On May 23, 2018

Golf season tees off successfully

By Julia Purdy

KILLINGTON—Last Friday, May 11, was the first night of league play as the Green Mountain National Golf Course racked up its third week open for the season. Small groups could be seen down the fairway. Later, golfers gathered on the deck and there was a happy buzz of conversation.

The course hosted the LPGA Futures in 1996 and opened full-time the following year, 1997.

Twenty-two years later, in 2018, GMNGC is under the new management of Brown Golf Management, which has been contracted by the town of Killington to run its operations for at least three years.

Bobby Peterson, seasonal director of operations, has been here since the beginning, working winters at restaurants on Killington Road. He came for the skiing, he said, and stayed to work at the new GMNGC.

“I think that we needed some help with our financials and I think that Brown Golf was a very good choice to lead it through some of those changes,” Peterson said. “We’re very proud of the product we have here and the marketing strength they bring to the equation is going to be a huge bonus. We don’t want to be the best-kept secret anymore.”

Peterson said that when Brown Golf visited Killington to present its proposal, CEO John Brown referenced the course’s priceless “human capital.” Most of GMNGC employees are seasonal, but many of them have been here for almost two decades, Peterson said.

Marcia S. Jeffery, pro shop clerk, started here 19 years ago. She handles inquiries, takes reservations, does the purchasing and greets visitors. Jeffery reported that the new rates have been “very appealing to everyone, especially to the locals.” There is an even lower “twilight” rate, inviting Vermont residents to play from mid-afternoon “until dark,” Jeffery said. “We stay ‘til the last cart is in. During the summer months it stays late so long, people like that.”

Grounds Manager Peter Bissell has cleared trees to create views from various greens. Carved out of forestland donated to the town by landowner Gracie Barrows’ estate and occupying about 200 acres, the course is surrounded by the Green Mountain National Forest, and the highest point on the course overlooks Colton Pond far below, a state-owned, stocked trout pond.

J. P. Longeuil, interim head professional and general manager with Brown Golf, has been here since May 1 and will stay until the end of May or a little longer, depending on how things go, he said.

“Everyone has been absolutely amazing, I say that sincerely, it’s been just a pleasure to be up here,” Longeuil said. “Without having Bobby and Marcia on the ground along with John I don’t think we would have understood as quickly as we did what details are influences here. Here it’s just performing to the expectations of Killington, and what the people here want. If we do that … everything else will fall into line as long as we can do everything else properly.”

Select Board member Jim Haff, who was chosen to negotiate the contract with Brown Golf, said he is pleased so far. “The board is very happy with Brown Golf. It’s a work in progress,” he said in a brief phone interview. “It takes the management of a golf course out of the hands of the town and puts it in the hands of a company that does this for a living.”

The Mountain Times caught up with early-season golfers to gather their impressions.

Jeff Stark, Emmaus, Penn.
Stark has a house on Dean Hill, Killington so comes up quite often.

Mountain Times: What do you like about GMNGC?

Jeff Stark: I’ve played all over the East Coast and this is by far my favorite course. The scenery, it’s quiet, the holes are kind of private, you can be on one hole and not see anybody else, not in a negative antisocial way, but that seems like the more enjoyable golf round …This is a different lifestyle altogether up here, and this course kind of fits it all too: it’s peaceful, it’s in the woods, you can be alone if you want. If not, there are plenty of friendly people all over.

What has been your experience with the new management?

They gave me the resident rate as a homeowner.

Daria and Tom Ayers , Wethersfield, Conn.
The Ayers stopped by GMNGC while their daughter participates in the four-day Young Writers’ Conference in Middlebury. Tom came to GMNGC years ago for the first tournaments; Daria has never been. They were staying in Killington until Sunday night.

Mountain Times: What do you like about GMNGC?

Daria Ayer: It’s like taking a beautiful walk and then you have to hit a ball every once in awhile … How can you beat that, it’s gorgeous.

Tom Ayer:
The services and the people who work here are really nice.

What has been your experience with the new management?

Will they have packages? We used the Golf magazine coupon… I would be interested in the stay and play package.

I work for a rec department and they sometimes use a tiered fee structure. It makes sense.

Michael Algren, Bridgewater
Algren is the owner of Algren Design and Building, he was just arriving for his tee-time, late in the day. He’s a regular golfer at GMNGC.

Mountain Times: What do you like about GMNGC?

Michael Algren
: I like the way it’s nestled in the mountains. On most of the course you can’t see a house –it’s really connected with nature. It’s well maintained, the drainage is great, the fairways are beautiful, and the greens are incredible.

What has been your experience with the new management?

I’m aware of the new fee structure. I heard it had new management. I’m not sure where that’s going.

Mr. & Mrs. Link
The Links have been coming to Killington since 1998. They have a home in Plymouth where they spend about half the year. The rest of the time they live in New York City. (They requested their first names not be used.)

Mountain Times: What do you like about GMNGC?

Mr. Link:
It’s a beautiful course, it’s always been well kept, and it’s a great asset to the community, but the friendliness of the staff and people were always a big part of this… We’ve had the privilege to play golf pretty much all around the world, this is still one of the prettiest, nicest courses we’ve played…We’ve had family reunions here, they’ve all looked forward to coming and playing Green Mountain National. It’s a big part of our tradition.

Mrs. Link:
The challenge, the beauty…All of our friends and family feel the same. We always say if you can play well here you can play anywhere.

What has been your experience with the new management?

Mrs. L:
We cautiously hope that they will maintain the camaraderie, accessibility, congeniality that the course has always had. We hope that the access to it doesn’t change, meaning too many corporate events.


Photo by Julia Purdy
Green Mountain National Golf Ccourse employee John Durney views Colton Pond from hole #16.

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