National golf associations consider Baltimore County the most "underholed" subdivision in the country.
County officials are trying to change that dubious ranking by looking at one of the county's sanitary landfills as the site for a new public golf course.
The County Council has approved $35,000 for a study to determine the feasibility of an 18-hole course and family golf center on and around the Eastern Sanitary Landfill off the 11500 block of Pulaski Highway in the eastern part of the county.
"This could not only provide badly needed recreation for golfers, but could be an economic benefit to the White Marsh area and a reuse of a landfill site," said Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, D-5th.
With a population of 692,000, the county has five public 18-hole golf courses, three of which are operated by the county, said Wayne R. Harman, director of the county Department of Recreation and Parks.
By comparison, neighboring York County, Pa. which has about half the population of Baltimore County, has 16 public golf courses.
"The Professional Golfers Association and other golf organizations rate this county as the lowest in providing public-access golf," Mr. Harman said.
Mr. Harman said all public county courses are operating at or above capacity. He said there are only enough public-access holes to provide one round of golf a year for each of the county's 70,000 active golfers.
The county operates three 18-hole courses, Diamond Ridge in Woodlawn, Longview in Cockeysville and Rocky Point in Back River Neck. Two privately owned 18-hole courses -- Worthington Valley Golf Course and the Pine Ridge Golf Course on land owned by Baltimore City at Loch Raven Reservoir and operated by the quasi-public Baltimore Municipal Golf Corp. -- are open to the public.
In addition, the county operates the nine-hole Tom Mitchell Golf Course in Reisterstown, which also has three miniature golf courses and a driving range.
The proposed golf course would occupy about 68 acres of county-owned land west of the Eastern landfill and 65 to 100 acres of the landfill itself, Mr. Harman said.
The course probably would be developed in two phases.
The first would include a nine-hole course and a family golf center on the county-owned land known as the Holter Property, Mr. Harman said, and would include a driving range and a miniature golf course.
The second phase would add nine holes on the landfill site itself, but the timing "would depend on whether we wait for the landfill to reach capacity or whether we would be able to use part of the landfill while the rest is still being used for the disposal of refuse," said Mr. Harman.
The landfill site occupies 367 acres, about 200 acres of which are used for refuse disposal, said Stephen G. Lippy, the county's refuse disposal chief. Mr. Lippy said the earliest the landfill could reach capacity would be in about 10 years, after which it would be capped and used for something else. Should recycling and other factors go well, the landfill could still be operating 20 to 25 years from now, he said.
Reclaiming a landfill for a golf course is not new to the county. Longview has been operating for 27 years on top of a former landfill, Mr. Harman said.
Golfers have complained that some Longview holes are frequently rendered unplayable by settling of the ground. But Mr. Harman said that is not likely to happen at the Eastern Landfill, which has been operated under more stringent restrictions than the old Longview site was.
Mr. Harman said the county is considering asking a private developer to build the initial nine holes and family golf center.
It could also use revenues from the golf courses it now operates to build the new course, although Mr. Harman said that could take longer because the first priority for current revenues is a new 18-hole public course next to Diamond Ridge.
"Either way, the idea is to avoid using taxpayers' money to build the golf course," he said.
In the near term, golfers should get some relief July 1, when the new 18-hole Greystone Golf Course near Parkton will open to the public. And another public nine-hole course, Mount Vista Green, is under construction in Kingsville. Both will be privately operated.