Smith's column on Hobbits Glen way `off target' C...

LETTERS

April 22, 2001

Smith's column on Hobbits Glen way `off target'

C. Fraser Smith was way "off target" in his column "At Hobbits Glen: sand trap symbolism" (April 15). Mr. Smith's opinions were simply not based on facts. The State Farm Senior Classic was a terrific event for Howard County, for Columbia, and for the Hobbits Glen Golf Club. And it came about because somebody was trying to make things better. The tournament left for lack of corporate support in Howard County and not for any reasons related to the quality of the course, the clubhouse, or service. As a matter of fact, far from being an "annual purgatory" for the players, during each of the three years the event was held at Hobbits Glen the best senior players in the world, officials of the PGA, and executives of ESPN unanimously praised the course, the facility, and CA's service.

Mr. Smith wonders why the golf carts at Hobbits Glen are not equipped with a satellite system that detects yardage to the pin. In fact, CA conducted a survey this past January to see if members desired this type of equipment, and the overwhelming response was negative. Maybe he should have talked to members of the Golf and Green Advisory Committees to determine whether or not members have input into issues and other policies at the club. Members and frequent users of the golf club are surveyed biannually by an independent firm to determine levels of customer satisfaction, and the staff formulates action plans and follow-up focuses based on these statistically valid surveys. In the most recent survey, 88 percent of Hobbits Glen members rated the club as "excellent" or "good" in meeting their overall golfing needs.

The mission of the Columbia Association is to enhance the quality of life for people living and working in Columbia, and to ensure that Columbia remains an open, integrated and caring community. One of the precepts in that mission is to provide the best working environment for CA's employees. CA tries to be a respectful and equal opportunity employer that promotes staff development and growth. But people do lose their jobs for non-performance and people do worry about their performance reviews.

Bob Bellamy

Columbia

The writer is director of operations in the Sport and Fitness Division of the Columbia Association.

Smith didn't play fair in Hobbits Glen attack

C. Fraser Smith's column ("At Hobbits Glen: sand trap symbolism," April 15), may contain a grain of truth, but it is flawed by unfair, unfounded opinions. ...

Granted, the clubhouse is small and was inadequate for the senior PGA tour event that was hosted there. But the senior pros were unanimous in their praise of the course, hardly qualifying Hobbits Glen as "their annual Purgatory."

It seems Mr. Smith's unfair criticism of Hobbits Glen is a poorly veiled attack on Columbia in general, which The Sun, in a recent series of articles, seems bent on doing ...

I agree that Columbia has outgrown its present form of CA-run government and should incorporate itself. I also agree that there is room to improve Hobbits Glen golf course. ... But Mr. Smith does not list any of the course improvements over the last three years, including replaced cart paths, fairway drainage pipes, numerous flower beds, training for staff that includes annual CPR and customer relations skills, even new carpet for the clubhouse (I could find no "frayed carpets," the opening words of Smith's article), etc.

Smith's catch phrase in his article ("What're ya gonna do?" - a profound bit of journalism) is emblematic of his whole approach: when you can't say something good about someone, say something vague. Similarly, he refers to the staff as "distracted," and "lost in ... reveries" instead of telling us specifically what the staff person allegedly did or didn't do.

Mr. Smith compares Hobbits Glen to Mount Pleasant. This is a classic apples-to-oranges comparison. Hobbits Glen is a semi-private club in a suburban development, while Mount Pleasant is a much older municipal course in the middle of a large city. ... Mr. Smith showed his ignorance of recent local golf course developments when he stated that if Mount Pleasant players ". . . don't like something they can sometimes get change." Only a few years ago, the Baltimore Municipal Golf Corporation changed the tee layouts on Mount Pleasant and Clifton Park to facilitate faster play despite the overwhelming protests of local golfers.

Finally, Mr. Smith's examination of local opinion is limited to "one golf-loving executive." Couldn't Smith have interviewed at least one other Hobbits Glen patron? The Sun's readers deserve better research from the paper's columnists. We deserve better research, more even-sided opinions and accurate facts.

John Himmelheber

Columbia

The writer is a part-time weekend starter-ranger at Hobbits Glen.

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