By Matt Hombach
The view from the 16th tee at the new Fox Hollow Golf Course in Timonium drives home the astonishing $3.5-million reinvention of the course formerly known as Longview.
|Fox Hollow Golf Course. (Courtesy of Matt Hombach)|
If Fox Hollow’s meandering, tree-lined entranceway, upgraded and renovated clubhouse, and new state-of-the-art training facility don't get golfers' attention, the new back nine will.
The redesigned inward nine at Fox Hollow is punctuated by the 161-yard par-3 16th hole, which is as aesthetically pleasing as it is challenging. Mature oaks and poplars frame the slightly-downhill tee shot. Two sloped bunkers guard the putting surface. A hooked tee shot will land out of bounds. Go right and face a tricky chip shot off a side hill to a narrow green.
While Fox Hollow's 16th hole tests players' short game, the new back nine -- and the entire course for that matter -- afford golfers the opportunity to challenge their game, but still shoot a good number and have an enjoyable round.
"Our intent was not to create an exceedingly difficult golf course here at Fox Hollow, but we wanted to provide a golf course that was a fun place to play and give the average golfer a chance to score well," said William "Lynnie" Cook, II, chief executive of the Baltimore County Revenue Authority, who along with the organization’s board of directors championed the creation of the new course.
Cook enlisted the services of Bill Love of W.R. Love Inc., a nationally-renowned golf course architectural firm, to bring the Revenue Authority’s vision to fruition at Fox Hollow.
"When we embarked on this project, we wanted to do it the right way," said Cook. "Bill Love has a great understanding of the unique qualities required to create great public golf courses. We worked with him previously on several projects at other courses and knew he had the design skills to create something special at Fox Hollow."
Cook also said the Revenue Authority was grateful to Baltimore County government and various county departments who worked cooperatively to bring the multi-year project to fruition.
One of the driving forces behind the creation of Fox Hollow was the need for a better practice facility. The range at Longview was never a crowd pleaser. At less than 200 yards in length, it backed up to residential areas and required golfers to use limited-flight balls.
By all accounts Fox Hollow now offers one of the best public training facilities in the region and golfers are taking notice.
The facility is an amusement park for anyone passionate about learning the game or improving skills. It features state-of-the-art mats mimicking hitting off natural turf, and the range offers several full-scale target greens and bunkers at varying distances.
Simulated bunkers allow patrons to work on sand shots of any length. Multiple putting and chipping greens are located adjacent to the practice tees. A new range building, as well as covered and heated tees, round out the notable offerings at the training center.
The standard stadium-style lighting at most driving ranges only lets golfers see the ball for the first 30-50 yards after it is hit. New "up lighting" at Fox Hollow illuminates the ball the entire time it is in the air. Fox Hollow also offers a lighted short game practice area.
Fortunately for area golfers, the construction of the training facility served as a catalyst for a redesign and re-routing of the back nine of the course.
"We understood the back nine at Longview was never very appealing and had some drainage issues," said Cook. "We felt it was best to totally redesign the layout and configuration to create a totally new course that was more than 6,100 yards in length and retained a par of 70."
Love and his design team took the land surrounding the driving range as well as a wooded ridge at the edge of the property to craft a distinct set of holes featuring three mid-length to short par-3s, two par-5s and four dynamic par-4s. While a few of the original holes from Longview remain in the mix, the design style of the new holes blended into the existing ones by adding fairway bunkers and tee complexes in strategic locations.
While most new courses are dotted with hundreds of new saplings, Fox Hollow preserves many of the mature trees former Longview patrons may recognize, like the two stately Eastern Cedars backing the green at the par-4 14th hole.
Fox Hollow head professional Chris Hanson, PGA, brings a wealth of experience in customer service and course operations to his leadership role. Throughout his career, Hanson has served as a pro at several of the top private clubs in Maryland and was head golf professional at Greystone, the premier public course in Baltimore County.
"We were excited about the upgrades and renovations and the opening of the new facility, but I was shocked at how outstanding the finished product turned out to be," said Hanson. "It exceeded our expectations, and I’m confident the golfing public will feel the same when they get out here and experience it for themselves. This certainly isn’t Longview anymore."
Jerry Harris, a regular at Longview, was very impressed after playing a recent early morning round at Fox Hollow.
"I’ve taken a few walks back here in the past few months to see how construction was going, waiting for the course to open up," he said. "This place is amazing, especially the holes set back in the woods. It’s hard to believe this is the same property."
A Nod to Notable Course Inhabitants
In the 1980s, Longview made national news when golfers reported dozens of balls mysteriously vanishing from fairways and greens. An investigation by staff members led them to a fox den on the course, where they uncovered the bounty of golf balls collected by a family of sly foxes. Golf Digest and legendary radio commentator Paul Harvey both made light of the story when it broke.
The name of the new course and the fox emblazoned on the logo offer a small tribute to the foxes that still make their rounds on the property. While the foxes seem to have given up their ball-hunting habit, area golfers hunting for a new challenge need to put Fox Hollow on their "must play" list for 2010.
Issue 151: July 2010