Changes under way as golf season approaches

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Hop Brook Golf Course pro Bob Clark works in the pro shop while it is under renovations at the course in Naugatuck Tuesday. –RA ARCHIVE
Hop Brook Golf Course pro Bob Clark works in the pro shop while it is under renovations at the course in Naugatuck Tuesday. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — The Hop Brook Golf Course is still blanketed in snow, but preparations are under way for what resident pro Bob Clark hopes will be the first season in several years that the course makes money.

“Snow’s starting to melt and I’m really getting the itch to get going,” Clark said.

Depending on when the snow melts, Clark hopes to open the course for the year on Good Friday, which this year is March 29, or in early April.

The numbers are still being crunched, but Clark said he thought the course was in the same situation it has been for the past few years, running a consistent deficit of about $60,000. Less money might have been lost last year because two part-time employees left before the end of the year and were not replaced, Clark said.

Fees went up last year, and rounds played and memberships decreased. Clark, however, said he did not think the decline in play had anything to do with the price increase. Compared to other area courses, such as Crestbrook in Watertown and Farmingbury Hills in Wolcott, Hop Brook still comes in cheaper, Clark said.

“Our fees are still very good,” he said. “We’re very, very competitive with the pricing.”

This year’s fees will be determined when the Golf Commission meets March 11.

Clark has other plans to lure more golfers to the course. Public works employees have been working for weeks to renovate the pro shop, a process that should be finished next week, Clark said.

The new pro shop will have more merchandise, including clothing, clubs and shoes that were not sold before, Clark said. The borough is spending $800 to replace the 8-year-old carpet, while Clark will pay for new fixtures and merchandise, reaping the profit from the sales. The shop will also have a Keurig machine to cut down on the waste that results when they brew a full pot of coffee and few people buy it, Clark said.

Clark said he started talking to James Stewart, director of public works, and the Golf Commission late last year about renovating the shop. Stewart and the commissioners approved, Clark said.

“To me, honestly, it didn’t look like a full pro shop,” Clark said. “I think people are going to be really excited when they come down here and see the new look.”

Borough employees Mike Caron, left, and Chris Jones work on renovations in the pro shop at Hop Brook Golf Course in Naugatuck Tuesday. –RA ARCHIVE
Borough employees Mike Caron, left, and Chris Jones work on renovations in the pro shop at Hop Brook Golf Course in Naugatuck Tuesday. –RA ARCHIVE

Clark also wants to invest in new carts, noting that half of them are not under a service contract and some are broken beyond repair. He will ask the Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses to lease the new carts during his upcoming budget presentation.

Clark mainly hopes to make more money for the borough by running more programs and tournaments, including a beginners’ program through the PGA and a 13-and-under golf team that will compete in a PGA league.

He wants to increase tournaments to one per month, including one in May to benefit a teen with cystic fibrosis.

“We’re trying to get people back in the game,” Clark said.

Memberships will start to be sold in a few weeks. To inquire before the pro shop is open, email robertclarkjr@pga.com.