A change of course for Sligo Creek golf?
Board seeks opinion on proposal for lighted driving range, mini-golf at Silver Spring facility
A proposal to put a lighted driving range and two mini-golf courses at Sligo Creek Golf Course in Silver Spring has the potential to disrupt the neighborhood, nearby residents say.
Talk of the plan surfaced Monday evening at the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board, a few days before the proposal will be discussed at the Montgomery County Planning Board. ‘‘We view it as an amusement park-like facility that we believe is incompatible with the park,” said Ludolph Welanetz, president of the North Hills of Sligo Civic Association.
‘‘It would be extremely successful, which would impact Sligo Creek Parkway,” Welanetz said, adding that on weekends, the golf course traffic would add to the line of cars already trying to get to the soccer fields across the street.
The Montgomery County Revenue Authority, which operates the Sligo Creek course, has proposed to re-route the nine-hole course around the perimeter of the existing area, add one or two lighted mini-golf courses and a two-level driving range with 60 to 70 stations. It also would like to expand the snack bar and clubhouse.
However, Keith Miller, executive director for the revenue authority, said the project is in its earliest stages and plans are not set. At this point, he said, he is looking for community feedback.
‘‘Our goal is really to revitalize the golf course itself,” he said. ‘‘The golf course is in need of major improvements, and we’d like to create it into a learning center.”
Between 20,000 and 25,000 rounds are played at the course annually, Miller said. The course gets many repeat customers.
The revenue authority, which also owns and operates five other courses, doesn’t have a timeline for the project, and final costs have not yet been determined.
The driving range, which could be constructed on the course’s current seventh green, would allow group instruction on one level while the other level is open to the public. A short-game practice area would include sand and grass bunkers and putting and chipping greens.
One 18-hole mini-golf course would be constructed on currently unused land near the parking lot, Miller said. The other would be created if there were enough demand.
‘‘The mini-golf would turn it into a family facility as well,” Miller said. ‘‘It’s an opportunity to introduce children to the earliest stage of golf. We think it’s an all-encompassing revitalization of the facility.”
The facility could become the home of First Tee Montgomery, a national program that exposes young people to life skills through the process of learning golf. Classroom space would be added to the clubhouse.
Silver Spring resident Bobby Fulton has been coming to the Sligo Creek course for about 10 years and was there contemplating a few rounds Tuesday morning while a maintenance worker cut grass nearby.
Fulton had not heard much about the proposed plans, but said he doesn’t like to use driving ranges. They can make your golf game worse, he said, adding he likes the current facility.
‘‘It’s small and it’s a learning course,” he said.
Plans for the golf course, as well as plans for other county courses, will be discussed 1 p.m. Thursday by the Montgomery County Planning Board at Park and Planning headquarters, 8787 Georgia Ave. Approval will not be sought for any of the plans at that time, but public testimony will be taken.
Some residents say the proposed plan will not serve the community and the park in the best way possible.
‘‘We feel like, environmentally, this is really not the best thing to be doing on a small piece of land,” said Anne Randall, a member of the North Hills of Sligo Civic Association.
Major changes like those proposed could disturb the habitat, said Sally Gagne, a North Hills resident and member of Friends of Sligo Creek, at Monday’s meeting.
Sligo Creek Parkway, from which the golf course is accessed, cannot accommodate many cars, Randall said. A driving range and mini-golf would likely bring in dozens of customers. And the range, she said, is going to be large and lighted, and could disturb both nearby residents and animals indigenous to Sligo Creek Park.
Sligo Creek Golf Course is in an urban area, and two-tier driving ranges are usually found out in the country, Randall said. Large nets will have to be put up around the course, and the lights could shine into the neighborhood.
Randall said the neighborhood association is not opposed to golf course renovations, but would like the revenue authority to come up with a ‘‘new, gentler approach.”
Miller said he appreciates the community’s input and made a point of talking to nearby civic associations before Thursday’s meeting.
‘‘We felt it necessary to reach out to them first,” he said, adding he has appreciated the feedback.
‘‘The goal is to build the facility that is right for the residents and right for the local community,” Miller said.
To learn more
Proposed plans for the Sligo Creek Golf Course, as well as improvements to three other county golf courses, will be presented 1 p.m. Thursday to the Montgomery County Planning Board at Park and Planning headquarters, 8787 Georgia Ave. Call 301-495-4600.