And now, it’s back to golf and waving the flag for golf in Howard County from your intrepid blogger.
As maddening as supporting (and advocating its advancement) golf in Howard County can be, I firmly believe that the county can, and should, become a golf destination. Adding a couple courses and working together towards a larger goal can put Howard County on the map. I believe that Howard County can, and should, work to replicate what Montgomery County is doing (and done correctly can one-up our friends in the MoCo). It’s only impossible if they don’t try.
To that point, you don’t do this at once; you do it by making a million small steps that always push towards that larger goal. Last night, I saw first-hand what new thinking looks like, and what might well be a game-changing improvement to apres’-golf dining.
I won’t pretend that I haven’t been critical of Hobbits Glen in the past. The last time I played there the pro shop looked like something from the 1970’s and their bar/grill was a dark, dingy place that was the polar opposite of inviting. I never saw the ill-fated CoHo Grill, but my spies weren’t impressed. The course itself should aspire to be the gem for Howard County golf, a title that sadly must remain vacant for several reasons (that’s a different column that requires a lot of alcohol). Now the pro shop is larger and is more inviting, and that then-dingy bar and grill (now named The Turn House) sets a new high water mark for golf course dining.
Last night while attending a HoCoBlogs event, I saw what golf course dining can and should aspire to in the form of The Turn House (@theturnhouse). It doesn’t (nor should it) have to be gloppy chicken wings and frozen, pre-packaged burgers, chicken fingers or mozzarella sticks. The beer doesn’t have to be the boring national brands who make uniformly bad product. Between Manor Hill and Jailbreak, Howard County is making some damn good beer that you’d actually want to drink. The Turn House, under their new chef Thomas, plans to serve both Manor House and Jailbreak along with some other Maryland favorites that aren’t Natty Boh (Natty Boh is made in Wisconsin, if you’re curious).
The proverbial 19th hole, where you (hopefully) celebrate a good round or commiserate over a bad round, does not have to involve eating poorly. Golfers can, and should, want to eat better. If you’re going to eat a mediocre burger, why not eat a good one that has that nice beefy flavor? If you’re going to enjoy a cold beer (and after a round a cold beer is one of those simple things that lets us know we’re alive), why not drink something that actually tastes like beer (a Manor Hill Katherine’s Kolsch or a Jailbreak Feed The Monkey are both great warm-weather beers made right here in Howard County).
The Turn House has several rooms (including a bar with several TV’s for watching a ballgame if that’s your thing) and has some of the best outdoor seating in the area. Even if you don’t play golf, sitting outside on a how-is-this-November evening enjoying a cold beer is a great way to pass the time. The space looks to work great for weddings and similar functions, and there are plans to have an outdoor beer garden in the warmer months. It’s all part of asking questions about what’s possible, rather than accepting what is.
Montgomery County still has better courses that are better conditioned, but I defy you to find a better restaurant/bar at any course in Montgomery County. It’s one step, but it’s an important one and one I’d like to see replicated. The food at the MoCo courses is forgettable and the beer offerings are the same national brands that seem to be made for people who don’t really like beer all that much.
Their dinner menu holds promise and can hopefully become a place people might hope to dine at. After a round, why not stick around and enjoy a cold beer or two (or a properly-made cocktail) in a brightly-lit bar with great views of the course? Have lunch there while you’re at it! They’re hosting a Bourbon and Cigars event on November 14th that holds promise and an example of what is possible.
Fresh oysters, a cheese board, a Pimento cheese dip that had a nice kick (and wouldn’t make a bad sandwich), and some locally sourced sausage were all outstanding examples of elevating things. Bacon-topped cupcakes were a nice mix of sweet and savory (it took no small amount of discipline to not grab the tray and run for it). For golfers, under a GM who comes from a hospitality background (and a local-boy done great chef in Thomas Zippelli), the plan is to upgrade the offerings at the course’s halfway hut (also named The Turn House) and add a hot dog, a burger, and local beer offerings and cocktails to the beverage cart. If you can drink a Jailbreak or Manor Hill, why would you ever drink something else?