BY JEFF FALK
HAMLIN – It is every golfer’s dream.
More alluring than qualifying for the U.S. Open. More tantalizing than carding a hole-in-one. More intoxicating than sinking a long putt on the final hole to win a major championship.
What every golfer would like to do more than anything is design his own golf course.
Tom Reinbold is living the dream. Not only did he and brother John design their own golf course, they also did most of its construction on their own.
Hamlin Golf Club is the Reinbolds’ creation. It is also Lebanon County’s newest public golf course.
“It helps to be a golfer, to be able to design a course,” said Reinbold, a resident of North Lebanon township, “as far as the flight of the ball goes. You’ve got to consider the safety of other golfers. Thirty-three acres isn’t a lot of land for a nine-hole golf course.
“The lay of the land helped,” Reinbold added. “You have to also have an eye for it. The way the land rolls. I could look at it and see golf holes.”
Hamlin is a small hamlet in Bethel Township, located directly east of Fredericksburg. Hamlin Golf Club is nestled into a former Christmas tree farm owned by the Reinbold family for five decades, just north of downtown Hamlin on Mount Zion Road.
The nine-hole course, comprised of par-threes and par-fours, has the feel of being carved from a 33-acre former tree farm. The rolling hills that it is built upon offers golfers challenging lies, and the greens aren’t too small for a course its size.
“I hope it becomes a popular golf spot for people of all ages, from beginners on up,” said Reinbold. “It’s a good place to improve your game. Straightness counts on this course. You can’t spray the ball all around and score well.
“Overall, I’d like to see the course succeed,” Reinbold added. “We’ve seen a lot of repeat play. We wanted to make it a place where you could afford to come and play golf, and it wouldn’t take all day to play.”
This spring marked the completion of the Reinbolds’ 12-year project.
With both holding down full-time jobs, the Reinbolds began construction of the course in 2000. The course informally opened at the beginning of the current golf season.
“I would say it’s complete,” said Reinbold. “It’s open. We’re getting play, so it’s pretty much complete. But we’ll always be making changes.
“My brother and I were both golfers,” Reinbold continued. “We were doing Christmas trees a long time. The idea came to me one hot afternoon when we were trimming. I still miss the Christmas trees, the digging, the cutting of the trees. But the trimming part every year got old.”
Like many dreams, Hamlin Golf Club was ten percent inspiration and 90 percent hard work and dilligence.
“I think that was the most difficult part,” said Reinbold. “Since it took so long and my brother and I have full-time jobs, it was staying with it. You do that, question yourself. A lot of things happen. Equipment breaks down. You break down. You do question yourself.
“We spent two or three years just kind of carving around trees,” Reinbold added. “We did a lot of burning of trees. We put the last green in two years ago. And there’s always township concerns.”
Of course, in any endeavor like the Reinbolds undertook, money is always a concern. While there were considerable costs involved with building the course, funds they hope to one day re-coup, the almighty dollar wasn’t the force driving the Reinbolds.
“You always have that going into a business venture,” said Reinbold. “You’d like to get out of it what you put into it, at least. It was kind of like a retirement project, when we do retire. My brother is 55 and close to retiring. I’ll be 52.
“It wasn’t about the money,” Reinbold continued. “There was a challenge aspect to it. I always thought we could do it. It was nice to keep the land. Personally, I think a golf course is almost a preservation of land at its finest. And we wanted to keep it in the family.”
At ten bucks for nine holes and $15 for 18, the Reinbolds have discovered a way to keep the soaring costs of playing golf in line.
“I think it’s affordable for most residents,” said Reinbold. “Golfers come from all backgrounds and situations. It’s also a course you can play in an hour-and-a-half or two hours. Not everybody likes to spend the whole day at the golf course. Sure the world is moving faster, but people still like to have their leisure time.
“I couldn’t really give you an accurate figure on what it cost,” continued Reinbold. “Just the amount of time we put into it, that’s worth something. We did the work ourselves and that saved money. It was a good deal of money. But the land was given to us by our parents.”
Hamlin is Lebanon County’s ninth public golf course, and tenth overall. What will be interesting to witness is the place that Hamlin Golf Club assumes on the local landscape, as it evolves.
“Yeah, you do get a good feeling,” said Reinbold, “especially now when you have people play it, and you have them tell you how nice the course is, and that they’ll be back. That makes you feel good.
“Yes, we did everything,” concluded Reinbold. “It was an awful lot of time, a lot of hard work and a lot of research on irrigation. We learned a lot, and we’re still learning a lot. Taking care of greens is a monster in itself.”
Thanks for the article Jeff! We’re going in to our 5th year!