To the Editor:
Will a large 36-bay double-decker driving range in Oak Hills Park be profitable?
That is the question the Oak Hills Park Authority, the autonomous body that manages the golf course in Oak Hills Park, paid the National Golf Foundation $21,000 to address. Hence, one anticipates the NGF will conclude the driving range will be profitable. Then the Authority will use the “study” in an appeal to the Common Council for a two to four-million-dollar loan to construct it.
Indeed, the Authority has already made clear that its appeal will be based on the following two propositions:
- No golf course is complete without a driving range. (“A golf course without a range is kind of nonsensical,” is the way Republican District E candidate John Bazzano put it when he was running for a seat on the Common Council).
- A large commercial driving range in the residential neighborhood where Oak Hills Park is located will generate the income the OHPA needs to survive.
So on a series of beautiful fall days I set out on my bicycle to test those two propositions by visiting the nine golf courses closest to Oak Hills Park: Silvermine Golf Course, Norwalk (4 miles from Oak Hills); Country Club of Darien (4 miles); Woodway Country Club, Darien (4.5 miles); Shorehaven Golf Course, Norwalk (5 miles); Wee Burn Country Club, Darien (5 miles); Longshore Golf Course, Westport (7 miles); Sterling Farms, Stamford (7 miles); Rolling Hills Golf Course, Wilton (10 miles); Silver Spring Golf Course, Ridgefield (12.7 miles distant); and Carl Dickman Par 3 Golf Course, Fairfield ( 13 miles).
Of these nine golf courses, the only one that has a double-decker driving range is Sterling Farms. I visited Sterling Farms’ driving range on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.
Nevertheless there were many more empty stalls than patrons. And that despite the fact that Sterling Farms’ driving range is much more advantageously located than a driving range in Oak Hills Park would be.
What about the other nine nearby courses? For Silver Spring, Longshore and Shorehaven go to www.nancyonnorwalk.com/?s=beautiful. For the others take a look below:
As you can see, golfers don’t need multi-million dollar commercial driving ranges to satisfy some of their desires to practice their swings before playing a round of golf. Rather much more modest and attractive facilities serve that purpose well.
Furthermore, the fact that you don’t find large commercial driving ranges in Darien, New Canaan, Wilton, Westport, Fairfield, and nearly every other municipality in the state is proof that the contention that the OHPA’s proposed driving range would be a surefire money winner is wrong. Hence, from the point of view of Norwalk taxpayers, the $21,000 the OHPA spent to purchase a “study” from the NGF that supports that contention was a waste of money.
So what should the Common Council do now if the NGF “study” supports the contention that the OHPA’s proposed multi-million dollar driving range will be profitable? It should admonish the Authority to use the study to try to convince a bank to loan it the money to construct the driving range.
Then, recalling the problem the Authority is having paying back the millions taxpayers loaned it to construct an oversized restaurant, the Common Council should make it clear that it will not allow additional taxpayer dollars to be put at risk to support what could easily turn out to be an even larger OHPA boondoggle.