(Photo of Montcalm GC by George Peet)
After Dartmouth College announced on April 20 that its course would stay inactive in 2020, other private and semi-private operations such as The Quechee Club, Montcalm GC and Lake Sunapee CC began to attract Hanover CC members with offers that included special nonresident arrangements and the opportunity to play two courses through one membership. “The phone rings every day from a Hanover member,” said Steve Rogers, Montcalm’s Director of Golf.
While Hanover (N.H.) Country Club, owned by Dartmouth College, announced on April 20th that it would close for the 2020 season (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/coronavirus-club-update-4-22-20-course-openings-continue-a-positive-trend/), the members of the 120-year-old club haven’t been lacking for options for how to fill the void, the Valley News of West Lebanon, N.H. reported.
Those options, the Valley News reported, have included contemplating buying land as well as a golf membership, helping a relatively young club rebuild its dues-paying roster, and even splurging for a two-course opportunity, as they see what other private and semi-private clubs in New Hampshire’s “Upper Valley” have to offer.
The possibilities started to present themselves to Hanover CC members within a week of Dartmouth College’s announcement that its course would stay inactive for 2020, as part of an extension of the school’s closure of its campus through at least the summer term, the Valley News reported. And with both New Hampshire and neighboring Vermont finally allowing golf business to resume—albeit to in-state residents only, and with considerable coronavirus-influenced restrictions—Hanover CC is now the outlier, as most every other course in both states slowly gets into the swing of things.
“It’s one of our marketing goals to increase our associate memberships, and this just provided more of an audience,” Morgan Durfee, a marketing consultant to The Quechee Club in Quechee, Vt. said. “We were going to try to attract golfers anyway, to expose them to our courses. With Hanover closing, that opened up a big market to attract more people here.”
For the bulk of its 50-year history, membership to Quechee’s 36-hole layout has been available only to people who own Quechee Lakes Landowners Association (QLLA) property, the Valley News reported. But in recent years, the club has been opening itself to others with the hope of converting them into landowners as well as members.
The nonresident associate membership comes with a two-year expiration date, according to Gina Beaty, the club’s marketing director. After the two years are up, the would-be member must purchase QLLA property to retain membership.
“The program has been incredibly successful,” Beaty noted, citing a 90% conversion rate. “Most of the responses we’ve received so far from Hanover members are people who play with a group of other Hanover members. One person comes forward to ask all of the questions, then goes back to talk to their buddies about the program.
“We’ve had one person interested in a lot [and] after going through the program—the associate vs. lot membership—they went ahead with a lot.”
Hanover CC’s closing has also come at the perfect time for Montcalm Golf Club in Enfield, N.H., the Valley News reported.
The one-time ultra-private operation has made itself more available to the general public since founder Andy Sigler’s sale of the course in 2018, the Valley News reported. And as it has begun to publicize various upgrades—highlighted by a new golf training facility with a stunning view of the neighboring Whaleback Mountain and its ski area—a new potential customer base has also emerged.
“It’s been pretty good; the phone rings every day from a Hanover member,” said Steve Rogers, Montcalm’s Director of Golf. “I think they are doing their homework with what they should do and other places they’re looking at.
“I understand it,” Rogers added. “What we offer here is the chance to play a top-notch facility and experience the private-club end of things simultaneously.”
Montcalm is delving into some of the things that have attracted people to Hanover CC in the past, particularly when it comes to youth access, Rogers noted. While semi-private for now, the ultimate goal is to get Montcalm back to a sustainable 200 or 225 members and return to the fully private status it once held, he said.
“The sense of community here in the Upper Valley is if you don’t take care of your neighbors, who will?” asked Rogers, who has reached out to hire displaced Hanover CC workers as well. “We want to appeal more to the masses. The sense of community is certainly abundant here.”
Lake Sunapee Country Club in New London, N.H. is also using its Upper Valley connection—through owner Doug Homan’s other course, Carter Country Club in Lebanon, N.H.—to appeal to Hanover CC members, the Valley News reported.
The two courses began offering a joint membership shortly after Hanover was closed. And while the two-club program is more expensive than a Hanover membership was, Lake Sunapee Director of Golf Operations Craig Gardner told the Valley News, it comes with versatility.
“I think it’s more about given them the option,” Gardner said. “My thought was if somebody is working and gets done at 5 p.m. in the afternoon, they won’t drive down here, but they’ll go play nine holes at Carter. On the weekend, if they’re not working and they’re free, they would probably come down here.
“The other thing we do with it is kids play for free until they’re 20 years old,” Gardner added. “It’s always a good thing to get more kids involved in playing. And Carter is a good place to learn how to play.”
And one more option for Hanover’s orphaned membership.