Ledges looks forward to profitable summer

by Town Reminder

In-house restaurant Frigo’s serves up sensational specials

By William Pead
Turley Correspondent

SOUTH HADLEY – It was once to home to the proud Howe’s Dairy Farm before it was sold to James River Graphics. And when the town of South Hadley acquired the land off of Alvord Street through benefit of a conditional state loan, the idea of a municipal golf course was born.
The Ledges Golf Club, which first opened in August of 2001 after three years of planning, is a scenic par 72, 244-acre, 18-hole course with promise of preserving land and making a profit for the town. Little did town fathers know of the challenges that an extended recession would visit upon the property.
But Douglas Juhasz, the new manager of the course since March, sees a bright future for the Ledges. “The course has a variety of different holes, ranging from a very short but fun-to-play par three that’s only a hundred yards in length all the way out to par fives that reach almost six hundred yards,” he said. Juhasz calls it a great mix of challenging and fun-to-play holes. Local golfers can play those holes without a long drive, knowing their dollars spent were staying here at home. One online review calls the Ledges “an upscale course at a municipal’s green fees.”
Juhasz managed the very successful Wintonberry Hills Golf Course in Bloomfield, Conn., named as the second best municipal course in Connecticut and eighth in the country. Now, as the PGA pro at Ledges, he said its fortunes are much improved. Juhasz has brought the lessons he learned in Connecticut to South Hadley.
There’s a price break for South Hadley residents that makes it more affordable to play at the Ledges and support their own golf course. And, Juhasz said, “We also did a competitive analysis among five other area courses to price us appropriately.” He contends the Ledges is “a better conditioned course than other competing courses, and a much more fun layout to play.”
There’s a stronger focus on customer service and appropriate tee times to avoid slowdowns. Juhasz says feedback has been very positive on the changes at what he calls “one of the premiere golf experiences in the area.”
Not everyone was so hopeful about the Ledges’ future. With the downturn in the economy and an increasingly tight town budget, the Selectboard, with input from the seven-member Golf Commission, looked at all options, including contracting with an outside vendor to operate the course, as well as the possibility of simply closing it.
But the strings attached to the 5.6 million dollar state loan that made the original purchase possible meant a continuing payment to the state for the land, even if it ceased golf operations. The largest debt payment totaled $412,000. Shortfalls were made up from free cash accounts on approval by Town Meeting.
Juhasz said the Ledges has been advertising through Comcast and Charter cable providers, the Town Reminder, the Golf Channel’s “Golf Now” and New England Golf magazine, which has a database of 70 thousand golfers. And, although the slow economy has meant fewer dollars to spend overall, the industry is making a comeback, especially at affordable and less time-consuming courses like the Ledges.
An additional draw to the Ledges has nothing at all to do with the sport, and that’s the new food service provider- Frigo’s at the Valley View Restaurant. The Springfield-based Frigo family goes back three generations on William Street and has built a well-deserved reputation for fine food.
Kris O’Connor is the dining room manager at Ledges. She said the dining room is open to the public, rain or shine, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. There’s a regular sandwich menu, supplemented by dinner specials at night.
O’Connor said folks have been “very enthusiastic about Frigo’s being there with table service.” There’s also a full bar with beer and wine available. In addition to the tables inside the clubhouse, there is also patio seating outside. Asked for her favorite menu item, O’Connor said everything is really good but the chicken salad with diced onions, walnuts and craisins is a highlight of the menu. Also a hit is the “Carnivore” – warm roast beef with melted cheddar cheese and crispy bacon, topped with horseradish sauce or Russian dressing. And O’Connor says Frigo’s can also do takeout with a day’s notice.
The Ledges Golf Club is located at 18 Mulligan Drive off of Alvord Street in South Hadley. The phone number is 532-4807. The fax number is 532-4807. The season runs through November.