Just in time for Labor Day weekend, Howard County will open its first full-length public golf course Friday.
The Timbers at Troy in Elkridge is a $7.5 million county-funded project that officials predict will start turning a profit in four years. One reason they are so optimistic is that the Baltimore-Washington area has relatively few public courses.
"That's a pretty undersupplied area," said Angelo Palermo, vice president for golf development at the National Golf Foundation in Jupiter, Fla.
Of 309 golf markets in the nation, the 2.5-million-person Baltimore metropolitan area ranks 301st with 5,837 people per public golf hole, according the foundation.
The 4.5-million-person metropolitan Washington area has 3,760 people per public hole, making it 281st.
"I've heard the tales of long waits, early in the morning, around Baltimore and D.C.," said the foundation's Judy Thompson.
In Howard County, the recreation and parks director, Jeffrey A. Bourne, said the Timbers finished eight months ahead of schedule and is receiving high marks from the few people who have played it.
The county sold bonds to build the course and will pay interest on that debt with greens fees and other revenue from the course, Bourne said.
For county residents, the greens fees are $23 weekdays and $28 weekends, with optional cart rental of $12. For nonresidents of Howard, fees are $33 weekdays and $37 weekends, with cart rental $12.
The course is not long -- 6,652 yards from the black tees, 6,182 yards from the blue tees and 4,926 from the red tees. fTC Championship courses tend to be more than 7,000 yards.
At the Timbers, even from the black tees, there are two par-4 holes longer than 400 yards. From the blue tees, the average par 4 is 352 yards, while the par-5 holes range from 483 to 512 yards and the par-3 holes from 153 to 180 yards.
The course is cut from 206 acres of what had been mostly wooded area. Tall trees line somewhat narrow fairways. The contours often slope toward the middle of the fairways, though, which will help steer some errant drives.
The greens tend to be narrow, some heavily sloped. Many of the holes have steep drops behind the greens.
The course architect hired by the county -- Ken Killian of Chicago, who has designed or renovated more than 160 courses -- left intact many of the brushy marsh areas that golfers now must carry with their shots.
Howard County has five other golf courses:
Hobbit's Glen in Columbia, run by the Columbia Association, the homeowners association that manages Columbia's recreation facilities. Residents who own "package plan" memberships to CA's recreation facilities pay $25 during the week and $30 on weekends to play. Cart rental is $12.
Fairway Hills in Columbia, which costs $14 weekdays and $18 for weekend play for package plan members. Cart rental is $12. This course also is open to Columbia residents and employees who pay CA assessments but are not package plan members. Those fees are $26 and $30.
Willow Springs, a short, par-62 public course in West Friendship with no par-5 holes. Greens fees are $17 Monday through Thursday, $20 Fridays and $22 Saturdays and Sundays. Cart rental is $14 for one person and $10 per person if two share the cart.
Cattail Creek Country Club in Glenwood, which is private. The membership fee is $32,500 for a family or $27,500 for an individual. Monthly fees are $300 and $250, respectively.
Turf Valley Country Club west of Ellicott City, which is private. The fee for a golf-only membership is about $550, with $450 yearly payments. These members pay greens fees of $15 weekdays and $25 weekends. The course also is open to guests of the Turf Valley Hotel, who pay $30 greens fees during the week and $50 weekends.
If that list seems small -- considering how many people live in Howard County and how many of them can afford to play golf -- just try to get a tee time in New York, which ranks last on the golf foundation's list with 15,394 people per public hole.
Pub Date: 8/26/96