Course's proposed fees called 'outrageous' County's Greystone would cost $40 on weekends

November 28, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Playing Baltimore County's premier Greystone golf course, which opens in White Hall in the spring, may cost golfers more than double the top rates for the county's three existing public courses.

The dramatically higher rates proposed by the independent Baltimore County Revenue Authority yesterday -- $30 on weekdays and $40 on weekends, plus $11 for an electric cart -- already have golfers and some public officials complaining.

"That's outrageous. I won't be playing it. They're not worried about the average player," said Dennis Claassen of Overlea, an avid golfer who belongs to a 32-member golf club.

"It's a bit stiff," Towson attorney Ben Bronstein agreed.

County Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a north county-Owings Mills Republican, argued that if government runs golf courses, it should be to make them affordable, not exclusive. "Government has no business being in that kind of golf business," he said of the proposed rates.

The question of how to build public golf courses in the county has received a good bit of attention in recent years.

Financially pressed elected officials don't want to spend tax dollars to subsidize golf. But they want new courses in a county where studies show too few exist and where officials want to use them to attract high-end incomes and businesses.

Last year, the county gave the job of solving that puzzle to the revenue authority, a legally independent, quasigovernmental body that can sell bonds and run the courses on its own.

But the proposed rates for Greystone have prompted questions about whether a group such as the revenue authority should be building public golf courses that cost more than many residents can afford.

In contrast to Greystone, for example, the county's other public courses -- Longview in Cockeysville, Diamond Ridge in Woodlawn and Rocky Point in Back River Neck -- all cost $15 on weekdays and $17 on weekends, and many players don't use carts.

Officials say the hilly, long walk the course presents may make electric carts necessary for many players.

Members of the revenue authority board, a consultant and a Ruppersberger administration spokesman disagree that the rates are too high.

Consultant Peter M. Hill of Billy Casper Golf Management Inc. told the board that his comparison of other premier public courses in Virginia, Maryland and southern Pennsylvania show some with much higher rates, ranging up to $55 on weekends, and none lower.

And despite the criticism, the proposed rates still will likely leave the project nearly $600,000 below the break-even point for the first two years of operations.

Proponents note that no tax money is involved because the authority sold bonds to build the course and pay for a planned $1.7 million clubhouse. They say serious golfers will be happy to play at Greystone, located east of Interstate 83 in White Hall, because it will be superior to the existing courses.

"How does anybody know if it's worth the money if they haven't seen it or played there?" asked Michael H. Davis, County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger's spokesman.

Revenue authority member David H. Nevins observed, "General Motors makes Chevrolets and makes Cadillacs, too, which cost twice as much." The board wants a seven-member county golf advisory committee to consider the proposed rates in December. A final vote will come in January.

Next year, Diamond Ridge II public course is scheduled to open in Woodlawn. Claassen said he would be less upset if that course were cheaper to play -- about $25 on weekends.

"I can live with that," he said.

Pub Date: 11/28/96

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