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Longshore Golf Course: Short But Challenging
Golf in Westport, Connecticut
The Deepest Bunkers Around
Kayaking at Gray's Creek
Golf At Longshore Golf Course
Torpey on Tour
Editor's note: This is the first report in a series on Norwalk area golf courses. Hour copy editor William Torpey will provide readers with his comments on the courses he has played.
A light breeze from Long Island Sound wafted across my face as I squinted in the bright sunlight recently to get a good look at the flagstick marking the signature second hole at Longshore Park Golf Course (in Westport, Conn.), a 151-yard par three.
My 7-iron landed just short of the green, but I wasn't worried. I was sure my Molitor would roll up to the putting surface.
Alas, my playing partners, George Vatis, with whom I shared a cart; Andy Popp and Jim Giambalvo, all Westport residents and Longshore members, gave me the bad news. I was snared by one of the more than 90 sand bunkers that dot the layout.
Had I been smart enough to look at the scorecard and yardage book Longshore provides, I would've known the darn thing was there! But, then, I didn't even take advantage of the lofted-irons-only driving range provided for golfers to warm up before teeing off.
As we made our way around the 2,933-yard front nine, I soon learned the course is uncommonly short (2,912 yards on the back nine, totaling 5,845 yards.) Those who successfully avoid the bunkers -- and some seem to be nearly bottomless -- will have only a short iron to the postage-stamp sized greens.
Kudos to the Greenskeeper
The well-manicured fairways and relatively fast greens must be the envy of public courses everywhere. The greens are as true as I've seen on any public course, and the greenskeeper, Dan Rackliffe, whom I never met, deserves kudos for keeping them so immaculate (although I know some golfers who like to have something to gripe about when their putts go awry.) Rackliffe must be deluged with compliments from members and guests.
When our foursome stopped for hot dogs and soda at the Halfway House near the 10th tee, it occurred to me that -- for Westport residents and their guests -- the course offers an oasis few other towns can boast. A challenging while not-too-difficult layout at more than reasonable prices.
Adults with a $90 permit, for instance, or seniors with a $60 permit, pay only $11 for greens fees to play 18 holes on weekends or holidays.
While I was enjoying the challenge Longshore offers the average "weekend golfer," I learned that not even Paradise is without imperfections.
Between golf shots my playing partners praised the golf course, but bemoaned the absence at Longshore of a place where golfers can sit down over a drink and hamburger to discuss the day -- their bogeys, double bogeys and pars.
Looking over the fairways, while getting ready to tee off on the 494-yard par 5 10th hole, I thought it strange that despite Longshore's envious location on Long Island Sound it offers no panoramic view of the water, although there is a view of Gray's Creek around the 12th and 13th holes.
The lack of any exceptional views can be attributed, at least partially, to the relatively flat terrain.
The Inn at Longshore
The Inn at Longshore restaurant, however, and the Inn itself, with its banquet and conference facilities and room accommodations, offers magnificent views of the Sound. Unfortunately, golfers in red shirts and yellow pants and soft spikes don't generally find they're dressed appropriately for the elegant fare offered there -- neither do they find the prices to their liking. Golfers are generally pretty frugal and, after a grueling day on the course, usually look for something quick and inexpensive.
Westport Parks & Recreation Director Stuart S. McCarthy told me the course, located at 260 Compo Road South at the mouth of the Saugatuck River, is financially "neutral," meaning it's self-sustaining and paid for entirely by the town without a dollar from the state or federal governments. The town likes it that way because municipal courses that take state or federal money end up having to make unwanted changes in their membership policies.
50,000 Rounds a Year
Longshore Pro John Cooper said the course is subjected to nearly 50,000 rounds a year. He concedes the course is short, but makes note of the numerous bunkers and small greens. Asked how pros find the course, he said they've had a bad day if they score 71 on the par 69 circuit. When asked whether the pros have any trouble with all those bunkers, Cooper only smiled knowingly (To the lament of most duffers, pros almost invariably find bunker shots among the easiest in the game, provided they have a decent lie.)
Superintendent of Operations Paul Taylor noted there have been many improvements to the course over the last few years, citing work on the 2nd and 6th greens and the 4th and 8th tees, as well as reconfiguring around the green on the 14th hole. The 13th tee is being reconstructed now.
Popp and Giambalvo, who were walking the course, quit after 16 holes to save a little time and a lot of energy. Vatis and I said our farewells after rounding the dogleg on the 18th hole. Neither of us -- a godsend for me -- kept score.
There was no talk of stopping for a drink at the clubhouse.
I wrote this first installment of a four-part series titled "Torpey on Tour" for the sports pages of The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on June 11, 1999. The story, edited to delete some no longer pertinent material, reflects the facts as they existed at that time.
Series Part II -- Oak Hills Golf Course, Norwalk, Connecticut: http://hubpages.com/_wft/hub/Oak-Hills-Jewel-in-Norwalk
Series Part III -- Sterling Farms Golf Course, Stamford, Connecticut:
Series Part IV -- Fairchild-Wheeler 'The Wheel,' Bridgeport, Connecticut:
"The Golf Tour -- On a Small Scale" (A parody of my "Torpey on Tour" series written by The Hour's Assistant Sports Editor George Albano.)