NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk residents are not yet flocking to the city’s municipal golf course, Oak Hills Park interim Executive Director Shelley Guyer said.
“If you look at resident adult rounds, they’re down,” Guyer said at last week’s meeting, as shown in the video above. “Non-resident rounds are down in May, as well. I think that’s more a function of the weather, but we still haven’t been able to recapture our residents. … That’s the area that I’m most concerned with going forward.”
The Oak Hills Park Authority borrowed $3.1 million from Norwalk years ago and has been struggling to make payments over recent years, as the number of people paying to use the course has dropped. It was granted a $150,000 loan from the city in March, as it did not have the money to pay its operating expenses through the winter.
The authority hopes to right its finances by allowing a private company to build a practice range on the course, although details of how that would work are being kept under wraps. Opponents say the demand for golf is down and suggest making Oak Hills an 9-hole course, which they say is a market trend.
In February, Guyer said the course was down 500 resident adult members from where it was five years ago. “That’s a big nut to try to recapture,” he said. “That’s one of the areas we’re going to focus hard on in our marketing efforts.”
There were 45,000 rounds of golf played at the course five years ago, he said; there are 35,000 rounds played now.
There was no finance report given at the last meeting, as Finance Committee Chairwoman Patricia Williams resigned recently. Guyer told Chairman Bob Virgulak the park has enough money to make its $14,474 payment on the recent bridge loan, due July 1.
Guyer said he arranged a shotgun tournament early in June in conjunction with the Oak Hills Restaurant on the Green, which offered a continental breakfast and buffet lunch, he said. Advance registration was 122. The weather was iffy that Monday, but 101 people turned out; 87 were seniors.
“It was a big success,” he said. He added that the course needs to be marketed to seniors, and that he will hold a similar tournament in July.
Authority members say the greens are in much better condition this year. Guyer said the feedback he is getting is good. That includes an unsolicited comment from someone he met while working at a tournament at the H. Smith Richardson Golf Course in Fairfield.
“The buzz throughout Fairfield County about Oak Hills is nothing but positive,” he said.
Business in May was “pretty decent,” Guyer said.
“Rounds in June are probably about the same. Again, we’ve had days like a week ago last Friday (June 14), you couldn’t send the carts out because it was too wet. But Saturday and Sunday were great.”