Appleland Sports Center embraces spring
To some, spring announces itself with warmer weather and flowers.
At Appleland Sports Center, spring spawns the sounds of golf balls being smacked, baseballs being pounded and go-carts chugging.
Located at 4990 Valley Pike just north of Stephens City, the 45-acre center has a 12-hole golf course, a three-deck driving range, an 18-hole mini-golf course, eight baseball and softball hitting cages and a 200-foot long banked go-cart track.
“It’s cyclical, this business,” said Brent A. Baker, the golfing general manager for the past 14 years and a certified teaching professional by the U.S. Golf Teachers Federation.
The center’s main attraction is golf.
“We get all kinds of people from all kinds of places,” said Rich Nagel, 67, of Stephens City who works in the golf pro shop part time 2 and is retired from the U.S. Department of Defense.
“We had a girl come play from Oklahoma who was visiting friends from college,” he said, “and we get a lot of kids from Shenandoah College; some can smack the ball pretty good.”
It all began in 1989 when Ralph Gregory and his wife wanted to develop houses on 55 acres they owned and were discouraged by the then-chairman of the Frederick County Board of Supervisors. So they built a nine-hole par 3 golf course and five years later added the three-deck driving range because “we were so busy.” The next addition was three par 4 golf holes in 2001 that allowed them to advertise as an executive golf course.
“Seniors and young golfers love it, because it is so easy to recover after a bad shot,” said Gregory, 78, who used to play but hasn’t recently.
However, two golf holes border water and “they are full of balls,” laughed Gregory.
Nagel likes to play his golf on the course in the early morning when he said he has seen raccoons, bears, geese, and foxes.
“It’s just nature but there are all kinds of weird things to see in the morning,” he said.
“One of the best parts of my job is working with children,” said Baker.
“As a golfing professional, it is my job to grow the game, teach the game,” said Baker, who often gives private golfing lessons.
With the onset of summer, Baker holds four Frederick County Junior golfing camps in conjunction with the Frederick County Parks and Recreation Department.
“They all want to start off hitting a driver,” said Baker, who has them begin with short irons, and estimates one in 10 of the golfers he mentors eventually play competitively in high school or college.
“Golf is tough in this area, you can’t play year around,” Baker noted.
Still, the driving range remains open in winter, even when it snows, and the yellow practice balls can be seen plunking into the snow.
There is an event room that can hold 110 people used for birthdays, bridal parties and on Sunday is rented by the St. Peter Lutheran Church and a fully stocked pro shop with everything related and needed to play golf.
Golfers come to sharpen their game, said Rick Taylor, 58, service manager for a Winchester tire company, while playing recently with two golfing buddies.
“It’s a nice course, well maintained and you get in and out quickly because it isn’t busy,” he said. “Plus it’s a great tune-up for bigger courses.”
Golfing buddy Carl Adolphson, 61, from Baker, West Virginia, where he is a carpenter and foreman, praised the “narrow fairways, undulation on the greens and the price is very compatible.”
Also attracting customers is the mini-golf course where Allan Kidd, 30, said he has been putt putting for 20 years.
“I know the course,” Kidd laughed. “Everybody knows it is challenging but not hard enough that you want to quit. I’m lucky to get par.”
Allan and his girl friend Monica Chaney, 25, live in Shawnee Land, and Chaney said, “We come here all the time,” and she often wins.
The something-for-everyone theme showed up recently when 7-year-old Maleah Clinedinst was playing miniature golf with her father’s girlfriend while her brother Ryan, 14, who is on the Page County High School junior varsity baseball team was heading to the batting cage.
Said dad Chad Clinedinst, 33, ” She (Maleah) gets to do what she wants to do and he (Ryan) gets to do wants he wants to do.”
The nine batting cages have varying pitch speeds and attract players on area teams as well as home-schooled kids who use it to fulfill their public education requirements, said Greg Jones, who leases the land for the facility .
“It’s been here for 21 years and is something for the community,” said Jones. “These facilities are hard to come by today.”
Both the batting cages and go-cart track have an enemy in wet weather, forcing them to close or postpone activities.
“It is a seasonal business,” said David Gregory, Ralph’s son, who operates the track and charges $6 for a ride in the go-carts that circle the 200-foot-long oval.
Contact Tom Crosby at email@example.com