Discussion over the closure of the Hanover Coutry Club was all but off the table at the Golf Course Advisory Committee’s public forum on Apr. 9. Instead, public policy professor Charles Wheelan ’88, who serves as the chair of the Golf Course Advisory Committee, spent most of the one-hour forum discussing the Golf Course Advisory Committee’s ideas for reconfiguring the course to make it financially viable.
Over 100 people, including Hanover residents, alumni, professors and both the men’s and women’s golf teams, attended the forum to discuss the three proposed plans. Options included maintaining the golf course and increasing dues and green fees, reconfiguring the golf course to make it more profitable in the long run or ceasing operation of the golf course and building an indoor practice golf facility.
Wheelan began the forum by discussing possible futures for the golf course, which has lost over $500,000 a year for the past four years.
No one in the audience called for the golf course to close.
“Nobody hear wants scenario three;” Wheelan said. “There is no constituency for scenario three other than people in the College who see that money and think it could be used for some other academic mission.”
Linda Fowler, a government professor, Pine Park commissioner and member of the committee.
said that the committee wants to see how they can make a viable scenario work.
“People on the committee are golfers. There is not anyone on the committee who is hostile to golf,” she added.
During the forum, Wheelan emphasized that if the College reconfigures the golf course, it must be mindful of Pine Park, which borders the golf course. Renovations would not only have to ensure that Pine Park visitors are safe from stray golf balls, but also avoid encroaching on the park’s land.
“A problem for Pine Park [right now] is access because if you are walking to Pine Park, you are dodging golf balls,” Fowler said during the forum. “We are trying to address these access points to the park.”
Wheelan added that renovations would also have to address the bridge on the sixth hole, which connects the first five holes to the rest of the course. Renovating the bridge would cost upwards of $1 million.
One way to avoid the cost of bridge renovations is to move the first five holes, some of which have already been eroding, from the southwest side of the property to an undeveloped area of land on the far east side, according to Peter Williamson ’12, a former Big Green varsity golfer who provides counsel to the committee. This change would eliminate the need for the bridge, save the College $1 million, provide a potential access point to Pine Park and allow players to continue to navigate the course easily.
This proposal, however, may not come to fruition because the east side of the property, where the committee is proposing to put the new holes, is located near wetlands that cannot be developed, according to Williamson. The committee will explore the feasibility of this plan in future meetings.
The committee is also considering another proposal to move the outdated clubhouse from the outskirts of the golf course to a more centralized location directly off Route 10. The new clubhouse would be equipped with locker rooms, a restaurant and pro shop.
The clubhouse, according to Wheelan, would not only appeal to members but could also serve as a venue for weddings, community gathering and banquets, which could generate additional revenue.
Many attendants agreed with Wheelan, adding that the course should be equipped with better amenities to attract more people to the course, including locker rooms, a driving range and a restaurant.
Head coach of the men’s golf team Rich Parker also offered suggestions to remodel the course.
“If you get rid of this golf course, it is never coming back,” Parker said. “This is a gem: it’s been around for hundreds of years and it’s not a hard fix.”
Parker said that the course needs to be more player-friendly, similar to the more popular neighboring Quechee Country Club and Lake Morey Country Club. He suggested moving the tees forward, removing difficult sand traps and smoothing out the fast, hilly greens.
“The turnout was huge because so many people care about the golf course,” Richard Akerboom ’80 TH’82 TH’85 said after the event. “I haven’t played there for at least five years and it was important enough for me to leave another meeting to attend this one.”
The committee plans to host one more public forum in May and will meet two or three more times separately before it presents its findings to College President Phil Hanlon and the Board of Trustees in the end of June.