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.
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.”