Balto. County golf fees leave some in the rough

Officials say rates on par with upgrades

March 18, 2000|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Loading his golf clubs onto a battery-powered cart, semiretired builder Bill Hugel shrugged off an impending $2 rate increase at one of his favorite courses.

"I think it's reasonable," said Hugel, 73, as he prepared to play 18 holes at the Diamond Ridge Golf Course in Woodlawn. "This is one of the best courses around for the money."

Waiting to tee off at Diamond Ridge, Tony Clarke felt differently.

"I played here when it was $7," said Clarke, a 42-year-old maintenance worker from Woodlawn who will now have to pay $20 on weekends and $17 on weekdays to play 18 holes. "They keep jacking it up, jacking it up, jacking it up."

Opinion among golfers is divided over a new fee structure that will force them to hand over more green to get on the greens at Baltimore County's public golf courses.

The Baltimore County Revenue Authority is increasing rates at four of the five public golf courses it manages to pay for a five-year, $4 million improvement program. The increases take effect April 1.

"What we will have for the golfer is four different levels of quality, and four different levels of prices," said George Hale, executive director of the revenue authority.

Course managers say they plan to buy $1.87 million worth of mowers, aerators and other equipment for all five courses, while spending a total of $494,000 on clubhouse and miscellaneous improvements.

In addition, each course will get specific improvements.

Diamond Ridge will get a $500,000 irrigation system upgrade; $50,000 in cart path repairs also will be made. Weekday rates are rising from $15 to $17; Friday and weekend rates will increase from $17 to $20; and the senior and twilight rate will rise from $11 to $13. Cart fees are unchanged at $11. Rates were last raised in spring 1996.

At Longview Golf Course in Timonium, $55,000 will be spent on an irrigation upgrade and $35,000 will go toward a new cart path. All greens fees are rising $1; weekday rates will be $16; Friday and weekend rates will be $18 and the senior/twilight rate will be $12. Cart fees are dropping $1, to $10. Rates were last raised in spring 1996.

Rocky Point Golf Course in Essex is slated for a $500,000 irrigation system replacement and $75,000 in drainage improvements. The fee changes are identical to those at Diamond Ridge.

At Greystone Golf Course in White Hall, $66,000 will be spent on an irrigation pond upgrade, and $78,000 will go toward enlarging tee areas. Weekday rates will rise from $41 to $45; Friday rates will increase from $51 to $55; weekend rates will rise from $59 to $64 and senior and twilight rates will go from $34 to $38. All rates include carts. It is the first weekday, Friday, senior and twilight increase since the course opened in 1997; last year, weekend rates increased to $59 from $51.

The Woodlands Golf Course in Woodlawn is receiving a $250,000 reforestation project, but because it is getting no major course improvements, fees there will be unchanged. Weekday play costs $41, Friday fees are $51; weekends cost $59 and seniors and twilight golfers pay $34. Carts are included.

County golf officials say they hope to maintain the status of Greystone and The Woodlands as premier courses, and are looking at increasing the number of tournaments and business outings there.

The fee increases will yield about $450,000 in added revenue a year, said Hale, which will pay for the loans needed to make the improvements.

Even though the courses are publicly owned, the fee increases will take effect without the approval of the Baltimore County Council. The revenue authority operates as an independent agency that can issue its own debt and make its own financial decisions.

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