Sun-dappled fairways rolling through shady forests and greens alongside placid ponds: This vision of golf was nowhere to be found in Sandy Springs, Ga.
What the park-starved community did have was a 120-acre-wide pile of trash.
With open space at a premium, an entrepreneur had little other choice but to convert the closed Morgan Falls landfill into an 18-hole, executive-length golf course.
Landfill conversion is a national trend as builders replace open space with homes, and the people who fill those homes want recreation.
The stinky Morgan Falls landfill was a constant source of complaints from people who lived nearby and from environmental regulators concerned about pollution in the nearby Chattahoochee River. Now, golfers are admiring the ridges and valleys next to the river.
The 4,100-yard-long, par 61 golf course was built by Kay Broaddus, a former marketing executive with Coca-Cola. She said her company, Eagle Golf Ventures, spent $5 million on the course after her research indicated pent-up demand for the sport.
Residents wanted golf, but development had gobbled the large chunks of land. Meanwhile, Fulton County had a landfill that had been full since 1988 and was costing $250,000 a year to maintain. On top of that, state officials were concerned about poor county groundskeeping that resulted in erosion and runoff.
“It wasn’t a routine maintenance program like it should have been, so the landfill suffered for it,” said David Gibbons, a regulator with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
County Commissioner Bob Fulton helped Miss Broaddus get the project approved. He said the county spent $1 million on a methane-extraction system. Now the county receives $40,000 a year from her Eagle Golf Ventures, which has a 25-year lease. The public will receive 2 percent of the greens fees each year her Blue Heron Golf Club sells more than 70,000 rounds. At $25 to $33 a round, that will work out to a minimum of $35,000 to $46,000 a year once the club is doing enough business. The club, which opened Sept. 1, was on target for a rate of nearly 41,000 rounds, Miss Broaddus said.
The biggest boon for taxpayers, however, is the savings on upkeep. Miss Broaddus is responsible for maintaining the property. “Without this greenery, we would have a continual problem with erosion,” Mr. Fulton said.
Residents are happy to be rid of the treeless eyesore. Although some said the county should have considered uses that didn’t involve a private company and a playing fee, many called the golf course an improvement. “I think it’s a wonderful, wonderful addition to the community,” said Eva Galambos, an activist who lives on the ridge north of the old landfill.
Bill Love, the environmental committee chairman of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, estimates that at least 50 landfills around the country have been turned into golf courses.
The next big national trend, he says, will be designing landfills for use after closing. If, for instance, one plans to swing and putt, trash can be dumped along convenient contours; when the landfill is full, the course can go right on top.