To the Editor,
Rather than use all the revenue it takes in to service its debt and maintain the golf course the Oak Hills Park Authority made it clear at its last meeting that it now plans to use a portion of those revenues to fund an advertising campaign.
The purpose of the advertising campaign is to make golfers in the wealthier communities of Darien, New Canaan and Westport aware of the benefits of playing on a course subsidized by the taxpayers of Norwalk.
That, of course, should make golfers in those wealthier communities happy. And it stands to reason that local papers like The Hour won’t mind accepting money for the advertisements. But how will it sit with the average taxpayer of our city?
No doubt the average taxpayer would say that “if there are not enough golfers in Norwalk to make the 18-hole course in Oak Hills Park financially sustainable it is time to reduce the course to nine holes and use the land freed up as a result for some of the many activities favored by those who don’t play golf.”
But wouldn’t reducing the size of the golf course harm golfers? Not in the view of Jack Nicholas and other golf professionals. As the Golden Bear put it, for instance:
“Since 2006 we’ve lost 20 percent of the women and 20 percent of the kids in the game of golf. I mean that’s a horrible statistic…If that’s the case, why? Well why is because it takes too long. I mean my kids don’t play golf anymore or very little because they are spending time on the weekends with their kids playing little league, soccer, lacrosse, football, basketball, whatever it might be. They’re not playing golf. Those soccer games and those lacrosse games they take up a field for an hour, an hour and a half. So we’ve got to have a game that takes that amount of time. Everybody’s got 18 holes. Why [can’t it] be two nines holes. Why can’t it be two nines? [Or] three sixes. Everybody’s in a cart anyway. What difference does it make…You’ve got to figure out how to keep people in this stupid game. And the only way I know to go about it is to shorten the game from what it is.”
In other words reducing the size of the course might just be the way to salvage it. But even more importantly it would help turn Oak Hills Park into what it was always intended to be but that the members of the Oak Hills Park Authority disparage: a public park.
Public parks are assets meant to benefit all taxpayers. Golf courses are assets that benefit a minority of taxpayers. Hence, as Meredith Thomas, the director of San Francisco’s Neighborhood Parks Council put it, “continuing to invest in golf courses that are not financially self-sustaining at the cost of other urban recreation is completely unjustifiable.”