College appoints golf course advisory committee

by Wally Joe Cook | 2/16/18 2:30am

by Divya Kopalle / The Dartmouth

A College committee will investigate future options for the Hanover Country Club golf course, which could involve modifying the course, continuing current operations or shutting down the golf course completely.

The Golf Course Advisory Committee is chaired by Charles Wheelan ’88, a professor of public policy and former varsity golfer at the College. The 12-person committee also includes former members of the Dartmouth golf team, athletics department representatives, members of the country club and other representatives from the College and town of Hanover.

According to a College press release, the course has lost an average of $595,000 per year over the last four years and has seen its membership drop from 551 in 2012 to around 300 in 2016.

Wheelan said that the committee will gather information from as many sources as possible, possibly including consultants and golf management companies, to inform those in charge of making decisions about the golf course’s future.

“Our committee isn’t recommending anything ... We have no authority, nor will we necessarily prioritize options,” Wheelan said. “Our job is to flesh out the menu of choices.”

The College is currently exploring three scenarios for the future of the golf course, Wheelan said. The first would be to keep the course operating essentially as is, while attempting to make small adjustments to minimize the course’s losses. The second would be to make a variety of major changes to the course to make it more financially viable, while trying to keep as many constituents as possible happy. The third option would be to shut down the golf course entirely.

Wheelan said that scenarios one and three are “not terribly complicated options,” but that there are many possibilities for the second option. One possibility under the second scenario would be expanding or moving the club house on the golf course to host events.

“The current clubhouse is very limited,” Wheelan explained. “It’s got a nice deck, but you couldn’t hold a wedding there.”

Wheelan also discussed reconfiguring the golf course itself.

“One of the reasons you see declines in golf is that it is a time-consuming sport,” Wheelan said. “More people probably only have time for nine holes.”

The current structure of the golf course is not friendly to nine-hole games since the ninth hole finishes on the opposite side of the course by the rugby fields. Therefore, one option being considered is making the course more nine-hole friendly, Wheelan said.

“As many voices as possible need to have input,” Wheelan said. “The key is just embracing all of the stakeholders — that is true of any public policy decision.”

Wheelan said that two of these important stakeholders are the men’s and women’s golf teams.

“We use it almost every day,” said Isabelle Kane ’18, a co-captain of the women’s varsity golf team. “It’s really convenient that it’s so close to campus. Not a lot of schools are that fortunate to have a golf course that’s within a walkable distance.”

Kane enjoys the current course, but was also open to reconfiguring it.

“The course has great character as it is,” she said, but added that because the landscape is beautiful, changes in the course’s orientation may still work well.

As for the fate of the clubhouse, she said that the original clubhouse has a lot of character but renovation could be a good investment.

“Aesthetically it’s a nice part of Dartmouth history,” Kane said.

Sam Ohno ’21, a men’s varsity golfer, also expressed his support for keeping the golf course open.

“During the fall season, we play there pretty much almost every day,” Ohno said. “If they got rid of it, we would definitely notice a difference in our schedule.”

Aside from the Dartmouth golf course, the closest location for an affordable round is the Carter Country Club is Lebanon, which only has nine holes, Wheelan said.

Another area of focus of the committee, should the golf course be modified, will be integrating the golf course and Pine Park. There are currently issues with the two coexisting in the same small area, he said.

“Often times the runners [at Pine Park] are not as aware of the golfers as they should be and the golfers are not as patient with the runners as they should be,” Wheelan said.

Linda Fowler, a government professor and Pine Park commissioner for Hanover, who is a member of the Golf Course Advisory Committee, is also interested in better integrating the course and the park.

“Both the physical space and the historical experience of the golf course and the park are closely intertwined,” Fowler said. “I am interested in protecting Pine Park and making sure that if the College makes change to the golf course we won’t have the same disaster that we had after 2002.”

In 2002, changes were made to the golf course that changed its runoff patterns and created unwelcome erosion along the park’s creek, Fowler said.

Fowler also had specific ideas for changing the space.

“To get to Pine Park, you have to go through the golf course,” she explained. “One of the things I’m interested in doing … is trying to develop a way to get into Pine Park that is safer, that doesn’t involve conflicts with the golf course.”

Fowler also said she supports expanding the clubhouse to make it large enough to host campus events like reunions and faculty parties, which could function as an asset to both the College and Hanover community.

“We just need to be creative,” Wheelan said. “The more creativity we can bring to that second option, the more sub-options are embedded in that, the more likely that everybody can get what they want.”

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