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Golf: Phil Hanlon Replies to Alumni

President Hanlon has been sending the following form response to alumni who write to him about the possible closure of the Hanover Country Club:

HCC Hanlon Letter.jpg

Is golf a dwindling sport? In an article in the Valley News, reporter Greg Fennell quoted Hampshire Golf Association Executive Director Matt Schmidt:

Schmidt… noted that New Hampshire has bucked the national trend by increasing membership numbers by “1 percent, or 2 at most” through the 2000s. So it’s not huge growth, but it’s growth; Hanover Country Club should be part of it.

HCC memberships, according to Phil, are down by 45.6% over the past five years. That figure far exceeds national trends, too, and the change has occurred despite the fact that no new golf courses have opened in the Upper Valley in over a decade.

As regards Phil’s notion that the losses at the golf course are “unsustainable” — if that is the case, then we can expect that the Skiway will be the next amenity on the chopping block. And how about varsity teams? Do any of them make money? I doubt it. And I have it on good authority that the English department is a big money loser, too.

Once again, defining priorities is the order of the day. Do you think that the English department is more important than a varsity team? I do. Do you think that a varsity team is more important than the golf course? I do, too.

But do you think that the English department, a varsity team and the golf course are all more important than a massively bloated bureaucracy that has grown in each year of the Hanlon administration? You betcha I do.

The College added 63 non-faculty employees to its payroll last year. And in total since Phil hit town four years ago, the non-faculty headcount (ex-Geisel) has grown by 243 people — from 2,481 people to 2,724 (all of these figures come from the Dartmouth Factbook):

Non-Faculty Staffing 2014-2016.jpg

Can anyone who has dealt with the bureaucracy in Hanover say with a straight face that there is no way to get rid of 3-4 positions in order to save enough money to fund the HCC? Eliminating a few Vice-Provosts of This and That, along with their plushy benefits, administrative assistants, office space, computing equipment, travel budgets and conference fees would more than fund the HCC. Wouldn’t that be a better tradeoff?

Between you and me, the only thing that is unsustainable right now in Hanover is Phil Hanlon. I bet that he is gone within a year.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

I only took a recreational sport one term at Dartmouth for my PE credit, playing football in the fall, then ski instructing in the winter. So spring I took golf for PE credit with ~20 other reprobates. Very good time and high quality instruction from long-time D coach Bill “Cha” Johnson. Coach Johnson taught us many fundamentals of the game that I still recall frequently (“When driving into a strong wind, think of the shot as a second serve in tennis, just get it slow and steady”).

Today I went to the College’s recreation department website and while I could find a golf club team, I could not find anything to indicate that golf is “taught” for PE credit like table tennis is (!?).

Addendum: A sometime HCC member writes in:

It’s a sign that there’s no “Join now for 2018 including play through the 2017 season” promotion going on now — as there usually is. Will become ominous if no such action by September.

I appreciate that we have a great deal of golf capacity in the greater Upper Valley and if the Sailing team can thrive on Lake Mascoma I suppose golf would survive at Montcalm or Quechee. It just doesn’t make any sense at all to sell the land however. If it was a struggling private club and they were considering selling out to developers I can’t imagine the College not bidding. Balancing value for membership while providing access for students, teams and newer golfers is the issue for HCC. With many course restrictions on the calendar, such “rustic” facilities, and the generously low late day and Monday greens fees for the public (not just students), no matter how much one loves the course there is just not much incentive to join as a member for a late day and weekend golfer, except perhaps young family accessibility. Ladies night has been as popular as ever this summer, but again no need to be a member.

I have joined a couple of times. The last time - 2013 ish - there was dreadful winterkill and they dropped rates for the public. I don’t recall any consideration for members but certainly could have missed it.

To try to limit the operating losses and take time to make a decision, any talk of hiring a golf management co to operate it and evaluate the situation? Or maybe you? Maybe try tiered membership levels for a set number of rounds and privileges as Eastman offers. A few specific minor facilities tweaks would help, like real restrooms at least in one place and redesigning around the turn with a little clubhouse to support 9 hole play on either the front or the back would add value for members. With more investment maybe find a way to make 18 be 9 and have the old clubhouse be the turn would be even better, if the main starter/access/parking could be off the Lyme Road.

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