Oak Hills banking on continued increased interest in golf at park

Frank Bisceglia
Frank Bisceglia pleads with the Oak Hills Park Authority Thursday in an effort to get a deal on his many rounds of golf.

NORWALK, Conn. – The Oak Hills Park Authority, pointing to an 8 percent increase in golf rounds in 2014, took what it called a more conservative view when forming its 2015-2016 budget, according to its Finance Committee chief.

Finance Committee Chairman John McKenna recommended that the Authority choose an annual budget that projected a 3 percent rise in golf rounds, as opposed to the 1 percent and 5 percent plans he had come up with. The 3 percent rise would likely mean the Authority would “over-deliver,” he said. They went for it, voting unanimously for the 3 percent budget.

OHP Executive Director Shelley Guyer said that, in 2014, golf rounds were up 8 percent from 2013.

Elsa Peterson Obuchowski reported that the OHPA nature committee had, in its first meeting, looked into acquiring some neighboring city land for the park, to increase the amount of open space. Four committee members plan to meet with Norwalk Senior Environmental Engineer Alexis Cherichetti to identify the land and work out an agreement that would keep the land from being built on, Obuchowski said.

The group also is looking into getting plaques to identify trees on the park’s nature trail, and is focused on the restoration of the rose garden. Anthony Carrano said it is possible that a Boy Scout might be interested in restoring the rose garden for an Eagle Scout project.

The nature area will probably be one of the first things worked on as part of the $1.5 million state grant the Authority is expecting, members said. That led to talk about the golf cart paths.

Guyer said that work would likely begin in November, which would be good because it likely wouldn’t affect the park’s bottom line, as the golf carts haven’t been used that much at that time of the year due to the conditions. It’s likely that one or two holes would be done at a time.

Superintendent Jim Schell said the cart work wouldn’t affect the golfers much, and it might even draw more people to the park. Stanwich Golf Club, where he used to work, actually had more rounds while a $4 million project was underway, he said, because people want to see what is going on.

“There was added interest. We got more rounds in the season where we did our massive construction project,” Schell said.

Jeff Gocke of Kings Highway Partnership, which runs the tennis facility at the park, explained that the tennis season would probably begin around May 1. There was talk of cross promotion between the tennis club and the golf club, as tennis players don’t go down the driveway to see what is going on, or try the restaurant.

It was suggested that golf pro Ed Ruiz would reach out to the schools and offer to give classes in golf, with plastic clubs. And OHPA has a bit of a windfall – the Westchester Golf Club’s superintendent is giving the Authority an almost full set of tee markers, described by Schell as used and easily refurbished.

“Our tee markers have to be the worst tee markers I have ever seen. .. It’s going to look a lot better,” Ruiz said.

The Authority needs to buy seven tee markers at $14 each, he said.

Yvonne Lopaur was the second speaker of the evening, protesting that OHPA is planning to cut down trees. Schell said two cherry trees had just come down, and 35 percent of the limbs were dead.

“There are trees that are getting so big they are getting in the way of the game of golf. It would cost far more to build new tees that have a new approach to the green then to remove the trees that have become overgrown,” Schell said. “There are also trees that are casting shade and competing with the grass where it would end up costing more inputs, meaning pesticides , water, etc. etc.”

OHP Executive Director Shelley Guyer
Oak Hills Park Executive Director Shelley Guyer agrees that he is Frank Bisceglia’s friend at Thursday’s OHPA meeting in City Hall.


One golfer tried, at the start of the meeting, to give the Authority a quick infusion of cash, but was rebuffed.
Frank Bisceglia, the first speaker, pulled out his wallet and offered the Authority a hunk of money to help it get through the winter but because that would involve selling him more than the approved amount of discount packs, there was little interest.

Bisceglia, sitting with his wallet out and trying to make a deal with the Authority, said that two years ago he played more rounds than anyone in Connecticut. “It’s a win-win-win-win,” Bisceglia said. “… All I am asking is let me give you money.”

He wanted to buy 5-packs, which is five rounds for the price of four, and management would not agree, so he had gone to the higher level, the Authority, cash in hand.

“You probably won’t believe this but Shelley is my friend,” Bisceglia said, drawing laughter.

Guyer said after the meeting that a limit had been put on the 5-packs, because the Authority knew there would be people like Bisceglia, trying to scoop many up.

Norwalk OHPA budget 011515004


18 responses to “Oak Hills banking on continued increased interest in golf at park”

  1. Yvonne Lopaur

    Jeft Gock also pointed out that tennis is suffering from competition from paddle tennis. There used to be three paddle tennis courts in Oak Hills Park but they were eliminated by the OHPA. Paddle tennis is an activity that people can enjoy in the winter when they don’t play tennis and golf. And it is an activity, that unlike an 18-hole golf course, takes up a limited amount of space. There used to be a perfectly adequate small restaurant in the park. But it was demolished so the large restaurant that is struggling to survive could be constructed in its place. The pro shop burned down in 2001 and was rebuilt. Now the OHPA wants to demolish it and the cart barn and reconstruct them elsewhere in order to make room for a driving range. Trees in the park are cut down at will instead of being pruned. In sum, the current OHPA is following the pattern of past Authorities of mismanaging the park as it strives to promote the interests of a dwindling number of resident golfers at the expense of everyone else.

  2. Betsy Wrenn

    Would love a detailed breakdown of how rounds get played: 18 vs. 9, senior vs adult, out-of-town vs. local, weekend vs. weekday, etc. If there has been an 8% increase in rounds, let’s have the details, please.

  3. Suzanne

    Betsy, The last time this was requested, the excuse was made that the OHPA did not have the software to accommodate or that the software wasn’t working.

    A simple check list on a clip board at purchase transmitted to Microsoft Excel, a simple spread sheet program, I suggested, would do the trick.

    Strangely, no one from the OHPA responded.

  4. Clyde Mount OHPA Member

    This was not what was asked for Suzanne, of course we have straight sales numbers by round. The question was “how much of a discount was given within a particular type of round”. for example, of the resident rounds played, how many were played at a discount. That information we do not have and your idea of an excel spreadsheet would impact customer service too greatly for what we would learn from the exercise. We know exactly how many and of what type of round was sold. We do not know if that round was discounted other than by taking averages by round type. That was my final reply.

    The round counts are made public record at every meeting of the OHPA on a monthly basis.

  5. Yvonne Lopaur

    Mr. Mount:

    Could you please provide NON with the information Ms. Wrenn is seeking? It is not available on the city’s website when you go to the OHPA minutes and it should be.

    Specifically, do you have the resident round numbers for the years 2000 through 2014?

  6. EastNorwalkChick

    Mr. Mount, when you sell a “discount pack of rounds” don’t you record it as such? Why is it so hard to know how many rounds were played at a discount? There should be a way to break it out using basic retail accounting practices, give it a number, color code it, whatever is easiest, there are many ways to break it out and identify it.

    And how would creating an excel spreadsheet impact customer service? Aren’t the round calculations done by management after each day has been completed and should in no way impact on daily customer service while the course is open?

    Sounds to me you are just lumping the daily receipts together and calling it a day….wouldn’t you want to know if those rounds are discounted? That way you would know if it impacts the bottom line…too much of a good thing for consumers is not necessarily good thing for a business to make a profit or break even.

    Your posts tone and your sketchy accounting practices are why many of us are leery about taking what the OHPA says at face value….it’s not the press that puts you in a bad light with the taxpayers, you guys on the OHPA seems to be doing that quite fine all by yourselves.

  7. Clyde Mount OHPA Member

    We know exactly how many we sold…but let me ask you this, does that mean all 5 are discounted or just the one that is free..semantics can be played, that is why we use the average rate per round. Because if they don’t play the fifth round of the pack, there was no discount. Average revenue per round is a standard measure in the golf industry. That is what is tracked, and we do do that by round type

    I did explain that we sold about 24k in discounts packs, which meant that there was about 6k in discounts offered to buy the rounds. But we sold resident rounds, senior resident rounds, non resident rounds, all in this discounted amount, all with different pricing so the mix is very different and tracking them on the current system is not feasible, as the discount is only tracked at time of play. Remember, they play 4 full price rounds before the fifth is redeemed at the discount.

    We did however just approve a new sales system that will give us this data very clearly. This system was approved in our last OHPA meeting.

    Your sketchy comments don’t even warrant a response.

    For those requesting the rounds data, please request it formally and not on news site as this. Put the request in writing to our Executive Director.

  8. EastNorwalkChick

    Thank you Mr. Mount for your clear response to my questions, that is all that is wanted from many residents from the OHPA, clarity…but you may want to drop the holier than thou attitude if anyone questions the OHPA policies and practices…in fact I’d bet a heck of a lot more people would be more sympathetic to your situation if you did.

  9. Suzanne

    Mr. Mount, discounts at time of play for whomever is playing can be easily tracked by spread sheet.

    When the golfer is at the register (or however you sell these rounds), have the person selling the item write it down on a papered clipboard (you could use acronyms to make it easier), 5th round (check), free (check) then transpose the check list to Excel where it is extremely easy to sort, see daily financial totals, see types of rounds, etc. This is not difficult. It just takes a little adjustment that could save you a lot of headaches in future when people ask you questions like, “How many discounted rounds were sold? What price are the senior discount rounds, discounted (if they are) sold at?”, i.e., whatever the case may be. Apparently this information is not on your WEB site.

    Excel is a commonly used program, documents can easily be transferred by computer and information can easily be recorded. Why would you hesitate?

    Your financials have not been forthcoming. People are suspicious because of this. People want to know how/why rounds increase. This would give you the basic data that would, I think, satisfy many people.

    A nit picking attitude, as in, “That was not what was asked”, is just silly. Help yourself and help the OHPA. Devise a system that gives detailed, complete information about rounds.

  10. McKeen Shanogg

    There are standard ways of tracking rounds played that golf courses use. Those who are criticizing, if you know more about it than the management of Oak Hills, maybe you should apply for a job there.
    Some of these comments sound like you are assuming Oak Hills is hiding information. From what I’ve seen, it’s simply not true that financials “have not been forthcoming.” The authority is more than willing to let the public have copies of their financials.
    The treasurer is John McKenna, why not ask him if the Excel system you are proposing would be better than what they already use. Are you really trying to help the golf course be better managed? It sounds like you’re just looking for things to criticize.

  11. Suzanne

    Mr. Shanogg, I am not criticizing. Rather, I am responding to an earlier statement by Mr. Mount re: keeping track of the 8% increase in rounds because “the software didn’t work.” While there may be a standard for keeping records in golf, apparently what there is is not working. I am offering another simple option whereby ALL information regarding rounds as requested above could be tracked and easily e-mailed as a document or added to the WEB site information.

    Yes, as you know, there have been a lot of complaints about financials not being forthcoming. There was a time when that was true. While it has improved, the questions that are being asked above and not being answered by the current OHPA WEB site could be answered to OHPA’s advantage: give all of the information as requested, in this case, where did the increase in rounds come from, and the complaints could be quelled and good will increase for OHPA with the community.

    It is ironic that you suppose I am criticizing or “it sounds like (I) am looking for things to criticize.” Could it be that is what the OHPA is used to? This reflexive response of, frankly, rudeness and the misapprehension of people’s motives only bring the OHPA greater conflict. You might ask why that is true.

    While I proposed a different system than “they already use”, it was precisely because Mr. Mount seemed to present yet another barrier to the golf course’s transparency of operations by saying their software was inoperable. That is just silly when off the shelf systems could be used or the inoperable software be replaced. Saying such things makes people suspicious when questions like, “Where did the 8% increase in rounds come from?” seems an OHPA reluctance to answer. It should be a simple for them to provide this information.

  12. TomReynolds

    Oh brother. I head hurts trying to sort out this slanted “reasoning”. Let the guys do the job they were appointed to do. The Common Council Finance Committee said they are doing a great job. The BET said they are doing a great job. I think those groups are in a better position to make that assessment bucause they do not have a hate of the OHPA just for the sake of having hate, as many of you cleary have.
    I had to laugh at the comment above, “There used to be a perfectly adequate small restaurant”. REALLY ??? Part of the reason the old restaurant was knocked down was because one could fall through the floor just tring to get to the bar.

  13. Yvonne Lopaur

    Mr. Reynolds,

    The OHPA has a history of coming up with grandiose schemes that fail. It demolished the old restaurant and constructed the new restaurant in order to better meet golfers needs. Now it claims the new restaurant not only doesn’t meet golfers needs but is the source of its financial problems. So in order to solve its financial problems it plans on demolishing the pro shop and cart barn and building a new pro shop, new cart barn and large commercial driving range. Next up a mini golf course and a golf shopping mall to solve the financial problems of the driving range. Then what? How about reconfiguring the cart paths and billing them as a roller coaster ride?

  14. Avid Golfer

    Does anyone get it? An increase of 8% of rounds of golf BUT who cares if you have $80K less in the bank at the end of the year!

    I think the OHPA should base the budget on an increase of 50% rounds of golf but charge half off the current greens fees sounds like a good idea right?

    The OHPA is too concerned with the amount of rounds of golf and should be more concerned with the bottom line. They need to figure out a price point for golf that nets them a small profit and then they can start to move forward. As I have said in previous posts, they can do the most rounds of golf of any golf course in the U.S., but if they end the year with less money then what they started with its still a losing operation.

  15. TomReynolds

    Hey! THAT’s a really good idea. Seriously. A miniature golf course. It would fit perfectly along Fillow Street near the tennis courts. It would be a money maker. They can even pipe in music. Maybe even build an arcade. Now that would be something for all of the taxpayers.

  16. Avid Golfer

    Yes it is a good idea and family friendly too, so what’s your point?

  17. Kevin Di Mauro

    @TomReynolds & Avid Golfer

    I think Yvonne’s final statements are just sarcasm. I know what she actually means. The OHPA’s Master Plan is a crock that doesn’t belong in a residential zone.

  18. Kevin Di Mauro

    Here’s an example of sarcasm. Vote for Bruce Kimmel, because he’s my favorite Democrat/Republican/Whatever.

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