productive.
"Funny thing," said Anderson, "I birdied that tough 226-yard par-3 14th hole the first week Rocky Point opened. And I did it again last week. Golf provides pleasure for men, women and children. It's a sure investment for the county and even if you aren't a golfer you have to agree the landscape is enhanced by the appearance of green fairways, trees, and lakes.
"My real joy is in realizing those courses I was responsible for building in Baltimore County have provided so much pleasure. Why some men never touched a golf club until they were retired and 65 years of age. They started to play golf and it gave them a hobby they would otherwise have been denied. I'm pleased I played a part in cultivating such an interest."
Anderson believes taxpayers deserve the opportunity to have nature trails, tennis and basketball courts, jogging, walking and bicycle tracks, marinas and, yes, golf courses, built for their benefit. But residents in Harford and Howard counties, lacking a single course, crowd Longview, Diamond Ridge and Rocky Point. They even complain about how difficult it is to get a tee time and about the congestion they encounter on the course once they are there.
A surcharge could be assessed out-of-county residents since they are enjoying golf in adjoining counties without having any financial obligation. When golfers who know of Anderson's contributions see him, they occasionally express thanks but, he says, they don't go so far as to offer three strokes a side.