To Hank Majewski, golf is more than a relaxing sport.
The owner of the Wakefield Valley golf course in Westminster also considers it an economic boon, an environmental plus and a way to keep senior citizens active.
"Golf is an asset," Mr. Majewski told farmers and business people at a recent Agribusiness breakfast. "It's great for open space, and lot prices on a golf course are 35 percent higher than for properties off a golf course."
Mr. Majewski said his course on Fenby Farm Road is the biggest tourist attraction in Carroll County.
"We will draw 100,000 to 120,000 people into Wakefield Valley this year," he said. "That brings a lot of people up [Route] 140 to buy gas, eat in restaurants and use other services."
Golf also has bolstered the economy in Ocean City, Mr. Majewski said. He also owns the Bay Club golf course in Berlin, near the Maryland beach resort.
"Ocean City had a bad year last summer, but because of golf, [business] was up 10 to 15 percent in the fall" and it's expected to be up another 10 to 15 percent in the spring, Mr. Majewski said.
"Golf is just another vehicle to promote the resort area. The summer will take care of itself, but the shoulder months are taken care of by golf."
Mr. Majewski said his local golf course attracts many wild animals and has a positive effect on the environment.
"We've got about 150 Canada geese out at Wakefield Valley," he said. "We don't like what they do to the golf course, but the course is an environmental plus for the area."
The course also is an attraction for senior citizens who have formed their own club to compete with groups from other courses, Mr. Majewski said.
"Seventy percent of golf today is played by senior citizens," he said.
Public golf courses, which represent about 80 percent of the courses nationwide, are designed to handle large groups of people quickly, Mr. Majewski said. Bay Club is a public course. Wakefield Valley is a semiprivate golf club.
"We offer large traffic counts, cheaper golf and market for wear and tear on the course," he said. "Public courses are designed for speed of play."
Public courses also are generally easier than country club or resort courses and handle a variety of ability levels, he said.
"We don't want people to be frustrated; we want people to have fun."
In contrast, resort courses tend to be more dramatic, and they cost more to design and build, he said. That's because many of them are designed by professional golfers, such as Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, who charge at least $1.5 million for their designs.
"The golf course does not stand alone," he said. "You can offer a resort situation, with a combination of housing and food with the golf. You want to be in the top 100 golf courses as rated by Golf Digest, because then you can charge more for your rooms and food" than other courses.
Resort courses often have a signature hole that can be featured in advertising, Mr. Majewski said.
The Bay Club's signature hole is surrounded by water and accessible by a small walkway. It was chosen by the state Department of Economic and Employment Development to promote Maryland golf courses in its advertising.
"You are advertising to the masses," Mr. Majewski said. "You want people to see this hole on the screen or see it in a magazine and say they want to come to your resort."