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BREAKING: Hanlon Contemplates Closure and Sale of Golf Course

Hanover Country Club.jpgWith fundraising in serious trouble, the Hanlon administration is considering selling assets to fill the looming shortfalls in the College’s finances. Up first is the Hanover Country Club (HCC) and its 18-hole golf course, five-hole practice area and driving range.

The property lies on either side of the Lyme Road just to the north of the campus. The new Biology building and the Dewey parking lot (lower left in the photo at right) are its closest neighbor. Why sell?

At first glance, like the Skiway, the HCC loses money every year, but at the same time, it provides a home and a practice area for the men’s and women’s golf teams and men’s and women’s cross-country teams — not to mention being an amenity much loved by Hanover residents, faculty members, and students (it is used for many undergraduate Physical Education classes).

If the course is sold — and some estimates see it being worth in the area of $15-25 million in the hands of a real estate developer or perhaps the Kendal retirement community — the golf teams would practice at The Quechee Club or the Montcalm Golf Club, both a 20-minute drive from the Hanover.

The extra cost of the teams’ travel and course fees — not to mention the wasted time for students — would wipe out most of the annual budgetary savings. But the administration’s focus is not on annual operating costs. Its real aim is to take in a big, one-time chunk of money in order to plug the onrushing budget gap.

HCC 1899.jpgAs a matter of background, a number of different departments throughout the College have been asked to significantly tighten their belts in the coming year. With the endowment growing only slowly due to Phil’s ineffective fundraising, spending has to be reduced somewhere, and, of course, no serious thought is being given to deep cuts in the bloated bureaucracy. Something else has to give.

Funny enough, Phil Hanlon is a golfer, but he prefers the Baker Hill Golf Club that overlooks Lake Sunapee. Baker Hill is a 40-minute drive from Hanover; it is close to Phil’s Sunapee vacation home. That said, at least until budget time, our President has not been immune to the HCC course’s charms, as he stated in a 2014 Alumni Magazine profile of the Hanover Country Club:

“The HCC is a treasure, even for those of us who don’t get to play as much as we’d like,” says Hanlon. “It’s about community and fellowship. It was that way when I was a student and it’s the same today. You don’t have to nail a 250-yard drive down the middle to feel like your day was a success. You might watch a doe and her fawns amble through your shot or share a laugh with colleagues and friends back at the clubhouse. That’s a good day in my book.”

Needless to say, selling the largest open piece of Hanover real estate is an immensely short-sighted idea for many reasons. Not only would the loss of the College’s golf course be a huge blow to our teams and student body, but Dartmouth would lose a signature feature. However, beyond those arguments, the loss of the only prime open property close to campus (other than the threatened College Park, which has the Bema at its center) forecloses a great many future options to the College.

Who knows what our real estate needs will be fifty or one hundred years from now? What we certainly do know is that if the golf course is filled with condos, the area won’t be open for labs and classrooms and other academic projects. I can see a future Dartmouth President cursing Phil Hanlon’s name at the thought that way back in 2017 Phil decided to sell 160+ acres of prime College land for a mess of pottage in order to finance long-forgotten operating expenses.

Just how many wrongheaded strategies can the Trustees put up with from Phil? It is one thing to hire a lousy Provost or to waste money on silly bureaucrats, but decisions like selling valuable assets that will negatively affect the College for generations — or forever — should give the Board real pause concerning our President’s managerial sense (or lack thereof).

Addendum: One can expect that the proposed sale of the golf course will incite a firestorm similar to the one that resulted from the Wright administration’s attempt in 2003 to eliminate the swim teams. Wright, like Phil Hanlon, would not trim the bureaucracy enough to avoid serious cuts that would directly impact students — so the swim teams almost bought it. As I like to say, recent Dartmouth administrations seem happy to cut bone in order to save fat. And to think that people like this are running an Ivy League school.

By the way, once the news is out about the golf course sale, do you think that the many hundreds of men and women alumni who played golf for the College over the years will be more or less likely to contribute to the capital campaign and the Dartmouth College Fund?

At the rate he is going, it won’t be long before Phil has alienated everyone.

Addendum: Varsity golfer John Lazor ‘19 talked to Dartmouth Sports this year about the role of the Hanover Country Club in his life:

This Westwood, Massachusetts, native was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2015-16 in his first season with the Big Green. This past year, Lazor posted three top-20 finishes, topping out in a tie for 10th at the Manor Intercollegiate hosted by Longwood. He also boasted a 74.0 stroke average for the season with a low round of 69 at Furman with some of the top teams in the country participating. At the Ivy League Championship, he carded a 227 (+11) to finish in a tie for 18th. What have you been doing during your sophomore summer?
John Lazor: The summer has been a blast so far. These first few weeks I’ve been playing a lot of golf with friends out at Hanover CC, been hanging down at the river and around campus just trying to enjoy the nice weather. Of course, I’ve also been doing some studying!

DS: What is your favorite place on campus?
JL: Hanover Country Club is the place I spend most of my time, so it has definitely become my favorite place. It’s my favorite place not because it’s a golf course, but because it’s relaxing, has some amazing views and can be used as a nice “getaway” from the busy college life. It’s a tough place to beat.

Addendum: There is no truth to the rumor that the Green is to be sold to a commercial parking lot operator. Yet.

Addendum: To readers who are wondering about the seriousness of this post, other than the final addendum, I ain’t funnin’ you. I wish that I were.


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