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Hanover Country Club may return as 9-hole golf course

  • Steven Friese, of Hanover, runs past the Hanover (N.H.) Country Club with his dog Cleatus Saturday, April 20, 2019. As part of the master plan being developed by Dartmouth College, a campus expansion into part of the land currently occupied by the golf course is being considered. Dartmouth Athletic Director Harry Sheehy said that the golf course will remain open through the 2020 season. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

  • Lucas Downing, who has worked on the grounds crew at the Hanover Country Club for 14 years, removes sprinkler heads on on a portion of the Hanover Country Club golf course in Hanover, N.H., Thursday, July 23, 2020, that is not included in a proposal to continue as a nine hole course. Under the proposal authored by Luke McLaughry, a 2012 graduate of Dartmouth College and part-time Norwich resident, the northern portion including holes seven through 15 near Lyme Road would remain open. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News File — James M. Patterson

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 10/13/2020 9:58:17 PM
Modified: 10/13/2020 9:58:14 PM

HANOVER — For the moment, and apropos of the Halloween season, Hanover Country Club may not be completely dead.

A group backing the 121-year-old golf course and Dartmouth College officials confirmed on Tuesday that discussions are ongoing over a proposed nine-hole version of the facility. Both sides declined to go into deeper details, citing the sensitivity of the negotiations.

Dartmouth closed Hanover CC when it shut down its campus and went to online classes in March at the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic. It went a step further on July 9 by announcing the permanent closure of the 18-hole course — along with the elimination of five varsity sports programs — to reach the goal of a $2 million reduction in the school’s athletics department budget.

Alumnus Luke McLaughry delivered a proposal in late July to restore Hanover as a nine-hole track, employing the current seventh through 15th holes. The plan also called for returning HCC’s practice area east of Lyme Road to activity and leaving the land from the country club’s other nine holes, as well as its four-hole practice course, available to the college to develop, if needed.

“The land that used to be HCC is a remarkable asset that would work well as a nine-hole golf course until the College needs the land for something else,” said Dartmouth economics lecturer Charlie Wheelan, a former Big Green golfer who chaired a committee researching Hanover CC’s future two years ago, in an email. “There are a lot of stakeholders involved, and what we’re trying to do is figure out if there is an option here that would work for everyone and also be financially feasible.”

Any hope of bringing Hanover CC back would likely require a third party to operate it. Dartmouth vice president of communications Justin Anderson said in a statement that the Pine Park Association, which oversees recreation land adjacent to the golf course, and the town of Hanover would also have a voice in the discussion.

“Dartmouth has no plans to sell the property, and it remains important to the institution’s long-term future,” Anderson wrote in an email. “At the time, we also said we would work with Hanover to explore — in the near-term — how to safely open the land for community recreational use.

“Since then, a local group approached us with a proposal to create a nine-hole community golf course to be located north of the Girl Brook and west of Lyme Road. We are currently considering this proposal.”

The college cited regular six-figure operating losses in its decision to permanently close the course in July. In his proposal, McLaughry said halving the holes would greatly reduce the course’s expenses and that HCC supporters possessed significant capital that could be put toward those costs. Savings could include the elimination of a bridge over Girl Brook linking the current sixth tee and fairway, which aren’t part of the nine-hole plan.

Any party wishing to operate a nine-hole course on the land would likely require a lease arrangement with the college.

“The terms of any possible agreement would include agreement with Pine Park and the Town of Hanover about the use, that all cost and risk be borne by the proponents and that Dartmouth would have the right to recall the property for its own purposes,” Anderson wrote.

The golf course land has been irregularly maintained since March’s closure. Hanover’s fairways went uncut for a time, but course workers have been seen watering tees and greens linked to the nine-hole course proposal in recent weeks. The clubhouse officially closed in mid-August.

Golfers who purchased 2020 memberships received refunds from Dartmouth. Most, if not all of them, then scattered to other Upper Valley courses during a summer where many country clubs have seen increases in traffic between 15% and 30% as people sought a safe and socially distant form of sport.

“If there was an indication that we came through this not only intact but stronger than we did in years past,” New Hampshire Golf Association executive director Matt Schmidt said Tuesday, “I’d be hard-pressed to think of or find an owner or operator of a golf course that is going to look at that amount of rounds over the course of a year and be anything but pleased.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at or 603-727-3226.

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