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Developer plans $500,0000 miniature golf course


A Prince George's County developer has decided to cut out the middle man and build a $500,000 miniature golf course in Gambrills on his own.

Three times Robert Douglas has been successful in getting a special exception to build a course in a residential zone on Route 3.

But each time, his clients -- real estate agents, businessmen, a certified public accountant -- failed to get the project off the ground.

Two weeks ago Anne Arundel County granted him another special exception, and this time Mr. Douglas, president of Douglas Real Estate in Lanham, has vowed to do the job himself.

"It's going to be an upscale course. It's not going to be a $15,000 one out of a box," Mr. Douglas said. "Here we're trying to put some money into it."

He says he's going have an 18-hole course, complete with a windmill, a walk-through cave and mountains and streams. A clubhouse and snack bar also will be built.

Mr. Douglas, who bought the land just north of Capitol Raceway in 1973, said he still needs to get building permits and talk with the State Highway Administration about building an entrance and exit on Route 3.

He hopes to have the course open by no later than spring 1996.

The news of a competitor did not go over well three miles away at the only other miniature golf course in the area.

"We only have so many customers in this vicinity. It's going to divide our customers," said Bill Forthofer, co-owner of Night Hawk Golf Center in the 1800 block of Route 3. "I could not survive just on the miniature golf course."

The 5-year-old Night Hawk center also includes a driving range, a nine-hole practice course and a batting cage. Mr. Forthofer said most of his business comes from the driving range.

"I'm not sure how [the new course] will do because it's not a vacation area," Mr. Forthofer added.

But Mr. Douglas said the presence of three entertainment centers -- Night Hawk, Skate City II and Go Kart Raceway -- in the three-mile stretch of road is precisely why he wants to build there.

"The area is right," Mr. Douglas said. "I believe that the whole area is a family entertainment center."

Management at the other businesses believes the miniature golf course could bring more customers.

"I guess it helps by having the exposure there," said Vickie Tharp, owner of Skate City II, which would be adjacent to the new golf course.

She said the roller rink would not be in direct competition because skating is more popular in the winter and the golf course would be more popular in spring and summer.

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