County business leaders who put up thousands of dollars on the hope that western county land would one day be converted into a picturesque, member-owned golf course experienced the "ecstasy and pain" of their five-year project last weekend.
"They were all out there for the first time, losing balls," said Michael J. Hayes, vice president and manager of Cattail Creek Country Club in Glenwood, which opened for its initial 250 members on Saturday. "Players wanted to go slow and get a feel for the course. It took them six-and-a-half hours to play.
"They were in ecstasy and pain -- ecstasy because they were playing on their own course for the first time and pain because of the heat."
The new course actually was christened last month by professional golfers Paul Azinger and Dottie Mochrie, who were in the area to model Columbia-based Head Sports Wear clothes for a catalog.
The plan for the new club was spearheaded by David Carney, a county real estate attorney and Howard Circuit Judge James Dudley.
To finance initial costs, such as deposits for land purchases and the hiring of engineers and architects, the project's leaders organized a pioneer group of 46 -- most of them members at the Hobbit's Glen Golf Course or the Turf Valley Country Club -- who invested $25,000 each, said Mr. Carney.
Since 1989, others have invested in lifetime memberships, which have ranged from $17,000 to $30,000 and are at least partially refundable once the club reaches 325 members.
"We did that in a bad economy," said Mr. Carney, who was recently appointed to Howard County's new Economic Development Authority and formerly chaired the county's Economic Development Advisory Council.
Bylaws for the nonprofit corporation cap memberships at 400.
"The stimulus for the club was membership having control over the facility," Mr. Carney said. "Howard County didn't have a member-owned club, which is really important to businesses when they come into a jurisdiction.
"The whole philosophy behind the course is that there would be no starting times and we wouldn't overtax the course, and members could play when they want."
The course is built on 180 acres on both sides of Route 97, about a mile north of the Montgomery County line. Little Cattail Creek, which flows to the Tridelphia Reservoir, runs through the western part of the course, and Dorsey Branch flows near the southern and eastern portions.
It is part of a planned 290-acre development, which will include a clubhouse, tennis courts, pool and homesites. The investors purchased three farms to build the $8.5 million course, and cornfields still border part of the playing area.
The country club project will cost about $4 million more to complete, Mr. Carney said.
Several other public and private golf courses have been proposed or are in the works in the county, including courses for developments in Elkridge and Marriottsville and a second Columbia Association course.
A 1988 county study by a private golf course consultant concluded that the county would need three additional, 18-hole public golf facilities to meet demand at that time, and that two more courses could be necessary within five years.