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The New Golf Course Driving Range

February 3, 2019

Did You Hear About The New Golf Course Driving Range? No??? Well, as close as I can tell, you weren’t supposed to.

Driving Rang

For years, I’ve been hearing about a proposed Driving Range to be added to the Bellport Village Golf Course. Every time the subject came up, the answer has been, “There’s no room for it,” “There’s no place to put it” and the discussion ended there, but it was always called a “Driving Range.”

About 18 months ago, the talk about a Driving Range being added to the Golf Course became more intense and I started hearing about “secret” meetings, discussions, and planning going on, but still nothing concrete so I just waited and listened.

This past summer, there was even more talk about a Driving Range and in July, a survey of Golf Course members was taken to see if they wanted a “Driving Range.” Supposedly, money had been spent and consultants hired, but still no mention of a Driving Range at Village Board meetings.

In the fall, and early winter, I started hearing about a letter going out from Mayor Fell, to selected Village residents, regarding proposed changes at the east edge of the Golf Course which would abut the homes on the west side of South Howells Point Road. This letter was followed by a series of private meetings Mayor Fell held with individually selected homeowners, but still no mention at Village Board meetings or to the public in general.

Chances are you, as a Village resident, had no idea any of this was going on. It was kept a secret, but somehow a dramatic semantic change had taken place. The “Driving Range” had miraculously become a “Practice Area!” No longer was the term “Driving Range” being used by Mayor Fell and the Trustees. The “Driving Range” had become the “Practice Area.” Was it because of all the bad things that come to mind with the phrase “Driving Range?” Noise, esthetics, tall netting, tall night lighting, increased traffic both during the day and evening, environmental impact, impact on the bird population, decrease in property values in the immediate area, a traffic light at the entrance to the Golf Course, the list goes on and on. Is that why there suddenly is no mention of a “Driving Range” and instead a “Practice Area?” As they say, “A Driving Range by any other name, is still a Driving Range!”

Now, let me digress for a moment. When you buy a ticket to go to the movies, you watch the movie you paid for and then you go home. You have no commitment beyond that. You might come back to watch another movie someday, but you might not. You might decide that you like another movie theater better and go there from then on and never return.

The Bellport Village Golf Course works the same way for “non-residents.” They join for a year, play golf on our course for the year, and maybe never return. Their commitment is only for the one year. If they decide they like another golf course better and never return, there’s nothing we can do about it.

Bellport Village residents are in a different position. As residents of the “Incorporated” Village of Bellport, each resident is a part owner and responsible for the Golf Course. We bear all the risk. If the Golf Course is doing well, Village taxes might be partially offset by income from the Golf Course. If the Golf Course isn’t doing well, Village residents are expected to pay higher taxes to support the Golf Course as we have been in recent years, but it has no impact on non-residents because they can just go someplace else to play.

Recently, potential new resident members of the Golf Course have been turned away. They were told the membership is full and there’s no room for new members. If that’s the case, why is all this money, I’ve been told up to $1.5 million, being spent on the Golf Course? How are we going to get that money back? How long will it take to even break even, if ever? There’s been no disclosure of costs or a time table for the proposed changes at the Golf Course.

Here is a copy of the “PRELIMINARY GOLF COURSE MASTER PLAN REPORT” that was commissioned by the Village Board. It’s long, so here are the items that caught my eye...

“The golf course is presently very playable for all levels of players. Recommendations are made for minor improvements.” If it ain’t broke, why are we paying $1.5 million to fix it?

“The golf car paths are generally in good condition and in appropriate locations.” Nothing to do here.

“The existing pro shop, golf car storage and ladies locker room building (and related structures) are to be removed and replaced with modern structures.” Wow! We just redid the Ladies Locker Room. This is going to cost us big bucks!

“Utilizing the area to the left of existing Hole No. 9, a practice area is to be constructed to provide members and guests a location for short and medium length practice of golf shots.” And guests? How many more non-residents are we building this Driving Range for?

“The overall length of the golf course will increase by approximately 40 yards.” Only 120 feet longer? The plan sure isn’t going to accommodate a lot more players on the course at a time.

“The total par for the course would remain at 71.” The plan doesn’t change the difficulty or challenge of the course at all.

“Championship” The plan mentions the word “Championship” 8 times. Does Bellport Village really need a “Championship” level golf course?

For over ten years I’ve been asking the Mayor and Trustees about the Golf Course’s finances. How are we doing? Their answer each time has been, we don’t know, we can’t be sure, we won’t know until the fall, we won’t know until the spring. They’ve dodged the question. It’s only recently that they finally admitted that the Golf Course was losing money, but that it’s finally back in the “black,” but is the Golf Course really in the black? Would it still be in the black if you didn’t include the income from the catering facility the way the Mayor does?

For many years, Bellporters have prided themselves on Bellport Village being the “Un-Hamptons.” People come here to relax and be left alone. When the Golf Course was created, it was to be a local Village Golf Course for the use of Village residents. In fact, it’s officially designated as a Bellport Village Park.

Although we allow non-residents to join, the course wasn’t built for the specific use of non-residents. Over the years, the non-resident membership has grown to the point where it is now 70% to 80% of the membership. If we’re now at maximum capacity, why is Mayor Fell “Gold Plating” the Golf Course? The golf course can only accommodate so many players at a time. Gold Plating the course can only stroke the egos of those involved and make Bellport Village more like the Hamptons. Are Village residents to be relegated to the role of “caretakers” of a golf course for non-residents? The time to stop this spending is NOW and instead work on lowering our Village taxes!




If you have a comment and would like to respond to any of the above, we'd be glad to consider printing your response. Please send your comments to larry@bellport.com. You can read the comments we receive on our Letters To The Editor page.


Sincerely, 

Larry Sribnick
Larry Sribnick
Editor/Publisher, Bellport.com, LLC