On a spot that will soon be the 13th green, with a backdrop of guard towers and barbed wire, officials broke ground for the Laurel Hill Golf Course, the first park facility on the former Lorton Prison land.
Supervisor Gerald Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) was armed with a sand wedge that he's owned since he was 16.
"This course will serve a tremendous need," Hyland said, holding up the club. "Golf is a sport that an increasing number of young people play."
"I brought something to dig sand with," he said, while others grabbed the golden, ceremonial shovels for the event.
The course will be completed in May 2005 at a price of approximately $14 million, just in time for the summer golf crowd. At the groundbreaking, park officials, the course designer, environmentalists and residents were in awe of the view. Crosspointe resident Cheryl Bwyer is a golfer as well. She was glad to see that use of the land.
"I think we need more recreational facilities. I think they're doing the best use to please as many as they can," she said.
Although the course will be using as many existing facilities as possible, and maintaining the current landscape, is a golf course open space? This question was addressed by the chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Katherine Hanley (D).
"This one is going to have a wonderful, natural feel," she said. "This design makes it both passive and active recreation."
Course designer Bill Love looked at the course planners' ability to preserve existing forests, pastures and wildlife habitats. Love is the current vice president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects.
"The Park Authority was able to allow us to use enough land that we won't need to change it as much. It's going to be really unique," Love said.
The 18-hole course will have rolling hills, a lake, two ponds, wooded areas and Giles Run Creek separating the fourth, fifth and sixth holes from the rest. In addition, the facility will include a driving range, a club house and views of some of the preserved prison facilities.
"It's going to provide views you're not going to see anywhere," said. Love.
LORTON RESIDENT Jon Taylor looked at the groundbreaking as a victory. He's been working on eliminating the prison for 15 years.
"This is the crowning touch to get rid of this prison," Taylor said. "It's one of the best uses for it, [golf] gets you out, moving around."
With golf gaining popularity in the area, Nick Duray, who worked with the Economic Research Association, said that group's study supported the need for a course in this area. Initially, the Fairfax County Park Authority was skeptical that there were enough golfers.
"The proximity to [Route] 95 really expands the market," Duray said.
The closest course, Greendale Golf Course, is up Telegraph Road from the Laurel Hill area but won't be in competition with the new course. The price range of courses in the county goes from $40 for 18 holes to $90, like courses out in western Fairfax. The price is based on the difficulty and quality of the course. This new course will be priced somewhere in the $60 range, which is mid-level on the county's scale.
"It will be a little more challenging than some of our existing facilities. The details there haven't been worked out yet," Duray said.
ANOTHER COURSE in that corridor that opened recently is called “Hilltop Golf Course,” also along Telegraph Road, just south of the Beulah Street intersection. Privately financed by Clem Galliott, owner of that land, the course was built on a landfill that was capped with a rubber bladder before dirt was trucked in. Hilltop is $25 for nine holes, but that includes a cart, on the weekends, and $22 on weekdays. There are no walkers on Hilltop.
Originally, Galliott planned on putting an 18-hole course there, but after his own study of the number of golf courses in the area, he scaled it back, substituting housing for the other nine holes. Although Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) would not support the land around Hilltop being rezoned to a denser development, Galliott plans a lower number of single-family homes.
Kingstowne resident Sandy Hollin was in the Hilltop clubhouse on Sunday, Nov. 2, trying to get a tee time for that day, but none were available, showing the course's popularity. Hilltop opened on Oct. 11.
"It's always hard to get on any courses in Fairfax County," he said.