Hugh Farrell has played golf at Hobbit's Glen Golf Club in Columbia for roughly 20 years. The original clubhouse, built in 1967, "had a lot of character to it," he said, "but it was definitely aging."
On Sunday, the Columbia Association held its grand opening for the new clubhouse at Hobbit's Glen. As Farrell stood inside the pro shop, he couldn't hide his satisfaction.
"It's nice and new, it's bigger, it's spacious and very bright," said the Ellicott City resident. "The clubhouse views are absolutely gorgeous."
Sitting at the bar inside the Coho Grill, the clubhouse restaurant, John Scott watched golf from one of the seven TV screens. He had come to hit some golf balls and decided to have a drink.
"I'm impressed," said the Columbia resident of the restaurant's new look. "The old one was smaller and very narrow. This is a lot bigger and it's laid out a lot nicer then it was before. The view of the course is much nicer."
The Hobbit's Glen Golf Club is a membership club open to anyone, not just Columbia residents. As of April, there were 355 members, according to CA spokesman David Greisman.
In 2012, the CA Board decided to build a new clubhouse rather than renovate the old one and add a turn house between the 9th and 10th holes. The project cost $6.4 million.
"It's on budget. It's not going to go over," said Dennis Mattey, CA's director of open space and facilities services.
The golf course stayed open during construction, which began in February 2014, and staff members worked out of a trailer. The clubhouse opened in late April.
Coho Grill, which closed in October 2013, began a soft opening in May. Owner Chuck Sachs said a grand opening is planned for June.
Mattey, who was CA's director of construction for 10 years before taking his current position six months ago, wasn't shy about his enthusiasm for the new building.
"The old clubhouse was awful," he said. "This one is terrific."
The new clubhouse is 24,000 square feet — more than twice the size of the former building — and includes a conference room between the main entrance and the restaurant.
Joan Lovelace, an LPGA teaching professional who serves as general manager for CA's two courses — Hobbit's Glen and Fairway Hills — said the new clubhouse is a "tremendous improvement" for golfers and those wanting a meal.
"The pro shop has a larger, more open space with beautiful views overlooking the practice areas," said Lovelace. "The locker rooms are much larger and have more showers to accommodate the golfers or tennis players."
She added that Coho Grill "has a modern new look" and that "they've been missed by many of the locals and the golfers after play."
The turn house has bathrooms and will offer light fare such as sandwiches, snacks and drinks. Instead of having to go to the clubhouse between the front and back nine, Lovelace said by using the turn house golfers shouldn't experience a backup at the 10th tee.
Lovelace began as an assistant pro at Hobbit's Glen in 1983, opened Fairway Hills in 1995 and has been in her current position for 10 years. Besides her demanding teaching schedule and her duties opening up the new clubhouse, she is working on bringing a professional golfing event to Columbia. Hobbit's Glen played host to three Champions Tour events between 1998-2000, and Lovelace thinks an LPGA event would be perfect in Columbia.
"Michael Whan is the commissioner of the LPGA and he'll be receiving a letter soon," said Lovelace, who added that, if approved, the event could take place by 2019.
"We finally have a state-of-the-art clubhouse that we can be proud of," said Lovelace."[Hobbit's Glen] has been a beautiful championship course, and now we have a championship clubhouse to match."
'Good, local restaurant'
Sachs waited 19 months to reopen his restaurant. He said Coho Grill has indoor seating for approximately 190. There is a bar area and a larger dining room that can be closed off in the middle for separate events. There is seating for another 90 people on the patio, which has three sections.
"The view from the back porch area are some of the most spectacular sights you will find in Columbia," said Lovelace. "Because the building was raised higher than before, we have magnificent views overlooking holes 1 and 9 and the practice green. Even if you are not a golfer, you will love sitting on the back patio with a cold beverage and enjoying the beauty of the course."
Sachs said Coho Grill "probably opened a little too early," but that he wanted to take care of the membership and golfers. "So now we're in the process of trying to get all our ducks in line and get our team ready."
Sachs said he wanted to make Coho Grill's atmosphere "a little more younger" and that there are changes to the menu. Next year, he hopes to add a tent for special events.
He added that while he has an obligation to serve the Columbia Association, his landlord, and its members, he hopes the community will support the restaurant as it has in the past.
"We want to be a good local restaurant. That's been our goal always," he said.