Let’s Talk Golf:Interview with Stephen Mills

Let’s Talk Golf:Interview with Stephen Mills

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I’ve never played golf, and this is the first time I’ve even set
foot on a course. Tell me some history about Skyway Golf,
how did you get started?
Stephen Mills: Well the golf course itself has been open
since July 1st of 2015. This idea came about when the county
executive and the freeholders of Hudson County decided
they wanted to build a golf course. The HCIA, the Hudson
County Improvement Authority, spearheaded the building
of the program, or the building of the golf course. I believe
they started digging around 2011, they had to remediate the
land first. Once they did that, they brought in fill from the New
York Harbor from their dredging project and they built the
golf course up 30-40 feet from the original ground level. After
that, they then brought in (laughs) A LOT of sand. We have a
2ft sand cap on the golf course. It’s about 6in underneath the
topsoil in the turf. Environmentally it was built as eco-friendly
as possible.
Sounds like a very evolved project, and I’m sure you’re very
proud of the final results. So who do you normally cater to,
any specific type of crowd?
Stephen Mills: Everybody. We have your local fry cook
at McDonald’s, up to Mayor Guiliani playing out here. We
have tour pros who play golf out here. We have few of the
local high schools, St. Peter’s Prep, Snyder, Dickenson, and
Lincoln. They practice out here and play matches. We have
some local universities, NJCU, St. Peters, Stevens, NYU, and
Wagner comes in from Staten Island. So they all practice out
here as well.

Skyway seems to draw in quite an eclectic group. Any
celebrities tee off here? I know you have to have that
one you can’t resist bragging about.
Stephen Mills: Not really, I mean Anita Marks comes out
and plays golf out here. She works on a radio show for
ESPN, and she plays out here a good bit.
So from what you have told me, quite a variety of people
have come and enjoyed the course. In your opinion,
how viable would you say the golf course is to the city?
Stephen Mills: Very. About 20% of our play comes from
Manhattan. A lot of early morning guys would come out
here to play, and a lot of afternoon guys come out here to
play. It’s usually mid-day we don’t see them, but it’s either
early morning, or late afternoon or weekends that we see
the guys from the city.
Wow, so people are coming from Manhattan just to play
the course. That’s very impressive. I don’t know about
them, but the commute wasn’t too bad in the afternoon
to get here for me. How would you rate the commute to
Skyway for a first time traveler?
Stephen Mills: For me, it’s not too bad. I live down the
turnpike a little bit. It doesn’t take me very long to get
here. Most of the people here in Hudson County Uber.
That’s about a third of our business, believe it or not,
are people who are Ubering here. That Lyft share really
helps out people needing a ride to get here and keeps
the travel simple.
I definitely can see how that would contribute to
keeping the business running smoothly. Besides a
simple commute, what does it take to make Skyway so
successful?
Stephen Mills: You have to have a good staff, a very
friendly staff. The staff is really what helps to bring the
customers back. The other good thing is the county,
and the HCIA, they put money back into the golf course
which is great. In the last couple of years, we’ve actually
put up a banquet facility, a banquet tent. This year the
undertaking is going to be locker rooms. We’re building
an addition onto the trailer here putting in locker rooms
so the men and ladies will be able to have showers.
Some major renovations are on the horizon for you.
What sort of events does Skyway hold currently?
Stephen Mills: We do a lot of charity events for
fraternal organizations, medical organizations, and just
fundraisers. We have a First Tee Program here, which is
great. It caters to all children whether they can afford the
program or not. The program is not very expensive. If
they can’t afford the $50 then a scholarship is provided
because we don’t want to, you know, keep kids from
learning how to play the game if they don’t know how to
play the game, or have the means to play the game. We
provide everything we can clubs, balls, tees…everything
we possibly can for them. We did the Hudson County
Amateur over the summer, and we raised funds for the
Special Olympics. It was the first year we did it trying to
gain sponsorship. I believe that we brought in a little over
$1,200 that we donated to the Special Olympics. It wasn’t
a lot, but it was our first year doing it, and we expect it to
grow in the future.
With all the events being held outside talk to me
about the weather. How has it been affecting Skyway’s
business?
Stephen Mills: Well, the great thing about this golf
course is it drains. It’s got to be one of the best-draining
golf courses in the country. Just the way that it was built,
with the two-foot sand cap underneath, it just sucks the
water up like a sponge. Which is good, it helps us out
because even after an inch of rain in an hour golfers can
probably get back out there within 15 to 20 minutes to
actually play. There’s not a lot of standing water on the
golf course so that helps.
Well that’s good to hear considering the major snow
hell that’s coming tomorrow! Tell me about Skyway’s
plans for Golf 2018.
Stephen Mills: Golf for 2018. Well with the banquet facility
we do plan on doing more evening time events, leagues,
couple’s leagues, men’s leagues. We’re going to be doing
more creative events. April 4th we’re actually doing a Par
3 tournament, we’re going to make the golf course all
par 3s. We’re gonna serve master’s theme food, drinks.
The masters do an annual event where they bring all the
golfers to their par 3 course, they can bring their families
out and children can caddy for them. We’re gonna do
the same thing, it’s just our way to grow the game here.
The food aspect, theming after the masters should help
out, and doing it during the evening does help. Morning
events, we actually do what we call a morning meeting
event. We try do it at least once a month, if not twice a
month. It tees off at sunrise, so if sunrise is at 5:30 AM,
we tee off at 5:30 AM, and we feed them breakfast too.
One of the things I love about Skyway seems very
customer oriented. Here’s my last question for you:
What distinguishes you from other golf courses in the
local area?
Stephen Mills: What distinguishes us….The level of
service. Even though we are a 9 hole municipal golf
course and there is a stigma about, you know, a lot of
9 hole courses are municipal courses, but we the staff,
we treat everybody like their a member you know at a
country club. We really try not to spare any expense on
that. We try to retain all of our customers, treat them like
family. Retaining our customers is really the big thing.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.
I can’t wait to try the course out on my spring break.
Stephen Mills: Thank you, and stop by anytime.

By: Amanda-Kathryn
aka RamblesofRed

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