Sunday, May 21, 2000

Golf course atop old dump poses special challenges

By Andy Resnik
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — The science of golf isn't just reading the greens and lining up putts. At the Phoenix Golf Links, everything depends on solid waste management.

        The Phoenix, which opens May 27, sits atop the former Model Landfill, the Columbus area's garbage dump until it was closed by Franklin County commissioners in 1985 because it was full.

        Designers upgraded the landfill's clay cap, which conceals garbage that once rose 60 feet high, then built extensive piping systems for drainage, irrigation and to burn off gas buildups.

        “It's almost as much of an engineering project as it is building a golf course,” said Barry Fisher, who runs the course for owner-operator Petro Environmental Technologies Inc. of Cincinnati.

        Since moisture would dissolve the garbage and wash it away, the drainage and irrigation systems were built to filter water from the landfill.

        As waste decomposes, it produces methane and carbon dioxide that, if exposed to the surface, would kill the golf course's freshly planted grass, said Petro project manager Kevin Iler.

        So, gas extraction wells pipe the gas from the landfill to the southern edge of the course, where it is burned off in a bright red flare that sends thick black smoke into the sky.

        The flare, which motorists can see from nearby roads, is one of many things Petro hopes will catch a golfer's eye.

        The Phoenix is a links-style course, meaning it has no trees. Their roots would break the clay seal that protects the landfill. Players do have a scenic view of the downtown skyline, about four miles north.

        The course has standard hazards such as bunkers and ponds. But there are also the gas extraction wells, which are surrounded by wooden fences marked with signs that read, “Warning, flammable gas,” and sit between some holes.

        There's a 19th hole in case the cap settles and the garbage gives way under one of the other holes, taking it out of play for a day.

        The par-72, 6,800-yard Phoenix has greens fees of $13.50 to play nine holes and $25 for 18, comparable to other courses open to the public in Columbus. The operators expect it to be competitive because it is a 10-minute drive from downtown offices and is so unusual.

        “I think people are going to be curious,” said golf pro Tony Cardinali. “People are going to want to look at it.”

        Charlie Castle, golf director at the nearby Grovebrook Golf Club, said he expects competition from the Phoenix at first but figures to keep his regulars.

        Players used to a traditional golf course will have trouble adjusting to the Phoenix's wide-open layout, Mr. Castle said.

        There are no trees to circumvent, but the Phoenix has other features, like mounds and uneven greens, that pose problems for average-skill players, Mr. Castle said. Also, with the course located off Interstate 71 and on the highest point of the city, wind will be a factor.

        “Your average golfer is not going to want to go to a course where he's going to get beat up. He wants to go to a course and be happy,” Mr. Castle said. “If it's too tough for him, he's not going to put up with it.”

        Petro is leasing the 185 acres the course was built on from the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio for $1 a year for 40 years, with the option for 10 more.


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