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It's Tee Time at Hilltop Golf Club

Charity golf outing attracts large number of players.

Growing up on Telegraph Road, Clem Gailliot can remember sledding down that same hill. Impossible to imagine now, but back then he said that maybe a dozen cars would come by while they were sledding. He also remembers hitchhiking to Washington, D.C., to get to St. John's College, where he and his brothers attended high school.

Gailliot grew up in the white house on the corner of Telegraph and Beulah (the original road). This was next to the original farmhouse purchased by his grandparents in 1917. That farmhouse still serves as the office for Hilltop Sand & Gravel, which occupies a portion of the Gailliot land.

In addition to the farmhouse, Gailliot's grandparents also purchased quite a parcel of land. Because of their foresight, the Gailliot family has enjoyed quite a legacy. For years, they have been sharing that legacy with the community. At one point, the family operated a chicken business. Gailliot said that his grandfather brought chickens up from the Northern Neck. Much of the land has been used for a sand and gravel business (Hilltop Sand & Gravel) and a construction landfill site.

In the 90's, the Gailliot family started thinking about how they could continuing utilizing the land and retain ownership. They purchased additional land, expanding the original 137 acres to 190 and opened a driving range. It was the beginning of the Hilltop Golf Club, which they anticipated would eventually be an 18-hole course.

Because of the economic picture (100 courses have been built in the Baltimore-Richmond corridor in the last decade), they decided to go with a 9-hole course instead. Plastic membrane was placed over the landfill, giving that land a new life.

The course has been open since last November, but it was just last week that the official ribboncutting for Hilltop Golf Club was held. It was held in conjunction with Charity Golf Outing for United Community Ministries (UCM) and Good Shepherd Housing. Because it's a 9-hole course, golfers were assigned tee times throughout the day instead of using a shotgun start. Box lunches from American Barbecue and goodie bags were given to the golfers either before or after their round. Approximately 140 golfers came for the outing, which Gailliot anticipates will make about $6,000 for the two charities. Much of the money came from the many sponsors procured by Hilltop.

Eileen McNally, development associate at UCM, said, "Clem is so good to UCM; whenever we ask for something, he's always there to help."

THIS NEW 9-HOLE COURSE was designed by Lindsay Bruce Ervin, an award-winning architect who also laid out Queenstown Harbor Golf in Maryland. Ervin created this course in the Scottish links style with lots of berms and bunkers to challenge golfers. There are four par-4 holes and five par-3s.

"We've used pot bunkers and mounding around the holes and long fescue grass in the rough to give it a real Scottish-Irish look," said Ervin. "I put in a lot of traps and undulations in the greens. You have to be able to putt [to play this course]."

Ervin played the tournament with his son, Lindsay, and daughter, Cathy.

Ervin had played the course a couple of times before the tournament, and said, "I'm very happy with it. It's short, a lot of fun and challenging. It will keep people coming out to play. I love coming out and playing the course. Iím glad that itís been so well received."

Cathy said, "I love it, you get the feeling that you're up in the clouds."

Gailliot said that there are no trees on the course because of the plastic membrane placed over the landfill.

Driving around the course, one gets a sense of pride from Gailliot, a sense that they've done a good thing converting this land. And except for the hilly terrain, it's easy to overlook the fact that this course sits on a former landfill. Gailliot pointed out hole #4.

"This is our signature hole, because of the nature of the hole and the view," said Gailliot.

Golfers Bill Hill, Brian Stack, Ernie Balassi and Jack Ready were on the green, trying their luck.

As Gailliot drove around, he pointed out that Kingstowne is right in their backyard; he also showed hole #8, which he said was a tough hole.

"It's a short course, so we wanted to make it challenging," said Gailliot. "So far, nobody's made par."

DUE TO BACK PROBLEMS, Gailliot has not golfed for the past couple of years, so he has to satisfy himself with taking occasional putts. Marty O'Rear is their PGA Director of Golf, while Susan Croce serves as their business manager. Gailliot said that there are six part-time instructors; they give lessons to students of all ages.

Kevin Sloan, Carl Sell, Steve Loesher and Bill Kamenjar were in the first foursome to complete last weekís tournament. Kamenjar said that there were a variety of playing levels in their group, but that they all enjoyed it. Sloan said that he liked the course, because "it was wide open." Sell remembers back in 1979, when they were talking about reclaiming the landfill.

"People laughed then, but look at it today. I love the use of the land," said Sell.

Where & When

Hilltop Golf Club is located at 7900 Telegraph Road. They can be reached at 703-719-6504 or by visiting their website, www.hilltopgolfclub.com. A round of golf during the week is $24; weekends-$28. Driving range is open 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Lessons and workshops are also available. On Saturday, May 8, Hilltop Golf Club will sponsor "Play Golf America Day." From 10 a.m.-4 p.m., enjoy clinics and lessons, special events. Try demo equipment from leading manufacturers and receive free golf gifts.