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Proposed Oak Hills driving range would work with lay of land, designer says

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Tad King of King Golf International has produced this design for Oak Hills Park. It is also attached as a PDF below.

NORWALK, Conn. – A driving range nestled into a patch of woods prized by environmentally motivated Norwalkers would use the natural contours of the land to create a “quite unique” facility that would gain national attention, its designer said.

“I’ve gone to great lengths to maintain the natural feel of the property,” Tad King of King Golf International said of the design he came up with for the woods behind the restaurant at Oak Hills Park. His reputation and connections would result in articles in major golfing magazines about what he describes as a “destination golf practice facility,” he said.

The Oak Hills Park Authority’s driving range committee recommended a competing proposal from Total Driving Range Solutions and has been negotiating with that company, but King says his proposal, which was modified from what he originally submitted, would provide golfers more of an attraction.

Four teeing areas would give golfers a choice of holes to hit at, he said. Each would feature different obstacles – created by specimen trees left on the property – that would call for different golfing techniques allowing golfers to practice the skills they use to get around the trees that invariably create challenges on golf courses.

While there would be a handicapped-accessible hitting bay created by a two-tiered teeing area, it wouldn’t be an eyesore, he said. The lower level would be at the lowest elevation of the range and wouldn’t be visible for people standing in other spots.

It would feature 100 feet of netting and be positioned to make it difficult to hit a nearby house, as a golfer “would have to carry a drive 317 yards in the air” from the tee in question, he said.

King would add 46 parking spaces to the park, just beyond the existing employee parking lot, he said.

While the teeing area would by necessity feature flat concrete, King would dress it up with 6- by 10-foot rock gardens featuring the “ gorgeous boulders with all the lichen and moss” already on the property.

A schematic of the plan is attached below. King now plans to shift it to the left, moving it further from the wetlands that environmentalists say would preclude building on the location.

While King’s competitor, Jim Downing of Total Driving Range Solutions, said at last month’s OHPA meeting that building in the woods would be financially prohibitive, King said that isn’t a problem.

“I’m doing all the work myself. I’m bringing in my team,” he said. “That’s what will make this a financially solvent project.”

The construction budget is $2 million, but King expects to come in at about $1.6 million, he said.

King Golf International workers jack hammer limestone in Egypt, near the Great Pyramid of Giza, in this contributed photo.

The architect’s company is currently at work building an 18-hole golf course and practice facility overlooking the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, requiring 2 million cubic meters of limestone to be jack hammered.

“If I can build 18 holes out of the same stuff they built the pyramids out of, I’m pretty sure I can build a practice facility behind a restaurant,” he said. “You know. Please.”

As proof of his accomplishments, King provided a letters of recommendation from someone he describes as being “famous” in the golf world as magazine writers with influence.

“Tad is one of a still relatively scarce, but growing breed of golf course development specialists,” writes Adam Lawrence, editor of Golf Course Architecture. “The days in which designer and contractor were separated by a Chinese wall are gone, and forward-looking people in the golf business have realized that without control of construction, the very best designs will not achieve their full potential.”

King also has a positive letter from Ron Whitten, senior editor of architecture for Golf Digest. King said both would write about his driving range practice facility in Norwalk, if it were built. Golfers would come from far and wide to Oak Hills, even if it is slightly off the beaten trail in West Norwalk, he said.

“Regarding the term ‘destination golf,’ if a golfing facility is good enough, golfers will go out of their way to enjoy it, simple as that,” he said in an email. “For example, Dismal River Golf Club is in the middle of nowhere, (literally) central Nebraska. It has 36 holes of exceptional golf that golfers from around the world go very far out of their way to play. Oak Hills already has the benefit of a very large golfing population surrounding it.  Enticing golfers to the Oak Hills facility I have proposed to build would be quite simple.”

OHPGC Range Layout v.9-1

9 comments

Suzanne January 2, 2014 at 8:24 am

Build it and they will come. Please examine the picture of this guy’s great project: wide open desert without an obstruction in site. The perfect location for bulldozers, jackhammers, etc., without disturbance to the incursions already existing in Norwalk. This guy sure likes to toot his own horn and must be having a slow winter. There is no altruism here, just ambition for a buck on the backs of Norwalk’s West neighborhood. Great ego but couldn’t get the “revised proposal” to the OHPA, apparently, in enough time to have it reviewed along side its competitor. In addition, I saw those “natural holes” with trees as obstacles plan showing little islands to aim at on his so-called “driving range”. The mature, “specimen” trees would be unlikely to stand the onslaught of construction and the golfing beat down they would receive over time. This man certainly is no horticulturalist.

Andrew January 2, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Dear Suzanne

While I understand many of you concerns and your sentiments, I think you would find that Tad has built courses and paractice facilities in a host of varying environments, wooded, urban, rural, desert, tropical etc etc, that is if you bothered to do a little research on Tad and King Golf International before making such naïve and unsustantiated comments. Comapre that to the experience of the competition….I know who I would chose to build my facility……I have been following the project closely, and the other proposed facility is ‘to be built’ by a team who have no experience, and clearly no understanding about golf and what such a facility would require as a minimum to attract business to such a level that it would break even let alone be profitable. The city and developer might as well flush the money down the nearest toilet!

King’s proposal is not without challenges nor does it tick hundreds of enviornmental boxes, but you would rather have a facility that is successful than one that that will closed shortly after opening leaving nothing but a bitter taste in the mouth, a scar on the land and be so detrimental to the golf course that it too may suffer significant financial losses due to the location and design of the other proposal.

Just a thought….or three!

Suzanne January 2, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Dear Andrew, While you propose that I am naive about the concepts, I too have been keeping a close watch on this entire process. It is simply disingenuous and a false promise to say that Tad King or any other range builder could build on the land behind the restaurant, the topography of which I am very familiar, and be “environmentally sensitive.” Further, the presentation given by his associate at the OHPA meeting was less than stellar and hardly sensible. The islands with the specimen trees for target practice? I have played many ranges and I am familiar with their purpose and design. Whatever was being proposed there just didn’t make any sense. I don’t trust the competition either but coming at this late hour with a better idea? Why didn’t Mr. King participate at a more substantial level to begin with? Is he saying he was shut out? Certainly with all of his experience as a developer he would know how to circumvent such a lack of due process. I really don’t care how great a designer and builder he is: what I do care about is this eleventh hour appeal. What is he talking about? The process has taken place and a candidate selected. Does he think he is going to get in on the action now? Are you encouraging this? Is it time to go back to the drawing board? I know there are many golfers expressing negative sentiments about the existing choice and proposed design. And, once again, these golfers want what they want. I would respectfully invite them to join a private golf club. Norwalk is a town with taxpayers who pay for all of this ultimately (non-serviced loans are legend for the OHPA and payment through fees to cover golf course costs as per charter requirements has not been a reality for a while), and, yet, there is quite a vocal minority that want to have a Park, which should be available to all Norwalkers, for their exclusive golfing use. Mr. King is just too late. He may have a lovely destination concept that could put Norwalk on the map for golfing years to come, but he did not participate properly and he is not in the running. Next project.

WOW! January 2, 2014 at 8:10 pm

@ Suzanne:
Have you ever heard the expression, “It ain’t over til it’s over”? Well, It ain’t over yet! You seem to be the “vocal minority” trying to dominate the discussion. By exaggerating the truth and belittling Mr. King, you have in fact discredited yourself. Someone else needs to take up your argument. Your rebuttal would just prove my point!

McKeen Shanogg January 2, 2014 at 9:03 pm

If Tad King is building this world class range by the Great Pyramid of Giza, why does he give two hoots about getting a contract for Norwalk, CT? You are comparing bucks deluxe to a paupers pocketbook.

Debora January 3, 2014 at 11:08 am

Wonder if Mr. King would consider this such a good opportunity if he actually had to purchase the land to put this business venture on. Everyone has to remember that the OHPA is the steward for PUBLIC land and their first responsibility is to the residents of Norwalk. The deal had to make sense for the purpose of paying off Bonds and maintaining and improving the course for the benefit of Norwalk–golfers, tennis players, outdoor users, neighbors and air quality.
.
While another world class enterprise may look good on his resume, it may be more than West Norwalk and OHPA can handle.

Suzanne January 3, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Dear WOW!, It seems just a bit disingenuous that a person like yourself would need to defend the eminent Mr. King re: a rather minor development being added to his dossier. I did not exaggerate nor do I need to. The topography upon which Mr. King wants to establish his great idea would necessarily have to be destroyed in order for his project to be realized. Now, we find out that the OHPA has another unforeseen expense to mitigate leaking oil tanks. How does Mr. King plan to make this plan, very destructive and expensive (at least for a Public facility struggling to make ends meet), financially viable? Moveon.org has a petition on their site that has been submitted to the OHPA showing over one hundred people, all Norwalk citizens, against the destruction of the woods. In considering the golfing population only since they seem to be the only ones, perhaps a “vocal minority” that are against the extant proposal for re-development at the golf course, I am hardly a member of a “vocal minority.” And I am hardly their spokesperson as all who are against this are quite capable of expressing themselves – and do. Do not underestimate the opposition, WOW! Your “It ain’t over until it’s over” might be an analogy you would like to take council from as it seems particularly apt in regard to your judgment of this potentially Mr. King-driven divisive situation.

WOW! January 3, 2014 at 5:22 pm

@Suzanne:
First, let me clarify that I have no opinion for or against either of the proposals. My comment is just an observation that your comments are long-winded, a bit exaggerated and that, perhaps, someone else among the more than one hundred Norwalk citizens who are in agreement with you should also contribute their remarks here. Your cause would be better represented by strength in numbers rather than by endless individual ranting.

Suzanne January 3, 2014 at 11:13 pm

WOW! I am simply responding to your perceptions of a complex and complicated issue. If you want simple, try another article or, better yet, take a look at the final comment (so far) on the other article just above this one on this site. Plenty of people are making comments. I will continue to. That you choose to ignore others’ comments? I am afraid your bias is showing!

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