Readying for a reopening

Rehab: Despite weather delays, renovations at Hobbit's Glen Golf Club are nearing completion.

April 07, 2004|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

When the Columbia Association was beginning its nine-month, $1.2 million renovation of Hobbit's Glen Golf Club, Mother Nature stepped in with other plans.

Forty-three days of rain and muddy conditions during the fall kept the course's greens from being rebuilt on time, delaying the project by more than a month. Seeding the greens was expected to take 45 days, but the task took nearly double that because of the weather.

"It rained, and then it rained, and then it kept raining, and then [Tropical Storm Isabel] came," said Robert D. Bellamy, Columbia Association's operations manager for the sport and fitness facilities division. "It was just an awful experience in the fall."

The course is scheduled to open next month, but it will be postponed a few weeks from the original May 1 date. The back nine will open May 8, and the entire course is expected to be open by May 31.

"It's pretty exciting," Bellamy said. "Now we really feel like we're in the pinnacle here, ready to move forward."

Bill Neus, Columbia Association's director of golf course maintenance, said the course's opening had to be split because of the weather delays. The grass on the front nine needs more time to grow, he said.

"Obviously, I was disappointed that it rained so much back in the fall," he said. "When things you have no control over change, you just kind of have to do the best you can."

The course has been closed since August, when crews began rebuilding 16 greens, moving one and regrading three others.

The association has added 200 to 300 trees to the course over the years, more than offsetting the 75 trees that were removed as part of the project, said Rob Goldman, Columbia Association's vice president for sport and fitness.

"We've added far, far more trees over the years than we've ever taken away," Goldman said.

The Columbia Association board approved money for the renovations - $679,000 for the construction and $529,000 for the cost of lost business - after the course struggled with declining funds and damaged greens. Association officials have attributed the greens problems to poor original construction and turf disease at the 36-year-old course.

During the project, the clubhouse was renovated for an additional $275,000, which included improving the bar and lobby and adding new furniture and carpet. The men's and women's locker rooms are being renovated, and the women's locker room has been moved from the basement to the main floor.

Dave Leonard, chairman of the Hobbit's Glen/Fairway Hills Golf Committee, said the greens renovations showed that the Columbia Association and the course's employees had the foresight to address the course's problems.

"That fix should last two or three generations of golfers' lifetimes," he said. "Those greens will be as good as any greens on any golf course anywhere."

Golfer Don Wheeler - who usually plays six days a week, splitting his time between Hobbit's Glen and the association's other course, Fairway Hills Golf Club - is eager to resume play at Hobbit's Glen. But he doesn't want the association to open the course too soon and risk harming the greens.

"Don't open it just to get it open," he said. "As long as we've been closed a year, a few more weeks isn't going to hurt it."

Bellamy said the "silver lining" of Hobbit's Glen being closed is that it caused more golfers to play Fairway Hills, which is easier and not as plush. The association estimates that 3,000 extra rounds of golf were played at Fairway Hills during the Hobbit's Glen closure.

"They discovered that the course was really terrific," Bellamy said.

Neus said the golfers who have been visiting Hobbit's Glen "can't wait to get out here" to experience the renovated course.

"It's like they've got something brand-new," he said. "It's like a kid at Christmastime, almost."

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