Hobbit's Glen to get new $5.9 million golf clubhouse

The aging and sometimes foul-smelling golf clubhouse at the Hobbit's Glen Golf Club in Harper's Choice will be replaced with a new building, the crown feature of a nearly $5.9 million project expected to begin next year.

The Columbia Association board voted 8-2 Thursday, April 26, to construct a new building rather than renovate the old one. The board also voted 10-0 to build a "turn house" between the ninth and 10th holes with restrooms and snacks for golfers midway through the course.

The new clubhouse, on the site of the existing building, will cost $5.85 million, according to Kenneth Hart, director of architecture for the H. Chambers Co., a Baltimore-based architecture and engineering firm CA hired for the project.

In addition, the turn house will cost approximately $250,000, said Rob Goldman, CA's chief operating officer. Another $100,000 or so will pay for a temporary facility while the new clubhouse is being built — a rented trailer, and electricity for it, to check people into the course and to sell items such as golf balls and gloves, he said.

Hart said construction will take about 9 to 11 months to complete, with work not expected to begin until 2013.

CA is in negotiations with the clubhouse restaurant, the Coho Grill, about its return once the new clubhouse is built, Goldman said.

Ellie Ennis, a managing partner at the restaurant, said "it is our goal to remain open until construction begins."

She added: "We hope the negotiations go well and we're looking forward to coming back in the new building."

The CA board had previously approved up to $6 million for the clubhouse project.

The CA board had three options from which to choose: renovating the clubhouse, gutting the interior and changing the layout, at a cost of about $5.7 million; building a new clubhouse on the spot of the existing building for about $5.85 million; or building a new clubhouse and also making improvements to the golf course.

Those suggested improvements included adding a turn house; making modifications to the golf course, such as lengthening the driving range, enlarging the putting green and other changes, at an estimated cost of $230,000; and changing the curb cut entry toward the building for an estimated $112,000.

Board member Cynthia Coyle of Harper's Choice said she preferred not to change the course.

The golfers are already "really happy with it," she said. "Why would we disrupt the course?"

Lower-cost option wanted

The votes against the new clubhouse came from board members Ed Coleman of Long Reach and Alex Hekimian of Oakland Mills.

"I wanted a lower-cost option," said Coleman, who had asked board members whether they would support renovating the clubhouse if that price tag were significantly lower than the cost of building new. "I believe that there's other ways that money can be spent within CA that can benefit residents as a whole."

Hekimian worried that the money being put toward the clubhouse would keep other projects from being funded, such as building a new park within Symphony Woods, upgrading CA's infrastructure and improving the association's outdoor pools.

CA president Phil Nelson said, however, that $1.35 million has been set aside over the next two fiscal years for pool improvements, and another $850,000 is available for the 2015 fiscal year.

Board member Andrew Stack of Owen Brown said he didn't believe renovating would solve the problems the current clubhouse has, including a "sewage smell we've tried and tried to have fixed for years that nobody knows where it's coming from."

Tom Coale, who represents Dorsey's Search, said a new golf course wouldn't just be a good thing for golfers.

"This is going to be a community asset," he said. "This is something that the entirety of Columbia can be proud about."

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