Sunday Forum: Golf Team Alums: Save the Golf Course

Tuesday, September 05, 2017
Golf Team Alums: Save the Golf Course

Athletics Director Harry Sheehy recently confirmed that Dartmouth College is considering selling or closing its golf course, Hanover Country Club (HCC) to “redirect $20 million from administrative costs to the core academic mission.” As former Dartmouth golfers and loyal alumni, we strongly urge President Phil Hanlon and the Board of Trustees to reconsider.

President Hanlon described HCC in a 2014 Alumni Magazine article as “a treasure.” We agree. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to forge some of our most important friendships and defining memories at HCC. We want the same for future generations.

Established in 1899, HCC is home not only to the men’s and women’s golf teams but also the cross-country team, the Hanover High School golf team and local junior golf programs. The course hosts physical education classes, Tuck networking events and alumni fundraisers. Additionally, HCC’s paths are entwined with Pine Parks’ and have been used for over a century by the entire community for strolling, dog-walking, jogging, cross-country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and star-gazing. As a golf course, HCC is approachable — no gates, no fences; it’s a reflection of the welcoming community that is Dartmouth and the charming small-town character that defines Hanover. Should HCC be sold, future developers may not prioritize the serene, idyllic backdrop HCC currently offers the campus. Dartmouth’s identity has long been tied to outdoor pursuits to which the HCC is integral.

We support the administration’s stated commitment to prudent resource allocation and understand its concerns about HCC’s recent financial under-performance, having run an average deficit of $595,000 annually for four years. However, even putting aside HCC’s significant non-economic value, the sale would be a poor long-term financial decision for the college. There remains unrealized opportunity for improvement to HCC that would increase its value to the campus and the community. Selling the HCC now would also mean sacrificing forever 123 acres of open air real estate situated on the campus perimeter near Occom Pond — in essence, foreclosing Dartmouth’s long-term options for growth and development. From a budgetary perspective, the course’s losses represent a paltry 0.065 percent of Dartmouth’s total fiscal year 2016 annual expenses. This sum pales in comparison to the potential negative impact the HCC’s closure may have on philanthropy or existing good will in the community — it is unlikely to earn Dartmouth any new friends and may alienate plenty of old ones.

We also hope the administration will be willing to engage us in a thorough review of HCCs financials to determine whether HCC’s recent losses can be improved. We believe they can. The course and its facilities can adapt to better serve the interests of changing generations. Like the Dartmouth Skiway, HCC provides undeniable and intangible benefits for students and the public.

Ultimately, if Dartmouth were to sell or close the course, it would be a shortsighted decision resulting in the loss of a valuable long-term asset for only marginal short-term financial gains. Given the significant value HCC provides to Dartmouth and the broader community, we call on President Hanlon and the Board of Trustees to preserve it for future generations and to end discussion of its sale or closure. The authors of this letter stand ready and willing to help in whatever capacity we can.

Kenan Yount and Elizabeth Wegener

Dartmouth College classes of 2006 and 2008

More than 50 former members of Dartmouth men’s and women’s golf teams also signed this letter.