Tune into the inaugural episode of the Urban Golfer to hear about trends and movements in the game of golf in urban areas. This week, the show will compare and contrast the approaches taken at two distinctive golf courses in the Northeastern United States: Trump Golf Links, Ferry Point and Keney Park Golf Course. Hear from your host Jonathan Kolodny, and his golfaholic father, David Kolodny.
JONATHAN: Welcome to the Urban Golfer where we discuss trends and initiatives relating to the growth of golf in urban areas. I’m your host, Jonathan Kolodny, helping urban golfers gain insight into the development, architecture, maintenance and accessibility of their local golf courses. This episode we will be comparing and contrasting the projects at Keney Park Golf course in Hartford, and Trump Golf Links Ferry Point in New York City.
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JONATHAN: This week on the urban golfer. I will be talking with my dad, David Kolodny. Dad, how are you today?
DAVID: Good. How [are] you doing, Jon? Very good, very good.
JONATHAN: My dad, he grew up playing public golf in New York City in the 1970s. And it’s his favorite way to experience the game that we’re going to highlight two courses today that we’ve both played a lot that we think are very different and represent different movements in urban golf. So first, we’re going to start off discussing Trump Links Ferry Point, which is located in the Bronx, New York. And this project has been in the works for many decades.
But the city never ended up getting to it until around 2012 when they brought in Jack Nicklaus and the Trump Organization to finish off the project. So, Dad, what are your impressions of what the city did with Trump Links and how does it grow or not grow public golf, or golf and general in urban areas?
DAVID: Well, initially when I saw the Trump Links course, I was excited about it. It looks beautiful. As you drive by it, it has a Links look to it. It was meant to be, you know, a luxury alternative for the New York City golfer. I have to say it’s not my favorite course. Although it looks like a Links, it plays slow and you know they have thick rough which can be, you know, tough to handle like a non-links course and really offers, you know, similar ball roll on your drives at other courses in the New York City area which have very little roll. I think that
it may be too expensive for the people who live in the nearby area.
JONATHAN: I believe the green fees are about $170 for city residents and over $220 for non city residents.
DAVID: So I think it’s too expensive for the residents.
JONATHAN: Right. I think the city’s first mistake was not necessarily bringing in Donald Trump but bringing in Jack Nicklaus an architect who’s known for making luxurious, difficult
not fast and firm golf courses. But other than that, do you think that a course like that is beneficial for growing the game of golf especially being located in the Bronx?
DAVID: No, because it misses on accessibility because of how expensive it is, and misses on making the game fun because it doesn’t play fast and firm. So it doesn’t lead to, you know, long drives which most public golfers love to see their drives roll out long.
JONATHAN: Obviously, it’s not accessible. And that gets us into the conversation of what is the mission of a public golf course. I believe that New York City saw this as an opportunity to, you know, to bring a PGA Tour event in and to bring in extra tourists not that the city needs more tourists, obviously, but to bring in those tourists and do that. So what do you think what do you consider the mission of public golf to be?
DAVID: I think it’s to serve the greatest number of people in that area and get them excited about golf. And I think it fails miserably on those two points.
JONATHAN: All right. So was there anything positive though, about the course that you experienced? And would you recommend it to someone who could afford it.
DAVID: One thing that I do like about the course is the driving range which is very unusual for public golf to have and the New York City area they are very, it’s very rare for them to even have a driving range to warm up. And there’s a beautiful grass area driving. So I do like that. That’s about what I like about the course.
JONATHAN: I know in other cities and other public and other cities, their public golf courses, bring in local people from the neighborhoods to operate the place and to run the place and that can potentially help the local economy and can produce jobs. So do you think it was wrong for the Trump Organization to be brought in and have their own people who weren’t local necessarily?
DAVID: It’s an interesting question. They do have some experience with golf courses. So there was some rationale to bring them in. But I do think that as it is a public golf course, to the extent that they can employ residents in to do the operations that would be that would be better.
JONATHAN: Interesting, on that trend of involving the local community a little more in the operations now we’re going to jump to another course that both you and I play and we prefer much more on the North End called Keney Park golf course. Keney Park was originally constructed as a nine hole golf course in the 1920s by Devereux Emmet, who is a famed architect who had a hand in Bethpage Black and many other great classic courses in this country. And then in the 1930s, 10 years later, a city of local city of Hartford official ended up laying out an additional nine holes to the course to make 18 holes. And it was a classic design, and it was very much in the style of Emmet and his other courses. And it was supposed to be a real gem at the time. But over the years, the course got away from its mission. The conditioning was abysmal at a certain point, and there was a lot of tree overgrowth and the classic design elements just weren’t in place. And so the city of Hartford saw this, and a lot of people weren’t playing the course like they used to. And in addition to this, the layout was under 6000 yards. So it wasn’t long for modern standards. So the city of Hartford sees this. And they say, You know what? We’re going to bring in someone to renovate the course. So they brought in an architect who worked for Greg Norman and his design company for many years. And they had him lengthen the course about 400 yards. And they had him restore the classic design, do a little bit of tree removal. And now the course gets rave rave reviews. So I just wanted to ask you what you think about the project at Keney Park? How fun is that golf course? I mean, we’ve played it and it’s just a ball.
DAVID: It’s a great golf course. I just love what they did there.
JONATHAN: The classic design features at Keney Park they restore these classic green templates and hold templates that date back to Scotland and Ireland that are notably used at many private clubs that have classic courses. So this, this would mean a Biarritz green, where there’s a swale in the middle, or a Punchbowl, or Eden. Keney Park uses all these design templates. So how do you think that this contributes to the font of the course? And do you think that these design templates also might attract possibly current golfers to the course?
DaVID: I think it contributes a lot to the fun, I think where the flag is, you know the whole plays quite differently with those with those classic greens and with those different elements that are added. I also think that there’s a good chance that they may be attracting private golfers, and others who have an interest in, in, in this architecture.
JONATHAN: So they can see these elements that they seen on some of the classic designs good for public office, or the humps and bumps? What was your opinion on the little humps and bumps in the fairway?
DAVID: I think it makes it fun. I think it, you know, and some strategy to it and can make the course play a little bit erratic depending on where you hit the ball. So there is an element of chance involved in a number of the shots and strategy to try to, you know, play those bumps, you know, in the best way possible, but I think it’s terrific.
JONATHAN: So, one less thing about Keney that I recognized is it really is a local community gathering place. So you have the employees all from the area all have been living there for a very long period of time in Hartford, especially in the north end, and it also costs under $50. What do you think there is, you know, is that important to attracting people?
DAVID: The fact that it’s a really local place run by the locals, you know, involve the people and make it accessible to the people. And you know, I think part of that mission is also to employ the people, the people in the locals in the area.
JONATHAN: To kind of wrap up. Where do you think public golf should go or needs to go to grow the game, and to make it more accessible and more fun?
DAVID: I think golf is such a tough game that I think it’s important that they make it fun for the average golfer and even the beginning golfer, and I think the way I would go about that is I would make the fairways a little faster and firmer with the bumps, and on even laws and playing surfaces. And I would also have, you know, interesting, interesting greens, and they need to, you know, make sure that it’s accessible when a person’s playing nine holes or 18 holes. They need to make sure that the courses accessible.
JONATHAN: Closing note. Golf isn’t necessarily a one size fits all thing, growing it in urban areas growing it around the country, you need to provide a lot of different options for a lot of different people. But the one thing that needs to be kept in mind is it needs to be affordable, and it needs to be a lot of fun. Thank you very much for joining me.
David Kolodny is a practicing attorney who was born in The Bronx, NY and grew up playing golf at Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course. Since his teenage years, David has been passionate about playing new golf courses wherever and whenever he can. He possesses a 12 USGA Handicap Index.