Rumors of Tallgrass Golf Course’s demise are greatly exaggerated, or at least premature. True, the public 18-hole layout in Shoreham will be converted into a power-generating solar farm. But, contrary to direct missives and rampant speculation, that will not happen until fall, at the earliest.
So the fairways are still green, the greens are still fast and the design created by famous architect and Babylon native Gil Hanse is still intact. Officials at Tallgrass said this week that it will remain open until early September.
“It’s business as usual,” club pro Larry Menne said the other day.
Except that business is not so busy. Golfers are few at a facility that hosted more than 27,000 rounds last year and has regularly been named in Golfweek magazine’s list of “top courses you can play” in New York State. Potential customers have heard either that Tallgrass is closing or has closed. In many cases, they heard it from Tallgrass employees, based on information from the prospective new owners.
“Last summer, they were saying they would be in construction April 1. As far as this year, we thought we were dead in the water,” course administrator Harry Swanson said. “So we gave away all our bookings. We canceled our tournaments. As for the members, we had to tell them to be fair to them. So we lost all the members. We lost all the catering events, the parties.”
What Tallgrass did get was a one-season Mulligan. Chicago-based Invernegy, which is planning to install 125,000 solar panels on the 127 acres, has experienced delays in the application process. The LIPA board, however, approved the company’s power purchase agreement on Wednesday. Still, state approvals and financing arrangements for the $89-million project will keep construction from starting until October, a spokesman told Newsday’s Mark Harrington.
Meanwhile, the tees, fairways and greens are open. Swanson explained that the current owner, DeLalio Sod Farms, wants the course to look pristine until the final day because green grass is their business. “So golfers can enjoy this place. We have something that is in mint condition,” he said, adding that the reputation of Hanse “has never been greater” because he designed the course on which the Olympic golf competition will be held this summer in Rio de Janeiro.
If only the Tallgrass staff had known it still would be around by then. The course’s decision-makers believed they had the duty to tell customers what Invernegy had said about 2016.
“Doing things the right way, you can take it on the chin,” Swanson said. Menne added that he had a first-rate assistant pro and wanted to make sure he was not out of work. He called a friend at North Hempstead Country Club and found a job for the young man. “Now we’re open and I’m sorry I gave him away,” said the head pro who will be looking for his own new job next year — if the solar plan pans out.
People at Tallgrass have come to learn that nothing is carved in stone. “It affects every issue, every day,” Swanson said. “If the back door in the kitchen is broke, do you fix it?”
For now, there is more uncertainty than golf traffic. There also is a strong undercurrent of sadness. The golf boom of 2000 is long gone and Tallgrass will go the way of the defunct Links at Shirley, the other lovely course at the opposite end of William Floyd Parkway. “I love it here,” Menne said. “I wish I could stay another five years.”
The Planting Fields Foundation Golf Classic, benefiting the Planting Fields Arboretum Historic State Park, will be June 6 at Mill River Club, Upper Brookville. Call (516) 922-8678 . . . Contractors for Kids Inc. will hold its 11th annual outing June 6 at Woodside Acres Golf & Country Club, Muttontown. Visit contractorsforkids.org . . . Guild Hall will hold its outing at Maidstone Club, East Hampton, on June 8. Visit give.guildhall.org/golf.
Joe Kenny, Pine Ridge GC, fourth hole (par 4), 251 yards, driver
Gordon Radelich, Pine Ridge GC, seventh hole, 115 yards, pitching wedge
Joe Henshaw, North Shore CC, ninth hole, 180 yards, 5-iron
Daniel Monosson, Cold Spring CC, third hole, 163 yards, 6-iron
Bob Dunne (of Eastport), Boca Raton, Fla., Municipal Course, seventh hole, 128 yards, 7-wood
Lloyd Kulisek, Mill Pond GC, sixth hole, 157 yards, 7-iron
Peter Suski, Mill Pond GC, fourth hole, 138 yards, 8-iron
Joseph Campisi, Mill Pond GC, sixth hole, 125 yards, pitching wedge
Jack Emery, Great Rock GC, fifth hole, 178 yards, 5-wood
Kristen Gordon, Sandy Pond GC, second hole, 100 yards, pitching wedge
Michael Davis, Poxabogue GC, fifth hole, 62 yards, sand wedge
Len Sternesky, Cherry Creek Links, second hole, 100 yards, pitching wedge