Friday, May 21, 2010

SPORTS>>Fore-cast is for golf at Sherwood

Leader staff writer

Sherwood Parks and Recreation Director Sonny Janssen feels like an expectant father awaiting the birth of his child — the revamped North Hills golf course.

The course, renamed The Greens at North Hills, is set to open Memorial Day Weekend.

“I’m excited and nervous all at the same time,” Janssen said.

Though the official opening is set for Saturday, May 29, the course will be christened with the chamber’s annual tournament
Monday. Janssen said the tournament is the largest the chamber has ever had and it is partly “because people want to play on the course.”

The driving range has already opened to positive reviews.

He said the 144 people playing in the tournament will leave with a “wow factor and that word-of-mouth will spread tenfold.”

“I’ll be there just to watch the joy in their faces,” Janssen said.

He admits the course is still a work in progress.

“The course was dormant for two and a half years,” Janssen said. “It’s not 100 percent where we want it, but it’s as close as we can get it. But I guarantee the greens are better than the carpet in your living room. They are second to none, and the same is true for the tee boxes.

“It is something to be proud of.”

The course’s reopening cleared one of its final hurdles Thursday night when the Sherwood City Council, at a specially called meeting, approved the rezoning of the clubhouse area from R-1 (residential) to C-3 (light commercial).

The city’s planning commission recommended the rezoning change after holding a public hearing at the golf course’s request Tuesday night.

At the commission meeting, city planner Dwight Pattison recommended the entire 106-acre golf course be zoned “open space.” He said the golf course and related businesses such as refreshment centers would be allowed under the open-space category.

But Alderman Charlie Harmon told the commission the clubhouse restaurant would be more than a refreshment stand and said it would be a full-service restaurant serving alcohol.

“I don’t think that’s covered under open spaces,” he said.

Harmon added that all other alcohol businesses in the city were in C-3 zoning areas.

“The idea of having the entire golf course under one zoning classification is a good idea,” Harmon said. “But I think the council needs to clarify what’s allowed under open spaces before we go that way.”

The commission agreed and approved the C-3 rezoning for the clubhouse, clearing the way for the Bunker’s Bistro restaurant to be operating well in time for the grand opening.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony will be at 10 a.m., May 29 and Mayor Virginia Hillman will take the first swing. Representatives from Cleveland Golf Club Co. will put on a demonstration.

The mayor said she’s not much of a golfer but has been taking lessons.

“I’m working on my swing and hope not to embarrass anyone. Playing is the key,” she said.

Celebrities, Razorback athletes and other city officials are expected to be at the opening, which is open to the public.

The course will open for public play at noon.

“It is a public course,” Janssen said. “The course belongs to the residents of Sherwood. The taxpayers will be proud.”

Golfers will be playing on a piece of history as the course has been placed on the state registry of historic places and will now be considered for the national registry.

The course is costing the city about $7 million, including $1 million set aside to renovate the irrigation system.

“We’ll tackle that in the winter months,” Janssen said.

Mandel Brockington, who worked at the golf course when he was a teen, is the golf superintendent, and former Sherwood resident Dawn Darter, who took up golf at North Hills at age 5, will serve as the course golf pro.

Like Brockington, it’s Darter’s second stint at the Sherwood course. She worked there as a pro in the early 1980s and also worked at courses in Las Vegas before she recently returned to Sherwood.

Brockington returned to Sherwood from the Dallas area where he ran a number of golf courses.

Daily green fees run from $10 for junior golfers on weekdays to $40 for out-of-state golfers on weekends.

Annual memberships are also available and run from $770 for youths to $1,800 for families.