Revenues up, rounds down at Hop Brook

Michael Bogis tees off at Hop Brook Golf Course in Naugatuck on Monday while Mario Pannone (left) and Dave Pendergast look on. The golf course’s revenues are up slightly for the 2011-12 fiscal, but rounds played are down.-LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Revenue at Hop Brook Golf Course increased in the 2011-12 budget year higher compared to previous fiscal year. But, less people turned out for a round of golf.

“It is a very touchy situation,” Hop Brook Pro Bob Clark said. “Financially we are up, but rounds-wise, we are down.”

The Golf Commission increased the fees for season passes by $60 and rounds of golf a dollar for this season. The catalyst for the increase stems was pressure from finance officials after the course suffered a $60,000 shortfall in the 2009-10 fiscal year.

The borough has allocated $395,000 for the course budget the past few years. The course brought in $456,000 in the 2010 calendar year and $435,000 in the 2011 calendar year. While the revenues exceeded the allotted budget, the costs of employee pensions, insurance and other benefits, which aren’t covered under the budget, impact revenue and caused the shortfall in the 2009-10 fiscal year.

Clark said finically the course is up slightly for the 2011-12 budget year compared to the 2010-11 fiscal year. Clark attributes part of the financial bump to the mild weather the state experienced in March, which allowed golfers to get out to the links earlier than usual.

However, Hop Brook can not rely on nice weather to see it through its woes every year, he said.

“It’s like any other business,” Clark said. “If we lose money, we have to look at the numbers and see where we have to cut, and that’s a situation I don’t want to have to face.”

While the course did better finically, Clark said the numbers of rounds played in the 2011-12 budget compared to the previous fiscal year was down 1,330 rounds. At the same time, he said, the course’s 18-hole rounds increased by over 1,000.

The drop in rounds is a trend that’s not isolated to Hop Brook. Clark said shrinking enrollment has become a growing problem at golf courses across the nation. He believes this is because the high price of golfing equipment and the fees to play the game.

Clark said Watertown’s Crestbrook Golf Course lowered its fees for this year and is now getting the most players it has had in 16 years.

Clark, who has been on the job since May, is working on ways to attract more golfers to Hop Brook to reverse that trend. His plans include growing the junior league and running a variety of different tournaments, similar to the Father’s Day Tournament the course hosted in June.

Clark is also working in tandem with Jesse Camille’s Restaurant to host an event called Nine and Dine this month. The event, which costs $50, includes nines holes of golf and a meal at the restaurant for two people.

Clark feels that the restaurant is a big asset for the golf course, and extremely convenient for the golfers.

“If you have a place that has good food, why not play nine holes and have a great meal,” Clark said.

Clark also wants to create a ladies association and a ladies’ championship at the course, which already has men’s, children’s, and senior’s championships.

His main concern for the future, however, is getting more juniors to become interested in the game and, ultimately, become lifelong golfers. He explained that Hop Brook’s golfing population is 60 percent senior citizens.

“Juniors are the future of the golf game,” Clark said.

If he had his choice, though, Clark would see the juniors playing on Hop Brook’s course, rather than traveling to other town’s to play.

“I want to keep all the local kids down here,” Clark said.

In addition to his plans for more events, Clark is constantly coming up with ways to improve people’s experience at Hop Brook Golf Course.

“There’s a lot of good stuff going on. I’m just getting started down here,” Clark said.

One thing that Clark does not want to see in the future is another hike in the fees. He said ultimately the decision to raise or lower the fees is not his to make. He gives his professional opinion to local leaders and hope they make the right choice.

“I can understand why they raised the fees,” said Clark, who noted that people have complained about the higher fees.