By Robert Koch of TheHour.com
Updated 10:37 am, Wednesday, August 10, 2016
NORWALK, CT — Teeing off at the first hole at Oak Hills Park Golf Course now requires a look through a periscope to ensure that the fairway is clear.
The low elevation of the tee box prevents golfers from seeing all the way to the green and hole.
That will change after the Norwalk Common Council on Tuesday evening approved a $980,413 contract with Turco Golf Inc., to build the first phase of improvements as laid out in the Oak Hills Park Authority Master Plan.
“We’re going to make a significant change to this tee box,” said Oak Hills Park Authority Executive Director Shelly Guyer, standing alongside the first tee on Tuesday afternoon.
“We’re actually going to take this tee box and shift it into this hill and it will get raised 6 to 8 feet.”
The shifting and elevation of the first tee box are just one of many course improvements that will be made under the contract with the Suffern, N.Y.-based construction company that specializes in golf course renovations.
The company will make improvements to all holes at the 18-hole municipal golf course at 165 Fillow St. in West Norwalk. Major changes will include rebuilding bunkers and moving the cart path to behind the third green to prevent balls from bouncing off the path and allow carts to reach the fourth tee. Currently, golfers must use a stairway to reach the area.
In addition, Turco Golf will extend cart paths to areas of the course where cart use is limited by the weather.
“We’ll have pretty much continuous cart paths,” Guyer said. “We will be able to send out carts all the time. That’s the goal here, and that helps us generate a little bit more revenue. On days when it’s been rainy and the course is wet, we can still send people out.”
Sixty percent of golfers using Oak Hills Park Golf Course use carts; 40 percent walk the course, he said.
Guyer said the course improvements will start Oct. 15 and may wrap up by the end of the year. The work will require that nine holes of the course be off limits for golfers during the late fall season. It remains to be determined which holes will be closed.
State funding will fuel the course improvements.
In July 2014, the State Bond Commission approved a $1.5 million grant for improvements laid out in the Oak Hills Park Authority Master Plan.
Approximately $100,000 of the grant will go to the architect, leaving roughly $1 million for the course improvements. The remaining money will be used to create a great lawn, fix the fountain garden and make building improvements. Those projects will proceed under separate contracts, according to officials.
“We will soon also have a vendor’s bid to transform the garden area, which is currently two fields of weeds, into a beautiful fountain garden and great lawn at Oak Hills Park where people of all ages can come for events, exercise and simply to relax in nature,” Elsa Peterson-Obuchowski, chairwoman of the Oak Hills Park Authority’s Nature Advisory Committee, told council members.
The master plan, approved by the park authority in June 2014, also calls for building a 36-bay, 270-yard driving range and golf learning center off the 6th hole, and nature learning and fitness center behind the restaurant. That work would represent the second phase of the master plan.
The authority requested $3 million in the city’s 2016-17 capital budget to build the driving range. The allocation was not included in the adopted budget.
As such, the driving range is off the table for now.
“Right now, our total focus is this grant,” said Guyer, referring to improvements to the golf course. “We’re not looking at anything else.”