Challenges are many, regrets are few.
Jim Longhi of Southwick might like to change a lot about the state of the golf industry, but don’t think for a second that he’d trade the last 22 years as co-owner of Longhi’s Golf Inc. in Southwick.
“I’d do it (all) again,’’ Longhi said. “We have great support of family and it’s so easy to come to work every day with the guys here. It’s special here.’’
The family business on Route 57 has battled industry-wide decline in golfers, a struggling economy and a growing trend of golfers putting less premium on time commitment to play.
“Here, we’re not going backwards but it is very hard to go forward,’’ Longhi said. “As an industry, we don’t have that pricing power. Some golf courses aren’t even charging now, what they charged in the ‘80s . . . and the industry is not yet back.’’
Longhi’s facility was built in 1992, as a joint effort of Jim, his brothers Nick, Pete and Mike, and father Nick.
“We did all the work ourselves, put the irrigation system in, worked off the lay of the land, with what we had out there,’’ Longhi said.
Set on 45 of the family’s 150 acres, the facility includes a driving range, an executive
nine-hole par-3 course, four additional longer holes and a mini-golf course.
“It’s the best practice facility in Massachusetts,’ ’’ the site’s PGA of America teaching pro Dari Pacinella said. “The conditions are so good, especially the grass (tee) areas. And I think the greens are better than most private clubs.’’
All are kept in pristine condition.
“We try our best to keep it that way,’’ said Longhi, who serves as superintendent and general manager. “There is always something to keep up, we won’t ignore something that needs to be maintained or fixed.’’
By design, the facility is set back off busy Route 57, but the privacy can have its downside.
“People come here for lessons and say, ‘I didn’t know it was here,’ ‘’ Pacinella said. “Or they come to the range and don’t see the golf course.’’
Longhi acknowledged that more golfers are staying away because of the amount of time it takes to play.
“The niche we have here is that you can play nine holes in an hour or hour-and-a-half,’’ Longhi said. “If a guy doesn’t have the time to play 18, his alternative is to not play at all. That’s not the case here. It doesn’t have to take all day.’’
And the course is no pushover, not with the speed and slope of greens designed by Longhi.
“To do well here, you have to be a good player,’’ Longhi’s on-site club maker and longtime worker Jim Cook said.
But Longhi said the course was designed to be playable for a wide range of skill levels.
“The guys who plays to a 5 or 6 handicap will not get bored here,’’ Longhi said. “We want the family to play, the guy with his son. Beginners will need to hit their driver out there and you’ll use every club in your bag.’’
The additional four holes add a unique element.
“They are the next progression for the beginning golfer, with three par 4s and a par 3,’’ Longhi said. “They are a step up, but not torturous. They’re 300 yards are so.’’
The range has 18-20 mats and 15 grass tees, a feature not lost on golfers.
“We’re trying to appeal to a bigger audience,’’ he said. “Our core business comes from the lower handicap golfer who comes out three or four times a week because he plays 36 on the weekend. He has to work at it, to play at that level.’’
“It’s the best practice facility in Massachusetts,’’ Pacinella said.
Rates are reasonable, with greens fees for nine holes being $10 on weekdays and $13 on weekends. Juniors and seniors receive a $1 discount.
Buckets of range balls sell for $6, $8 and $10 and mini-golf is available for $5 for juniors and $7 for seniors,
A small clubhouse allows for small catering options and birthday parties. Longhi’s can be reached by phone at (413) 569-0093 and online at www.longhisgolf.com
TEE PARTY: Time is closing in on the 68th Western Mass. Tee Party honoring Kevin Piecuch of CC of Greenfield.
The unofficial kick-off to the local golf season takes place May 8 at Greenfield.
Openings remain for the morning shotgun. Tickets sell for $90, with dinner-only set at $30.
Visit www.wmassteeparty.com or call (413) 773-7530 for more information.
LOCAL NOTES: CC of Greenfield runs an open two-person scramble May 10 and entries are out for the Mac Sennett Two-Ball on May 30-June 1 (play any day or more with different partner). Call (413) 773-7530 . . . The Cathedral Hockey golf tournament is set for May 23 at Franconia GC. Call (413) 348-6461 or (413) 788-0464 for more information . . . Check out River Hollow Family Golf Center in Monson, operating under (new) management of the Bechard family. The facility includes a driving range, mini-golf and ice cream. Call (413) 283-4388 for more information.