College evaluates future of golf course

by Julian Nathan | 9/13/17 4:00am

College officials are “evaluating the operation of the course and considering options for the future” as part of an institutional effort to redirect about $20 million from administrative costs to the “core academic mission,” according to an email statement to The Dartmouth from College spokesperson Diana Lawrence. However, she added that the College “[does] not currently have plans to sell the underlying property. Any changes to property ownership at the College occur after substantial consultation and would consider the long-term value of the property to the College.”

Dartmouth executive vice president and chief financial officer Rick Mills said that College officials began discussing the possibility of closing or selling the country club in the context of larger discussions about reducing non-academic spending.

In an email statement, Dartmouth men’s golf team coach Richard Parker wrote he hopes the College is able to keep the course in place.

Hanover High School golf team coach John Donnelly wrote in an email statement that he is worried about where his golf team will practice if the club closes, adding that it would struggle to find another local facility with a practice area comparable to that of the country club.

Friends of Dartmouth Golf, a group of Dartmouth golf program supporters, council member Kenan Yount ’06 said that he first heard that College officials were considering closing or selling the country club through alumni involved in golf. He said that he and other alumni were “disappointed and stunned” by the news and decided to author an open letter “strongly urging” College President Phil Hanlon and the Board of Trustees to reconsider closing or selling the country club.

The letter’s authors acknowledged the club’s annual deficit but argued that the club has “significant noneconomic value,” pointing out that the course is used not only by both the men’s and women’s golf teams but also by the cross-country team, the Hanover High School golf team and local junior golf programs. The authors also noted that the course hosts physical education classes, networking events for the Tuck School of Business and alumni fundraisers. The letter also references the club’s 123 acres of open-air real estate, explaining that selling the club might complicate potential future expansion efforts.

Yount said that decreasing memberships at the Hanover Country Club are “not necessarily” tied to any national trend of decreasing membership at golf clubs across the country, adding that many alumni who sit on boards of golf clubs around the country have noticed increases in membership.

He explained that while he does not intend to “point fingers,” he believes that College administrators could “absolutely” implement other measures to keep the club open, describing the College’s statement that it is considering closing or selling the club as “premature.” Yount said that offering more services at the golf club, such as dining options, a clubhouse accessible from Lyme Road and six- or nine-hole-courses for players that cannot commit to playing a full 18-hole course might attract more members.

He added that the club currently has only 80 parking spaces and speculated that creating more parking spaces might allow the club to host larger events that might make it more profitable. However, Yount cautioned that in the absence of more financial data from the College administration, it is difficult to determine which measures might be most effective.

Mills said that while College officials hired a consultant in 2012 to explore potential improvements to the course, including building a restaurant at the club and a clubhouse building accessible from Lyme Road, such efforts would “not be the first place we’d invest capital.”

Yount said that he was “caught off guard” by the College’s announcement because despite the fact that Friends of Dartmouth Golf has made “substantial” investments to benefit the College’s golf teams, the organization was not notified of the possibility of the club’s closure or sale in advance.

Mills said that members of the College administration would welcome the input of alumni and others interested in preserving the course as part of a constructive dialogue the College considers the future of the club.

Yount said that neither Hanlon nor any member of the administration has directly addressed alumni’s concerns about the College’s announcement.

“Those of us who have reached out to President Hanlon have received his auto-reply on the issue,” Yount said.

He emphasized that he and other alumni would welcome an overture from any administration official looking to preserve the course, and that his intent was “not to criticize” but instead to “work together to find a way to preserve the property.”

Yount suggested that regardless of whether or not the club is closed or sold, the College’s announcement might make it more difficult for coaches to recruit new athletes.

“No athlete, regardless of sport, wants to invest their time in a college that is considering closing its facilities rather than improving them,” Yount said, adding that prospective athletes “might interpret this to mean that Dartmouth is shifting its priorities.”