Golf course traffic continues with record congestion. Getting to the first tee is a slow, painful process, not to mention the aggravation that comes later, caused by slow play and compounded with bad shots. The chorus cry is to use open space and build more public facilities.
In the count of public courses, Baltimore City has five, Baltimore County three and Anne Arundel one. Howard County, Carroll County and Harford County have no courses owned by the jurisdictions. That's appalling.
In Harford County, outside Bel Air, there is Geneva Farms, a public course that is receiving positive reaction. But it is owned by individuals, not the county. When it comes to municipal golf -- where local governments build the courses and maintain them -- Howard, Carroll and Harford counties have ignored the golfers within their constituencies.
Eugene Hicks, a golfer who believes county leaders should show consideration to ease the burden, cites figures that show Baltimore County has 18 courses, only three of which are public -- Rocky Point, Longview and Diamond Ridge. "In nearby Pennsylvania, specifically Lancaster and York counties, there are 26 courses and 19 are open to the public," he says. It's an inequity that needs attention.
"I agree with Mr. Hicks," says Dale Anderson, the former Baltimore County executive who championed the need for building golf courses. "There's no damn excuse for it," insists Anderson. "Public courses make money. They aren't a drag on the budget. Besides, it's a great way to preserve the trees, grass and protect the total environment. A golf course enhances a neighborhood."
Baltimore County continues to say it is interested in creating more courses but there's no evidence to support it. However, of the $3 increase in green fees per round at Diamond Ridge, Rocky Point and Longview, $1 is now going to a fund earmarked for construction of future courses. At least Wayne Harman, director of Recreation and Parks, is aware of the need and deserves to be encouraged. It is hoped he will convince Roger Hayden, the Baltimore County executive, to become involved.
Hicks reports he has information indicating nothing is on the golf planning board. "Even if the county started a golf course a year, it would not affect me and my friends because we are all between 65 and 72," Hicks says. "By the time the new courses would be finished, so would we."
He insists, though, that the ordinary tax-paying golfer has been denied the consideration he or she deserves in regard to the availability of additional public courses.
Frank Invernizzi, head professional at Diamond Ridge, makes a cogent point. "At times, I feel we're supporting Howard County golfers," he says. "Because Howard County doesn't have a single public course, we get the pressure [of increased crowds]. a serious predicament but I think, in time, the fact $1 from every green fee is going into a fund reserved for building courses will prove to be an extremely wise plan. It will help the public golfing community."
Speaking hypothetically, Invernizzi says if golfers in Baltimore City were restricted to play only their own courses and if the same rule applied in Baltimore County --
that only golfers living there could play there -- it would ease the situation.
"But you can't draw a line like that," he says. "The root of the problem is because the counties around us -- Howard, Carroll and Harford -- lack a single municipal course and Anne Arundel has only one. This means the play is going to become heavier and heavier."
In Queen Anne's County, where there's only a public owned nine-hole layout, the Blue Herron, greens fees for visitors are $6 as opposed to $4 for residents. Other counties could do the same in the interest of raising income.
Golf participation in the United States increased by 25 percent since 1988 and financial figures show it to be a $20 billion industry. Baltimore's metropolitan counties should position themselves to be ready to cash in on the bounty. But, of course, it can't be done without first having the facilities.