It's going to take some time to bring Longshore Golf Course up to par, but officials from the maintenance company recently hired to take care of the municipal links promise improvement on a weekly basis once the season is in full swing.
"This first year is going to be a learning process," said Todd Bunnell, director of agronomy for ValleyCrest Golf Course Maintenance, which is now handling maintenance for the town under the auspices of the Parks and Recreation Department. Officials from ValleyCrest discussed their plans and answered questions Monday at a Town Hall forum that attracted more than 50 people.
Golfers have complained about conditions at Longshore -- particularly its greens -- following environmental hits inflicted by storms over the last several years, as well as what some said was consistently inadequate care. As a result, the number of players at the course has declined.
"We have excellent programs in place that we feel can do an excellent job fixing these problems, but it's going to take some time to learn this property," Bunnell said, citing a 12- to 18-month rejuvenation period. "It will take us that long to get our program to the point where we're happy enough to take it to the next level."
"We're getting there," said First Selectman Jim Marpe. "We ask your indulgence and your patience, and we want your feedback. That's why we're here tonight."
According to the ValleyCrest representatives, the main problem at Longshore's greens involves excessive moisture, which has exacerbated problems with the grass. The first steps already taken involve aerating the ground. The firm will continue monitoring the moisture going forward.
"Obviously the main concern to us up here is the greens at Longshore," said Ryan Segrue, the new superintendent for the golf course. "We all know we had a rough year last year and they didn't go into the winter in good shape."
"We have already performed a deep-time aeration," he said, adding that a fertilization program will also be a focus of the initial rehabilitation.
"Hopefully when soil temperatures get to where they need to be, we'll have some germination," he said.
Segrue also said that aesthetic also will be an important part of the work. "We're really going to focus a lot of our time and energy on spraying for weeds ... and getting a really beautiful aesthetic," he said, referring to outlying areas.
"I think the bunkers really make the golf course ... and it's a big concern of ours to get those back ... We also want to focus on the tees and the fairways ... We can make the tees look better by growing the grass a little more vigorously."
"It's really not just about the greens," he said. "It's about your whole golf experience."
Segrue will be overseeing a crew of around 15, including some part-time employees.
"If it's warranted that we need to 20 people during the year to get the job done," said Terry McGuire, national director of operations, "that's on us."
ValleyCrest "is a performance-based contractor and it's our responsibility that we've allocated the appropriate resources to match the agreement," he said.
McGuire emphasized that the maintenance company wasn't charged with making decisions on how the course is designed or run, but is under contract to fulfill the desires of the town. "It's your golf course," he said. "It's not ours."
Bill Mazo was among the listeners. "It all sounds good," he said, but added, "Let's wait and see. I'm a tough sell."