Thoughts about fixing Hobbit's Glen problems

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

October 06, 2002|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

DEBATE OVER fixing shabby greens at the once-cushy Hobbit's Glen Golf Club resides now in the realm of the Columbia Park and Recreation Association's politics. Here's hoping the talk remains open and public.

And for free, here are some thoughts to foster that discussion.

First, fixing greens at Hobbit's Glen simply isn't, as was recently argued, a matter of spending either for swimming or golf. That kind of baloney doesn't serve anyone intelligently, be it association managers, directors, or lien- and fee-paying Columbians.

Both swimming and golf have sizable constituencies, but in Columbia Association context, they're proverbial apples and oranges. Each is an asset the association needs to manage smartly, not only for financial reasons but for Columbia's quality of life. And the latter spans all economic levels, not just those in clover, at risk, or in between. We're talking, after all, about a community of more than 100,000, counting so-called "out parcels" enveloped by new-town-zoned land.

Having a golf course intended, as Hobbit's Glen was, to be a cut above the normal public course is just as important to whatever Columbia is as a place to live, grow and work as teaching poor kids to swim.

Second, how much of a showcase should Hobbit's Glen be? Scratch golfers, those who regularly shoot around par, want a course that can be turned relatively easily into something special when, and if, the pros ever come calling again. The 20-plus handicappers (not good golfers, and they would agree with that evaluation) who play for fun and fresh air as much as a score want a pretty place for a good price.

Here's where truth resides: For good golfers and hackers alike, rough, patchy greens kill the game's fun, period.

Doing whatever is right to produce - and keep - smooth, predictable, consistent greens is a must. But raising and then, just as important, maintaining the course to standards attractive to the Professional Golfers' Association probably isn't a good fit for budget disciplines that the Columbia Association faces with a lot of aging facilities that need fixing.

Which isn't to say that things can't still be darned nice. Golly, if penny-poor Baltimore could find a way to keep ancient greens on its public courses not only smooth but its courses profitable, the same expertise is attainable for Hobbit's Glen.

Third, the association must do more publicly to address fallout from a disturbing outbreak of legalistic, institutional arrogance - the abrupt suspension in June of one of Hobbit's Glen's longer-term members over a few signs he posted protesting the course's sorry condition and management paralysis.

Association leaders, leery of being sued, are trying to make that stupidity, which included taking the member's signs and entering his truck, go away by ignoring it publicly. Yuk!

And finally, one element in this mess just won't go away, no matter how much chatter emanates from Columbia Association headquarters.

That is, those diseases, fungi, and environmental baddies that association managers at the course itself and at headquarters blame for Hobbit's Glen's sorry state couldn't possibly have landed exclusively on a few acres just south of Route 108. That's not nature's way.

And, we're told, lots of older courses within easy drives of Columbia don't have drainage problems being seen in west Columbia. And, we're told repeatedly, four greens rebuilt in roughly the last decade at Hobbit's Glen rank among the course's worst.

Add this stuff up, and association policymakers face what seems an unavoidable question: Which needs fixing more, the course or its management?

Mightn't it be both?

ISO: Squash angel

Lawyer F.J. Collins loves squash, and he would like to play - even teach the sport to newcomers - nearer to his Ellicott City home.

But, problem: no courts. So Collins has been lobbying the county's Department of Recreation and Parks to adapt two little-used racquetball courts in Cedar Lane Park to meet squash players' needs.

But, another problem: He says he hasn't heard a "no," but he has been told "no money," which rec and parks tells everyone these days.

What's needed, Collins says, is a contractor with some extra blocks, a couple of doorways and mortar - enough for two walls 7 feet tall by 20 feet wide. Those Cedar Lane courts already have three walls and dimensions OK for squash, he says.

"I told rec and parks I'd be willing to set up classes if we could get courts built," he says.

Want to talk about it? Call Collins at 410-244-1010.

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

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