Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A new direction: golf course development

I've entered the golf course development business and am in the process of trying to make the 9-hole Arawana Golf Course and practice area come to life in Middletown, Conn. For that to happen, I need to secure a lease for about 100 acres of land from the city, which I'm now in the process of doing.

Here is a brief outline of the golf course -- designed by Brian Silva (99.1 percent) and me (.9 percent) -- and the course routing. (Click on the image to enlarge. For inexplicable reason, the numbers for holes 2/11 and 8/17 do not appear.)


The Arawana Golf Course will be a unique, affordable, daily fee, nine-hole layout that will play like 18 holes, and includes a large practice area. Using two distinct sets of tees, two holes will play as either a par-4 or a par-5, while one hole will be a par-3 or a par-4. On the remaining four holes, tees will vary the length enough so that while par remains the same during both trips around the layout, play will be distinctively different each time through.

The course will vary in length from just over 5,000 yards to just under 7,000 yards, accommodating all skill levels of players. Par will be 72.

The practice area will be one of the largest located on a public golf course in Connecticut. It will include a driving range that has a 50,000 square-foot grass tee as a short game practice area, as well as a practice putting green.

The clubhouse will be small and will have a pro shop and a small dining/bar area designed to service only golfers. The restaurant will not be open after golf course operating hours nor will it be open during the months when the golf course is closed.


The golf course architect, Brian Silva, is Golf World Magazine’s 1999 Architect of the Year. The layouts he’s designed, as well as those he’s restored, have received accolades from golf publications on the national and regional level. For instance, his most recent original golf course, Old Marsh Country Club in Wells, Maine, was named one of the 10 best new courses to open in the United States in 2008 by Golf Magazine.

Silva’s design philosophy harkens back to the Golden Age of Architecture when men like Donald Ross, A.W. Tillinghast and Seth Raynor plied their trades. They not only produced visually interesting layouts but also ones that could be enjoyed by all golfers, from single-digit handicaps to the higher handicaps and even beginners. Silva, like his famous predecessors, wants golfers of varying skill levels to have fun during their time on the golf course, while also having the opportunity to test their game. His design philosophy is predicated on options, offering multiple routes along each golf hole to accommodate all levels of play. Unlike the other public courses in the area, Arawana will invite golfers to challenge the course and themselves. More information on Brian’s work can be found here: http://www.bsilvadesign.com/index.php


Only a minimal amount of earth will have to be moved to create the tees, fairways and greens of the course since the natural topography lends itself perfectly to golf. There will also be a minimal amount of tree removal since much of the land is open. A swath of trees that would have to be removed during course construction is already scheduled to be taken down during the installation of the Kleen Energy high-pressure oil pipeline. A large barren area that is being used to store building material and heavy equipment for the Kleen Energy project will be converted to grass as a result of the golf course.


The grassing and maintenance of the Arawana Golf Course will be environmentally friendly. We intend to turf the fairways with a mix of fescue and bent grasses. Usually, in this part of the country, golf courses are seeded with a mix of bluegrass and ryegrass because they grow quickly and are a rich green color. Arawana’s turf varieties are more environmentally friendly; fescues and bents require less water than other varieties. As a result, they are less susceptible to disease and therefore require fewer pesticides to survive. The fescues will also create a look to which the vast majority of golfers who play Arawana will not be accustomed. Fescues and bents naturally lose their brilliant green color during the warmer months, changing to pale green and even light brown. Picture the great linksland courses of the United Kingdom and that will give you an idea of what the Arawana will look like during the summer and fall.

In keeping with this environmentally friendly approach, out-of-play areas will not be manicured or maintained, but allowed to grow naturally. Varieties of fescues will be interspersed in those areas to grow along with and bolster the native species. The areas will be mowed two or three times a year, the result of which will be the gradual eradication of invasive and unwanted species, which will be accomplished without the use of herbicides.

The impact on the small area of wetlands found on the property will also be minimal. Three bridges will cross Indian Hill Brook, one of the bridges will utilize the stream crossing created by the Kleen Energy Pipeline. The maintained areas of the golf course will not come near the brook.

Arawana Golf Course will also seek Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary status, an education and certification program for golf courses that requires participants to protect the environment and preserve the natural heritage of the game of golf; Audubon International administers it.

The golf course will be maintained using Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. IPM is a method of controlling pests (weeds, diseases, insects or others) in which pesticides are only applied when a pest is confirmed to be active, rather than applying pesticides in anticipation of pest problems or under the assumption there will be a pest problem, thus reducing the use of pesticides.

The image is the Arawana routing laid onto a Google Earth image of the site, expertly done by Tommy Naccarato.


  1. Hi Tony! This is SO exciting! Although I'm not a golf aficionado, I think it's wonderful that you and Brian are working on this effort together. Please keep us posted as you acquire the land and set out to building this wonderful new course. Congrats on the endeavor and have fun!

  2. Tony,
    I like to analyze a course routing and assess the safety issues involved. I haven't been to the Arawana course site, so my concerns may be unfounded, but here they are. It looks like an errant approach to the 1/10 green would easily land on the 2/11 tee. Is there a problem with moving the 2/11 hole eastward (and making it longer)? What would deter me from hitting my drive on 4/13 to the 6/15 fairway, which seems to be the shortest route to the green?
    I enjoyed reading "To the Nines." You inspired me to play all of the nine-holers in Connecticut (3 left to play) instead of looking at them as "not worthy."

  3. Tony,

    Good job! well done...I still need a caddy!

    Love ya,


  4. Hi. I'm a ghost. I was wondering if I can take up residence at the new course so you could write about me.


    Ghost Fore!