Hobbit's Glen greens not up to par, asserts one critical observer

PLAYING AROUND

May 06, 2001|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

SPRING IS sprung, the grass is riz, and some of Hobbit's Glen's golfers is.

Apologies to whoever wrote that enduring piece of seasonal doggerel for unauthorized modification No. 132,916, but what those golfers is, is teed off about the condition of the Columbia golf course's greens.

Not all are, probably. But some are, for sure. At least, a few are. Maybe a couple are. Yet again, maybe many are but just choose to perfect their bumpy-green putting techniques instead of pitching the press. It's very hard for a mere journalist to sort out.

If this has a familiar ring, you deserve a Howard at Play "A." We wrote about the patchy greens at once-lush Hobbit's on March 25, figuring that'd be that. We quoted Bill Neuse, Hobbit's Glen's grounds superintendent for two decades, as acknowledging that some greens, indeed, were in bad shape, partly because he and his staff started a process last fall to make things better in the long run - getting rid of intrusive poa annua grass, improving drainage, among other things. And just wait till early April, he said; you'll see, it's not Armageddon; things will be better.

It's May.

Things aren't better.

So asserts Donald Dunn, an outspoken, weather-permitting, three-rounds-a-week golfer (though not often at Hobbit's anymore, he says) who's made a retirement career out of critiquing county golf courses and advocating anything he thinks would make life more pleasant for golfers.

Well, things aren't right on some greens, but "we're confident they'll be in as good shape by the end of this May as they were at the end of last May." Which was very good.

So asserts Neuse's boss's boss, Rob Goldman, vice president of the Columbia Association's sports and fitness division since 1989.

Goldman said that after a week to mull an evidently contentious, six-cart, backward tour of Hobbit's Glen he took April 24 with Dunn and others who play or work the course. Dunn, who heads the golf advisory group that advises the purely advisory Howard County Recreation and Parks Board but once was active in Hobbit's affairs, requested the tour.

As Dunn relates it, catastrophe was evident at the first stop, the 18th green, then at the 14th ("utter disaster"), the 11th ("the worst green - unplayable"), the 10th ("poor"), the seventh ("bad"), the sixth ("unputtable").

"They need help out there," Dunn said in an interview. "They need to get someone in there to give them some guidance on how to make things better. Management is overwhelmed. They're not bad people, but the situation's out of control. ... It's not going to be solved by the people there. They're in denial."

For the record, Dunn founded Hobbit's Glen's golf and greens committees years ago but then, he says, was cut out of them because he lives outside Columbia, even though he maintains course membership. He's had other disagreements with and is no fan of the Columbia Association, which owns Hobbit's Glen.

Association executive Goldman is no fan of Dunn's, either.

"For whatever reason, Don wants to push the issue," he said. "But we've done everything we said we'd do, and we're making progress."

He defended the skills and knowledge of Neuse and his staff, noting that the groundskeeper once headed the national organization of his peers.

And he added in a new piece of information: "We had a mechanical malfunction on one of two leased machines last fall that we used to aerate the greens. They tore up some of them pretty badly."

But, Goldman added, "There wasn't anyone who went along who doesn't agree that the greens are getting better and better."

Dunn, for sure, doesn't agree.

Goldman said some greens still look patchy because of new turf that has been installed but hasn't grown in. And, Hobbit's greens are getting extra rolling, top dressing, and clipping this spring in an attempt to renew them, he said.

May, golf's prime time hereabouts, continues to bump along at Hobbit's Glen. Fore!

Speaking of playing golf

It's nice, what a few rounds of expensive golf can accomplish. Such as provide lights and sprinkler systems for ball fields at Kiwanis-Wallas Park in Ellicott City. That's what the Howard County Youth Program has been doing with money from its annual golf outing, the seventh of which will be May 29 at the Woodlands Golf Course in Woodlawn.

Last year's event generated $6,000, said point man John Hein. This year, a ticket is $90 per golfer, which covers greens fees and cart, lunch and some prizes. And $5 from each entry in this year's event will go to the Jimmy Cooke Fund, which benefits a former HCYP player who is partially paralyzed. Information: JohnHein, 410-465-8069 or 410-852-6694.

Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or address e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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