How Much Golf Is Enough? HOWARD COUNTY

October 04, 1993

As the Columbia Association, the city's equivalent of a parks and recreation department, and county government move forward on separate and competing plans to build three golf courses in Howard County, the popularity of golf is being put to a test.

The county, in a sense, has already flinched.

Council Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass and Councilman C. Vernon Gray have expressed reservations about the county projects, insisting on seeing the results of a feasibility study of golf course needs.

Their reservations effectively apply the brakes -- though not necessarily permanently -- to plans to finance two courses with about $14 million in county revenue bonds. If ever they become reality, the courses would be located in Elkridge in eastern Howard County and in West Friendship in the west.

The county administration is nowhere near as far along in the process of constructing a new course as the Columbia Association, which is planning one for the city's Allview area.

The state Department of Natural Resources, saying the association has met the requirements to protect wetlands, last week approved permits that could allow construction to begin by year's end.

With the association's project, the county would have eight courses.

County officials contend, though, that even 10 courses will still not meet the growing demand for golf in Howard.

Public Works Director James Irvin said the facilities should be viewed as marketing tools in the county's ongoing economic development efforts. Also, more public fairways would attract newcomers to the game as well as long-time enthusiasts, some of whom now travel as far away as Pennsylvania to get on the links.

It seems only prudent, however, for County Executive Charles I. Ecker and his administration to put a final feasibility study in the hands of council members as soon as possible. Officials must also recognize that any county course should be self-sufficient in fairly short order.

Going forward on the basis of promises and insufficient concrete information will sink more than little white balls into buried cups.

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