Golf course plan raises fear of stray flying balls

Rose Hill had but one question for the Columbia Association, which is planning to build an 18-hole, regulation golf course near her backyard: Who's going to pay for the property damage when a ball hits her home?

"They didn't give us any guarantees about our property or destruction to our property," said Ms. Hill after the Wilde Lake Community Association's meeting last night to discuss the proposed Fairway Hills Golf Course.


Ms. Hill, who has lived on Ten Mills Road in Running Brook for more than 20 years, also wonders if she'll have to increase her property insurance to guard against damages.

Others who attended the meeting raised similar questions. What about trespassers, asked Ed Strakna, another longtime resident. "How are we going to identify golf players? We don't know who the heck is going into our backyards. Can we build a fence, or what?"


Robert Bellamy, CA director for club operations, couldn't promise much. "If this is a problem, we'll build buffer," he said.

"People live next to golf courses all over the country," he said.

Nearly 40 residents showed up at the meeting at Slayton House to discuss Fairway Hills, a project that has raised the concerns of many who will have to share their backyards with hundreds of golfers.

Most were afraid they or their children will be hit by errant balls. "They'll screw up my barbecue," said one resident whose house is 15 feet away from the proposed 14th green.

Mr. Bellamy said CA will try to address any problems. If errant balls are the problem, CA will either move the tee position or plant trees to prevent them from flying into residential areas, he said.

Other residents suggested CA should let the county build another golf course to fulfill the demand for more greens. "We have neighborhood pools," said Barbara Rowe. "We have village centers where we can meet. But the time now -- it's time to stop. We have to be more environmentally responsible, more fiscally responsible."

CA's proposed golf course will wind through the villages of Wilde Lake and Dorsey's Search and is expected to cost an estimated $5.5 million to build. An estimated 50,000 rounds of golf would be played annually at Fairway Hills, slated to open in 1995. The association expects the golf course to turn a profit by the year 2001.

Nearby residents are afraid the golf course would create serious environmental problems for wetlands and a river on the proposed site. They are also afraid several areas of contiguous woods along little Patuxent River would have to be destroyed, affecting migration routes for various animal species, particularly deer.


In site development plans filed with the county during the summer, the association reported that areas will have to be cleared to build the fifth, 12th and 18th holes. But the association did not specify which trees will be axed.

The golf course would be the second most expensive capital project ever for CA, which has asked county and state approval for it. And if approval is granted, the Columbia Council will discuss whether to build the golf course during budget talks in January.

Norma Rose, Columbia Council representative for Wilde Lake, gave some relief to residents, saying other alternatives will be brought up at the meeting, one of which includes building a nine-hole instead of an 18-hole golf course.

The council is deeply divided on this issue, she said.

While most of the residents were opposed to the golf course, Ernest and Helen Moreland, who are 23-year residents at Darting Bird Lane, came to show their support.

Their house backs to a small golf course that is no longer in use. "We had no problems with flying balls," said Mrs. Moreland. "We had a lot of children in the neighborhood, but none of them were hit by flying balls," she said.


"I want you to know that there are some people on Darting Bird Lane who are in favor of the golf course," said Mr. Moreland. "But they're not going to come and make a commotion about it."