FAA brings changes to Dauphin County golf course in flight path

LONDONDERRY TOWNSHIP, DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. -- Golfers at one Dauphin County course will experience more than a change in the weather if they head out to Sunset Golf this season.

Changes at the Londonderry Township-owned golf course are linked directly to Harrisburg International Airport.

The view from the top of the course is incredible, but it didn't always look that way.

With many of the surrounding trees now gone, there's not only a better view of Dauphin, Lancaster, and York counties, but the runways at Harrisburg International Airport as well.

Players teeing off at Sunset Golf Course may have their eyes on the ball, but that's not the only thing seen flying through the air over the greens.

Sunset Golf Course superintendent Sam Risteff said "it's in their flight pattern for landing and taking off. Periodically, we did trim trees, the airport actually did over these years. It just came to the point where they've gotten that big."

The Federal Aviation Administration determined that many of those trees were cutting it too close to the flight path for planes taking off and landing at Harrisburg International Airport. Those trees were cut down this past winter.

With the removal of many of it's trees, the once traditional fairways are in the process of being converted into a links style course.

"When you look at the links style now that we'll be having, plus the traditional back nine, I don't know many courses that have the same two, links and traditional in the same property," Risteff said.

While the fairways receive a renovation for airplane safety, the airport itself is in the midst of its own upgrades.

Harrisburg International Airport executive director Tim Edwards said "we've got a hotel construction project, 120 room Fairfield Inn and Suites, that is being built on airport property. We've got a corporate hanger that is being built."

It's quite an extensive undertaking for both HIA and Londonderry Township.

"The runway work and the restoration is approximately $9 million. I think about $800,000 or so of that was for the golf course restoration," Edwards said.

"Pretty much not one penny out of the taxpayer's money of Londonderry," Risteff said.

"The airport improvement program comes directly from the people who use the aviation system, through ticket taxes, fuel taxes, and other sources," Edwards said.

Meanwhile, back on the greens, construction is on course to completion this summer.

"We just want to wrap it up to let people see now, exactly what they're looking at. I think that would be just huge. It's going to be great for the township, and it's going to be great for the golfers too," Risteff said.

Township officials not only hope the changes will attract more golfers, but administrators at HIA also hope the changes there will inspire more travelers to use its facility.