Design changes and a sluggish real estate market have delayed construction of a $13 million championship golf course at Rocky Gap State Park in Western Maryland.

Construction on the 18-hole course is hinged on getting investment money for a hotel resort and convention center at the site, just east of Cumberland.

"We are heading to the goal line at a time when the real estate market is not bullish and getting the money has not been easy," John R. Griffin, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said.

"It's possible that they could start work on the golf course later this fall, or the decision could be made to wait until the weather breaks in the spring."

Work on the golf course was to begin this month. It is being paid for with $12 million from state coffers and $1 million from Allegany County.

The state is paying Jack Nicklaus $1 million to design the course. However, the General Assembly stipulated that the remaining $11 million could not be released until financing was secured for the convention center, Griffin said.

Barker-Patrinely Group Inc. of Houston is developing the 210- to 240-bed resort hotel and conference center. The $36 million center would cater to corporate meetings and training sessions as well as vacationers.

The developer is trying to get financial partners who will agree to come up with additional cash investments required by lenders, Griffin said. Barker-Patrinely has pledged some, but not all of the $8 million to $10 million in equity needed for the project, he said.

"Even if the equity falls in place within the next month, the possibility for starting construction on the Rocky Gap golf course before next March appears to be slim at best," Griffin said.

It is expected to take two years to complete the golf course, instructional academy and driving range.