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Oak Hills Golf Course: A Jewel in Norwalk

Graduated NYU 1963. Worked in NYC in public relations 2 years then as reporter/news editor 32 years at The Hour newspapers. Retired in 2000.

  Views of Oak Hills Golf Course, Norwalk, Connecticut

Views of Oak Hills Golf Course, Norwalk, Connecticut

Golf Pro Vincent Grillo Jr. 2008

Vincent Grillo Jr., golf professional, 2008

Torpey on Tour

Editor's Note: This is the second report in a series on Norwalk, Connecticut, area golf courses. Hour copy editor William F. Torpey will provide readers with his comments on the courses he has played.

A foursome was just teeing up on the signature 13th hole at Oak Hills Golf Course as I turned off Fillow Street recently and made my way up Charles S. Marshall Drive to a crowded parking lot at Norwalk's "crown jewel."

It was a sunny, mild, spring day and I was looking forward to joining three Norwalk old-timers to try to tame the 18-hole, 5,920-yard course (that's from the white (middle) tees. It's 6,307 from the blues.

No Practice Area

As I approached the area where players drop off their clubs before parking their cars, I noticed there was no longer a practice area where golfers could hit their golf balls against a target. The two practice greens were still there, however, and I found out later they are used alternately on odd-and-even days. More importantly -- for us chow hounds -- there was a small food cart adjacent to the putting greens offering such fare as hot dogs, soda, candy and coffee.

I dutifully arrived 15 minutes before my 12:42 tee time, as required by the starter, recalling that, in the late '60s, I was a member of the Norwalk Jaycees when that civic organization played a small role in supporting the creation of the city's only public golf course. I first played the course in the early '70s, when the old Oak Hills Commission was almost psychotic about the possibility of anything going wrong because of a scandal that occurred back then surrounding it first chairman, having something to do with a lawnmower and criminal charges that didn't pan out.

Things seem a lot more relaxed and friendly these days. I was thinking along those lines when I met and shook hands with my playing partners for the day: Frank Lapolla, Ed Seferian and Don Shanks. We agreed to play the white (not so demanding) tees. As it turned out, it was a really good decision, based on the way we played that day.

Anyone who's ever played Oak Hills has to be aware that making a good score for the day often depends on how well you do on the first six holes -- they're all pretty short and if you can finesse them without landing in the two ponds and escaping out-of-bounds, you're off to a great start. If you're not on the ball, however, you may feel like walking home instead of past the pro shop on your way to the seventh tee.

First Six Holes Call for Finesse

Our foursome had a little (?) trouble getting started. The first hole isn't really tough if you play a decent long iron or three wood. But you have to remember there's no warm-up area at Oak Hills -- and the first six holes call for finesse, not power.

Frank and Ed and Don outplayed me on Hole No. 1, but I may have outwitted them by taking a riding cart (they were walking, dragging their clubs.) You may have difficulty remembering how you played the first hole at Oak Hills, but, if you're walking, you're not likely to forget dragging those clubs up that humongous hill en route to the second tee.

The second hole, a par 4, is only 295 yards from the whites, but weekend golfers (that's us duffers to the uninitiated) have a demanding second shot to a small, elevated green. That's probably why the hole is followed by a particularly easy, 109-yard par 3 (This hole was definitely carved out to soothe the egos of those bruised by the second hole, even though there's a tiny pond that collects golf balls from many poor souls.)

The par 4 fourth hole runs from an elevated tee down the fairway to an elevated green. Nothing complicated. The fifth hole, a par 3, 174-yard shot over a big pond is fun if you miss the water that protects three sides of the green. The sixth hole, a short par 4, also requires a tee shot over water and then meanders past some overhanging tree limbs to an elevated green.

Watch Out for the Snack Bar

On the seventh tee, your main objective may very well be not to hit anybody around the snack bar up the hill and to the right, near the 10th tee. Then it's a challenging second shot, for most of us, from the top of the hill to a green on the left side (I'm not going to mention those big hitters who drive it down the hill in pitiching iron range.)

Most golfers, I think, are genuinely happy to reach the eighth tee: For some of us, it's as if we were just starting the round because finally, for the first time, you can whale away with a driver and forget trying to finesse the darn ball. Same thing for the ninth and 10th holes.

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The ninth is by far the toughest hole for us short hitters, a 440-yard par 4 more like a par 5 for us. There's also a risk of hitting one of those power lines that run through portions of the course -- as happened to one of my partners the day we played. The frustrating thing is that the ball never hits the wires unless you've hit one of your best shots.

I grabbed a hamburger and Yoo Hoo at the shack at the 10th tee, but my walking partners played on without any refreshments.

The back nine, like the front, is a par 36, also with two nice par threes and two wicked par 5's. The 10th is a long (528-yard) par 5; the 11th is a short par 4 dogleg left, the 12th a long, interesting par 5 (501 yards), the 13th is a 154-yard par 3 that long ago, I remember, was only about 90 yards. The 14th hole is a challenging par 4 with another elevated green.

Stay Off Charlie Marshall Drive

The signature 15th hole is fun to play. A small pond near the tee shouldn't come into play (so they say) and Charlie Marshall's drive runs along the entire left side of the fairway and catches more than a few balls. If that isn't bad enough, there are two bunkers on the left and short of the green and more water on the right.

The 16th and 17th, 342 and 336 yards respectively, are difficult par 4s for us hackers, particularly with that sunken ditch that runs between them. One of my partners said the 16th is the one that haunts him the most. By the way, it's on that level patch of land (level, that is, if you don't count the elevated green on the 16th) that the Oak Hills Authority plans to put a driving range. The 18th is a relatively easy par 4 that mercifully allows you to finish on a high note.

Between shots, my playing partners told me they weren't so much interested in the Authority's plans to build a driving range as they were in a sit-down restaurant where they could stop for a drink and a sandwich. The consensus was that some West Norwalk residents have been overreacting to the proposals.

Greens fees at Oak Hills are competitive with other municipal courses in Fairfield County. Residents pay $14 on weekdays, $15 on weekends. If they want a riding cart, two partners usually share the $25 fee (plus $2 returnable deposit.) Guests (often out-of-towners) pay $32 weekdays and $37 weekends, plus the optional cart fee. Pull carts cost $3 plus a $1 deposit. The course is supported by fees and city money; ever since it was completed, state and federal money was neither sought nor received.

Members no longer have to wait for tee times in the early morning hours. They get their time a week in advance, and are required to pay the entire fee when the time is reserved. Weekday tee times are made a week in advance by telephone. For weekend times, there's a lottery; members show up Tuesdays at 7 for Saturdays and at 7:30 for Sundays.

I wrote this second part of a four-part series titled "Torpey on Tour" for the sports pages of The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on June 18, 1999. The information cited reflects the facts as they existed at that time.

Series Part I – Longshore Golf Club, Westport, Connecticut:

Series Part III -- Sterling Farms Golf Course, Stamford, Connecticut:

Series Part IV -- Fairchild-Wheeler 'The Wheel,' Bridgeport, Connecticut:

"The Golf Tour -- On a Small Scale" (A parody of my "Torpey on Tour" series written by The Hour's Assistant Sports Editor George Albano.)


William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on July 27, 2012:

It's nice to see you here again, Peggy W. As far as I'm concerned you don't need to be a good golfer to enjoy the game. Just being on a golf course is heaven on earth to me. Playing well is merely a bonus.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 26, 2012:

Hi William,

Revisiting this hub. Enjoyed your hole by hole experience a second time. My dad enjoyed playing golf and my husband also played. I took lessons once and played an entire 9 holes! Ha! Those elevated greens are killers for newbies to the least I thought so! I enjoy driving the golfing carts and seeing the beautiful courses. Thanks for another vicarious trip around the Oak Hills course in Norwalk.

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on July 11, 2009:

Hi, Peggy. It is a beautiful golf course and gets lots of play. Prices have risen considerably since I wrote this piece in 1999, but it remains relatively inexpensive for residents. The course actually does have two practice greens, but a small practice area where golfers could hit balls against a target only lasted for a short time and was abandoned the last time I was there. My golf series also covered my outings at the nearby courses of Sterling Farms in Stamford, Fairchild Wheeler (or "The Wheel") in Bridgeport, and Longshore Golf Course in Westport.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 11, 2009:

Looks like a beautiful golf course with very reasonable fees for those that wish to try their hand. Isn't it a bit unusual not to have a practice green?

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on August 18, 2008:

I haven't earned a dime, ColdWarBaby. But I'm far more interested in having people read by dribblle than earning money. When I signed up at HubPages I didn't even know it was possible to earn money. But it's clear to me that I'll never earn more than coffee money here because I'm not at all interested in going where the money is. To earn any real money I believe you need many thousands of views on hubs that are either on the hot issues of the moment or are pushing products that Ebay, Amazon, etc. are trying to sell. I don't make any real effort to tie the advertising to my hubs, except to use tags related to the subject. I don't even know how to pull specific items from Ebay or Amazon. But HubPages has a lot to offer aside from making money. So maybe escapism comes closest to hitting the mark!

ColdWarBaby on August 18, 2008:

I'm sorry Bill.  I just don't get it.  Are you earning a substantial income from this stuff or is just escapism?  Are you whistling past the graveyard?

Respectfully, the pariah of Hub Pages.

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on August 18, 2008:

Thanks, Blogger Mom. Your kids are just about the right age to take up golf (Tiger Woods was born with a golf club in his hand, I think.) I've already published similar hubs on golf courses in Westport and Stamford, and I'll be publishing one on Bridgeport (Fairchild-Wheeler) in a day or two. I'm in Long Island now, but I still get back to Connecticut every now and then.

Blogger Mom from Northeast, US on August 18, 2008:

I always enjoy reading your articles because I'm from the area. Great hub!

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on August 18, 2008:

Thanks, Woody. I'm really glad you like my golf hubs. I published another one today and plan to publish two more this week. They were a lot of fun writing, especially the "playing" reports on golf courses in my old stomping grounds in Connecticut.

Woody Marx from Ontario, Canada on August 18, 2008:

Although I cannot myself play golf because I'm about as coordinated as a fish on land, I do love the game and never miss watching a major tournament. It is like watching a horse race in slow-motion to watch a golf tournament. What could be more exciting? Thanks for your great golf hubs!

William F Torpey (author) from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on August 14, 2008:

Thanks, mickeuan. I used to play Oak Hills often when I lived in Connecticut. Now I'm in New York. It's a fun course to play. I've published Part One on Longshore in Westport earlier, and Parts 3 and 4 will be published in a few days on Sterling Farms in Stamford and Fairchild-Wheeler, a Bridgeport course that actually lies in Fairfield. My friend, George, a sportswriter, wrote an "unofficial" Part 5 that's very funny. I plan to publish that immediately afterward. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

mickeuan on August 14, 2008:

What a great hole-by-hole description of Oak Hills. It sounds like a fantastic place to play golf and the green fees are reasonable.

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