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Hanover Country Club Panel Issues Report



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, May 31, 2018

Hanover — Roughly 30 people gathered in a Dartmouth College auditorium on Wednesday night to listen to the presentation of a written report recently released by the school’s Golf Course Advisory Committee. Another 17 watched online. The 12-person committee was charged with arriving at possible actions regarding future operation of the 120-year old Hanover Country Club.

The majority of attendees were older men, including one who fell asleep during the hourlong event. That shouldn’t be seen as a knock on moderator and committee member Charlie Wheelan, however. He delivered a well-paced presentation summarizing the 13-page report and its appendices.

The three scenarios considered by the committee included continued operation of the 18-hole course much as it is. A second option would be to reconfigure the course and reduce its financial burden on the college through improved revenue, possibly including a new clubhouse off Lyme Road. The final choice would involve closing the course.

“If you’re too busy to go golfing, you’re too busy,” read a laminated placard on a small ledge at the auditorium’s front, and that sensibility pervaded the event.

“There’s no constituency for closing the course,” said Wheelan, a 1980s Big Green varsity golfer. “We’re not subsidizing the losses, so why would there be? But the (committee’s) sense was that there would be a price to pay for closing the course and it would engender ill will, even if you saved money.

“What bordered on surprising is that closing the course would be pretty expensive. At a minimum, you’re going to have to mow it and maintain a practice area for the (Dartmouth men’s and women’s) golf teams and take out a bridge. You could spend a lot of money to not have a golf course.”

Wheelan invited feedback after reading through the report’s main points to the accompaniment of projected pages on the auditorium’s screens.

Hanover Country Club member John Creagh asked if a turn lane could be constructed on Lyme Road if a new clubhouse was constructed near where the 16th hole is currently placed. Probably not, said committee member Rob Housemann, director of planning and zoning for the town of Hanover.

Please keep bicyclists, pedestrians and neighbors in mind when considering reconfiguration, said community member Bill Young, speaking on behalf of the Hanover Bicylists and Pedestrians Committee and the Occom Pond Neighborhood Preservation Association.

Why do we need to replace the high-rise bridge over Girl Brook, asked another attendee, no doubt eying the estimated $2.3 million cost of such a measure. Because it was built in 1930 and the last work done on it was a temporary fix, interjected Pine Park commissioner Linda Fowler, representing a natural area of roughly 90 acres that is intertwined with the golf course and borders the Connecticut River.

“Nobody wants to replace the bridge, but we need to plan for it,” agreed Wheelan.

One attendee opined that Dartmouth students feel a stronger sense of connection with HCC and Pine Park than they do with Dartmouth-owned properties such as the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge and the Land Grant in northern New Hampshire. He then asked if the process of deciding which of the committee’s options would be pursued would be transparent or opaque.

Wheelan said that’s out of the committee’s control, but that “I think your sentiment has washed over the decision-makers and that they were taken aback by how strongly alums, and in particular non-golfing alums, feel about the golf course. (Vice president for alumni relations) Martha Beattie said she’s been hearing a lot of that while on the road for the current capital campaign.”

Dartmouth executive vice president Rick Mills, who will receive the report, was represented by his chief of staff, Josh Keniston. He said the “intention is to keep an open process … but there needs to be some time for Rick and others in the administration to digest what these three scenarios look like.”

Seated in the back of the room, Dartmouth men’s golf coach Rich Parker had the last comment of the evening. He advocated for building a new clubhouse off Lyme Road and making the course easier to play.

“We have, like, eight holes where people have to lift the ball up and land it on the green and stop it,” Parker said. “We have a great place here; we just have to fix what we have. Twenty years ago, for some reason, we decided we needed a championship course, but the champions never came.”

Agreed Wheelan: “It is a punishing course but, I think, with modest changes, it can still be very interesting. We have one of the prettiest pieces of property in New England, and I think we can make it someplace where you don’t feel so beat up.”

The full report is available online at sites.dartmouth.edu/golf-course-committee/reports-and-documents.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.