Town cuts tape on Bristol Golf Park, first players tee off

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 9/14/23

Players took to the links at the Bristol Golf Park for the first time this week.

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Town cuts tape on Bristol Golf Park, first players tee off


A lot of people were thanked at last Thursday’s ribbon cutting for the new Bristol Golf Park — perhaps because seemingly everyone had a hand in the restoration of the Silver Creek watershed headwaters as an environmental project and recreational facility.

“I am so thrilled today,” said Town Administrator Steven Contente. “I have learned that with projects like this, if everyone gets half of what they want, it’s a success.” He described the years-long project as an exercise in compromise between those who were focused on habitat restoration and others who concentrated on how to create a great course. “I wanted both,” he said. “We have beautiful water quality, open space, and a recreational facility. The only word is success.”

“What we all had was a vision, of an easy to get to, affordable, fun course. People will learn to play here again. It’s about community,” Contente said. “It’s just one more thing that makes Bristol such a beautiful place to live.”

‘A national story’
Little did Ed Tanner, Bristol’s Principal Town Planner, know that when he walked the (formerly) decrepit course with Community Development Director Diane Williamson and others back in 2018, that it would become a real labor of love for him.

“Wenley [Ferguson] really got things started,” Tanner said, giving credit to the Director of Restoration with Save the Bay, who directed him to funding sources. “It’s not easy getting environmental funding for a golf course.”
Twelve years ago, Bristol’s golf course did make national news, derided by New York Times contributor Charles McGrath as being “of a worseness so extreme that you occasionally wonder if it’s not ironic.” He wasn’t wrong, but the barb still stung.

Today, the course tells a different story.

“This is a national story, and it needs to be told,” said Robert McNeil of Northeast Golf Company, the management company chosen to run the course on behalf of the Town. “To take a property this depleted and make it available to everybody is remarkable.”

(Note to Mr. McGrath: we’d like to welcome you back to Bristol for a tour and a round of golf. Perhaps you will find a new story to tell.)

When thanks were given from all, and to all, from the Conservation Commission and Save Bristol Harbor; to Ferguson and course designer Tim Gerrish; to all the Town departments, private businesses like DaPonte’s and ELJ, and everyone in between, Tanner was singled out for his unwavering commitment to the project.

“We have a playable 9 holes on what was this really compromised property,” said Ferguson. “Ed, you took on so much more than grant administration and project management. We’d still be in phase one if it wasn’t for you.”

The Bristol Golf Park is accepting tee times now. Go to

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.