Decision to stay open all winter puts driving range in the rough But expansion plans are on course despite snow storm


The owner of the Churchville Golf Driving Range couldn't help but chuckle when talking about his decision to keep his business open during the winter.

Ken Rizer tried to explain what he considers a major blunder. "Great timing, right?" he asked as heavy rains fell on the family entertainment complex on Route 22 about eight miles east of Bel Air. "Haven't had this much snow since 1983. I guess we just pushed our luck."

The winter hasn't been a complete loss for the man who has managed the popular operation since 1988. When weather has permitted, patrons have continued to use the driving range and baseball batting cages. And work has continued on a miniature golf course.

When completed, the 18-hole, landscaped championship miniature course will contain water hazards, sand traps and contoured putting areas. Par hasn't been established for the $250,000 course but Mr. Rizer said that it would be considerably higher than the 45 at the existing one.

"I'll go out and play a few rounds before setting par," he said.

The course, which is expected to be ready by May 1, is just the latest project for the man who took overday-to-day operation of the 23-acre complex from Bill Brown, his father-in-law, five years ago.

Since then Mr. Rizer he has added 10 tees and a target green to the driving range and replaced the original three batting cages with six new ones with pitching machines for baseball and softball.

More improvements on the drawing board, he said. "I'm always thinking of ways to add more entertainment for the customers. This is a fun business. People come here looking for a good time at a reasonable cost and I believe we provide it."

A golfer can hit a bucket of balls for $3 or get 10 buckets for a discount price of $2.70 each. The original miniature golf course costs $2.75 per round. The cost for a round at the new one will be $3.75.

During peak season from May to September, Mr. Rizer employees about 15 people. When the new miniature golf course opens he doesn't know how many people will visit the driving range on a daily basis. He is confident, however, that the number will be enough to help other businesses in the area.

"I like to think of this area as a recreation community," he said. "People from all over the county come here for food and drinks at the Arctic Circle next door and the Big M across the road or to see a movie at the Bel Air Drive-in Theatre. It's a fun place to be."

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