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Golf panel wants USGA study of Longshore course

Published 6:45 am, Thursday, December 6, 2012
  • Members of the Golf Advisory Committee, from left, Joanna Nicholson, Gary Solomon, Mark Howod, Chairman Fred Hunter, Scott Smith, and Jean Murdoch, discuss issues of managing the Longshore Club golf course Monday night.  Westport CT 12/3/12 Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News contributed
    Members of the Golf Advisory Committee, from left, Joanna Nicholson, Gary Solomon, Mark Howod, Chairman Fred Hunter, Scott Smith, and Jean Murdoch, discuss issues of managing the Longshore Club golf course Monday night. Westport CT 12/3/12 Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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The town's Golf Advisory Committee is recommending the Parks & Recreation Commission fund a $5,000, day-long U.S. Golf Association examination of the Longshore Club golf course to compile ideas for improved play and maintenance at the municipal course.

But making significant changes in the management of the golf course remains a larger question that committee members agreed Monday will have to be resolved in the future.

"Part of the problem here may be that the governing structure is maybe inhibiting your ability to properly manage the facility," David Levin, a member of the Longshore Men's Golf Association, told the committee. He suggested the golf course should be managed by an outside company.

"The town ... has been unable to take advantage of the synergies between the golf course, for example, and the inn" at Longshore, he said.

"If you were to bring in ... a professional golf management company ... the town might be able to get a proposal that would be a win-win for both the town and the users of the facility," he said.

"In order to have a proper golf experience," said Sean Doyle, past president of the LMGA, "it has to be looked at as a hospitality business."

"The town has been using the golf course to funnel funds elsewhere and not put it back in the course," he said. Peripheral events and activities are also not being considered, he said. "There's no food. We don't have any outside events ... It's really about the organization of the entity of the whole golf picture."

"Those are longer-term challenges," said Fred Hunter, the committee chairman.

"We are talking with people that manage (other) courses nearby ..." he said, "and there's some interesting information coming out about how those are managed."

He said those findings would probably be presented at next month's meeting.

Meanwhile, Hunter said, the committee should focus on more immediate concerns about physical conditions at the golf course, many of which were expressed at a well-attended committee meeting in September.

"There are a lot of stressed areas on the golf course," he said.

He said the Parks & Recreation Department, through its commission, should take a more active role in addressing those concerns about physical conditions at the course.

Committee member Scott Smith echoed concerns about the "dysfunctional" management of the course.

"That's a valid point and I think it points to the general dysfunction -- or a kinder word would be inefficiency -- with which Parks and Rec operates (the course)," he said.

He added the town over the winter "there should be at least some evidence that somebody's caring about the course ... just so that golfers know that somebody's minding the store."

"One of the problems is we understand only too well what the budgetary constraints in this town are," said committee member Mark Howod, "and a lot of the things that we recommend or don't recommend is based on the understanding that we'll never get the money to do these things."

He said the committee should begin looking at the course as if it were privately run in order to make clear decisions on its needs.

Member Gary Solomon said that improvements previously made at the golf course have been deteriorating over time.

"You have to put some more money into it to maintain those terrific improvements that we put in a few years ago," he said. "A golf course doesn't just stay static."