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Golfers suffering the blues at city's Greens

October 28, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Richard Calendine and a friend were golfing Wednesday at Hagerstown Greens at Hamilton Run, the city's nine-hole course.

Calendine tamped his foot on the putting surface near hole No. 6. Underneath his shoe, where a patch of grass was missing, was brown dirt.

"This one isn't real bad compared to the other ones," said Calendine, 45, who said he plays three to four times a year at the course.

Calendine said things appear to have improved, but often "your ball don't roll, it just bounces."

The city has spent nearly $200,000 this year on upgrades to the course, but construction on the course this summer and continued problems still bring complaints.

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John Budesky, City Parks and Recreation Department manager, and two of his parks staffers held a meeting Wednesday evening at Fairgrounds Park for concerned golfers. The officials responded to the complaints they've been receiving and outlined the things they are doing to correct the problems.

One thing is for sure: It isn't easy being green.

Players and city officials say the course this year was more lush and green than in previous years, but problems remain.

Course workers continue to fine-tune a pricey new irrigation system that hasn't yet worked optimally.

Trees that offered friendly shade on hot days also worked to undermine course managers' efforts by trapping water and providing fertile ground for grass-killing molds, officials said.

Plant diseases, animals and weeds have struck the course, causing patches of dead grass and generally unfriendly playing conditions, officials said.

The current city administration has provided more money for the course than past administrations, but budgets are still limited, Budesky said. Mowers are aging and they're not built for certain types of course work, and the staff is smaller than what experts have recommended for groundskeeping.

"I'm the first to admit we've still got room to improve," Budesky said before the meeting started.

But, Budesky said, plans are in the works to continue improving the course.

The first phase of construction for new golf cart paths is beginning. Work on the course will continue throughout the winter. New mowing equipment is on the way, which should improve play and improve drainage. The groundskeeping staff is following expert advice it received this year to attack the diseases.

Parks officials also said they hope to begin enforcing etiquette rules, such as replacing divots, warning other golfers with a courteous "fore" and watching foul language.

The audience of a half-dozen regular users of the course offered suggestions, many of which the city officials said they would consider to either improve play or bring more people to the course - people that had been scared off by the worsening condition over the years, some people in the audience said.

Ideas included offering free golfing days to bring in more people, or installing play-improving aids, such as markers along the fairway and other amenities.

Harry McAbee, 80, of Hagerstown, was one of the longtime players who attended the meeting Wednesday. He said afterward that he had been playing at the course for nearly 30 years.

The past two years on the course were the worst McAbee said he'd ever seen, but "it's got some potential. ... This course is a jewel" because of the location.

"We're headed in the right direction. It just takes time to get there," McAbee said.

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