Leggett Proposal Would Keep Sligo Creek Golf Course Open for at Least a Year

By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sligo Creek Golf Course, the nine-hole Silver Spring course beloved by many women, seniors and minority golfers, would remain open at least another year under a plan proposed Wednesday by Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D).

Leggett told County Council members Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) and Marc Elrich (D-At Large) on Wednesday that he plans to seek funds from the council to keep the course open past its planned Oct. 1 closing date. Leggett aide Patrick Lacefield estimated the council would need to approve an additional $150,000 to operate the course for 12 months. Lacefield said that Leggett would be willing to consider seeking money to keep it open for a second year but that he hopes a task force he plans to form will soon find a way to ensure that the course is self-sustaining.

Sligo had been slated to close this fall because county officials said it was too expensive to run. Depending on how the losses are calculated, many of the county's public golf courses are losing several hundred thousand dollars annually, according to county data. But the long-term prospects at the other public courses, all with 18 holes and more challenging, are brighter than at Sligo, said Keith Miller, executive director of the county's revenue authority, which operates the public courses.

Sligo is one of a handful of inside-the-Beltway golf courses and the only nine-hole course remaining in Montgomery County's publicly run system. Sligo backers say it has the most diverse clientele of any county course.

The plan to close Sligo had generated an outcry among its fans and a flood of e-mails, letters and phone calls to county officials. A parade of golfers -- men, women, seniors, minorities and beginners -- told the county planning board at a contentious hearing July 16 that they favor the course for its unhurried atmosphere, sylvan setting and welcoming community. A group of female golfers said it has played there for 25 years.

Miller, who has been seeking ways to staunch losses at the county's courses, had proposed adding a driving range to Sligo with night lights and a miniature golf course, but neighbors objected. He then announced the course would close this fall.

Joe Hibbeln of Silver Spring, a Sligo golfer, said Leggett's decision could give Sligo a chance to develop into a place with more programs for beginners and others who want a low-key experience on the fairways. "It is an appropriate response to the vigorous community cry to preserve what I call historical, minority, women, senior and kid-friendly access to golf," Hibbeln said.

"It is the seed corn for golf. It is one of the few courses that is entry level and a training ground for golf that is friendly and accessible for everybody."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company