They can contemplate buying land as well as a golf membership. They can help a relatively young club rebuild its dues-paying roster. They can even spend some coin for a two-course opportunity.
If nothing else, Hanover Country Club members aren’t lacking for options from the Upper Valley’s private and semi-private golf clubs this year with their own course shuttered for the season.
The possibilities started coming out within a week of Dartmouth College’s April 20 announcement that its 120-year-old golf course would stay silent for 2020, an extension of the school’s closure of its campus through at least the summer term. With both New Hampshire and Vermont finally allowing golf business to resume earlier this month — 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,” Quechee Club marketing consultant Morgan Durfee said recently. “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 property. 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, Quechee marketing director Gina Beaty said. After the two years are up, the would-be member must purchase QLLA property in order to continue.
“The program has been incredibly successful,” she 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; after going through the program — the associate vs. lot membership — they went ahead with a lot.”
Hanover’s closing comes at the perfect time for Enfield’s Montcalm Golf Club.
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. As it begins publicizing its various upgrades — highlighted by a new training facility with a stunning view of neighboring Whaleback — along comes a new potential customer base.
“It’s been pretty good; the phone rings every day from a Hanover member,” Montcalm director of golf Steve Rogers said. “I think they are doing their homework with what they should do and other places they’re looking at. I understand it. What we offer here is the chance to play a top-notch facility and experience the private club end of things simultaneously.”
Rogers pointed out that Montcalm is delving into some of the things that have attracted people to Hanover in the past, particularly when it comes to youth access. While semi-private for now, Rogers said the ultimate goal is to get Montcalm back to a sustainable 200 or 225 members in order to return to the fully private status it once held.
“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.”
New London’s Lake Sunapee Country Club is also using its Upper Valley connection — through owner Doug Homan’s other course, Lebanon’s Carter Country Club — to appeal to Hanover members.
The two courses began offering a joint membership shortly after Hanover’s closure. Lake Sunapee director of golf Craig Gardner admitted the two-club program is more expensive than a Hanover membership itself was, but 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. 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.