More than a decade after Worcester began planning for it, the driving range at Green Hill Municipal Golf Course finally opened Saturday.
The master plan for the city golf course, including the range, was launched in way back in 2008, and Parks and Recreation Commission meetings and public hearings on the project were held that year.
“For me, it’s exciting, it’s a new opportunity, it’s a good asset to the golf course,” Green Hill head pro Matt Moison said. “You talk to any golf course architect today when they build new golf courses, the first thing they do is design the range and build the golf course around it. Driving ranges are key components to modern golf courses.”
At Green Hill, the range was built around the course because architects didn’t even consider building driving ranges when the Skyline Drive golf course opened 90 years ago. So two new holes were built on the back nine in order to fit the range where parts of the 16th and 17th holes used to be located.
Those new holes, the uphill par-5 12th hole and the uphill, par-4 17th, opened last year. The range was supposed to open between the 10th and 18th fairways last year as well, but work on the range by the contractors was slower than expected and a rainy fall and spring delayed the opening even more.
“My belief is they could have done more work on it through the summer months last year,” Moison said, “and avoided the catastrophes of the weather. They could have been more proactive on the front end of that in my opinion.”
Heavy rain washed away the seed on the range last fall and rain water ran off the range through the 10th fairway. So more seed and turf was planted and drainage work was performed.
It is the only driving range open to the public in Worcester. Tatnuck Driving Range sounds as if it’s located in the city, but it’s just over the line in Leicester.
Moison said the pro shop received a lot of calls from golfers wondering about the range, but he admits not everyone is excited about the range or the new uphill holes that are strenuous to walk.
“The vast majority of players want the driving range, they want the amenity,” he said. “They just want to be able to practice and hit a bucket of golf balls. I think there is a very minor group of golfers who just don’t like change, the same people who said, ‘Why are you going to put a restaurant in there? You don’t need a restaurant, you can sell hot dogs.’
“I think once people get used to it, see it for what it is, it is going to be well received.”
Moison expects the range to create a family environment.
“You don’t even have to be a golfer to come and enjoy it,” he said. “You can hit a bucket of balls and have fun with it.”
Instead of separate mats, the 300-yard, uphill range has 20 to 25 stations on a synthetic turf tee box that stretches 150 feet from side to side and 20 feet from front to back. The range has free loaner clubs at the range for men, women and juniors.
Signs will be located at 50, 100, 150, 200 and 250 yards and flags will be erected on four additional target greens soon.
Range balls cost $4 for a bucket of 25, $10 for 90, and $15 for 125.
The range is expected to produce another source of income.
“Whatever that generates I think is fine,” Moison said. “It’s more for me about having the more modern facility, the practice facility, the learning facility, the family fun facility. All those pieces I think are more important than the revenue, but I think the range will do very well.”
Lessons on a grass tee at the top of the range can be scheduled with Moison and assistant pro Matt Foley, but Moison also plans to arrange for other local pros to provide instruction.
The range opened in time to be used by golfers in a Unity Radio fundraiser Saturday afternoon.
The range doesn’t have lights, but will open each morning when the course does and the last bucket of balls will be sold half an hour before sunset.
Moison said an official opening with city officials will be held in the coming weeks.
Blissful open house
Blissful Meadows GC opened nine holes in Uxbridge in 1992 and the back nine in 1995, but owner Gordon Bliss said people still tell him that they didn’t know the course at 801 Chocolog Road existed, or that they didn’t know the course was open to the public.
So Blissful Meadows held an open house Saturday with a Callaway demo day, free tips from pro Rick Cardoza, and free wine and beer tasting and appetizers. Bliss also had his 12 antique cars on display.
“The whole purpose is to get the neighborhood acquainted with what we are and who we are,” Bliss said. “I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time.”
In addition to an antique car barn, Blissful Meadows also has a wood working shop, and an antique tractor equipment shed.
Bliss grew up one of 10 children on a 380-acre farm in Wilbraham.
“It was hard work, but good memories,” he said.
Bliss later bought farmland in Uxbridge and built a golf course on it.
“The theme of our club is old New England,” Bliss said. “The stone walls, the old post and beam buildings, the old barns.”
Bliss will turn 80 on July 12, but he still works on his golf course and runs weekly manager meetings.
“I don’t stop doing things that I did when I was in my 40s,” he said. “I’m still very active on the course.”
Because of gypsy moths, 26 were removed last fall, especially on the par-5 eighth hole, but many golfers like the fact that the fairways were widened.
Golf courses need good weather to be profitable, but as a former farmer Bliss is used to that.
“I remember days that we’d go out and bale 500 bales of hay for our cattle,” he said, “and just when we finished baling a storm would come and ruin the bales.”
Cyprian Keyes GC general manager Dave Frem and the club’s director of golf, Scott Hickey, and director of instruction Brian Fitzgibbons will discuss the PGA Championship during their “Talking Golf” show on WTAG radio (580 AM) at 7 a.m. Sunday.
The show has aired year-round on Sunday mornings for a handful of years, but is usually taped on Fridays and lasts half an hour. This Sunday’s show will be an hour long and broadcast live, as has been the case during weekends of majors. The hosts talk about the golf tours each week.
Tim Umphrey of Tatnuck CC and his UConn teammate Jimmy Hervol of Hopkinton CC, couldn’t defend their Massachusetts Four-Ball championship last week at the International in Bolton, because Hervol competed in the NCAA Regional in Louisville, Kentucky. Hervol tied for second there.
So Umphrey played with Nick Hampoian of Thompson CC in North Reading, and they shot a 68 on the Oaks Course and a 69 on the Pines Course to finish in a six-way tie for fourth at 7-under 137.
Brandon Parker and Taylor Fontaine, both of Worcester CC, also tied for fourth after shooting an even-par 72 on the Oaks and then tying the low round of the day on the Pines with a 7-under 65.
Mike Calef of Pine Oaks GC in South Easton and Nick Maccario of Bradford CC placed first at 63-67-130. Last year, Calef and Kevin Silva of the Back Nine Club in Lakeville lost the Mass. Four-Ball championship in a three-hole playoff against Umphrey and Hervol.
Pro-pro match play
Kirk Hanefeld of Salem CC and Greg Farland of Marlboro CC captured the New England PGA Pro-Pro Match Play championship Wednesday at Kirkbrae CC in Lincoln, Rhode Island, by defeating four-time defending champions Troy Pare (Ledgemont CC) and Jeff Martin (Wollaston GC) 2 and 1 in the championship match.
Hanefeld and Farland birdied of their first four holes to build a 3-up lead and they never trailed.
“To play a team like Troy and Jeff,” Farland said, “we knew we were going to have to make some putts, and we did this afternoon. The putter got hot today and Kirk is always in the hole which makes it easy to get aggressive with the putter and anybody can make some putts when you’re playing with this guy. It was a lot of fun out there.”
—Contact Bill Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BillDoyle15.