Waumbek showing many updates over the past 12 months!
JEFFERSON — Forrest Hicks went through his phone and found a photo of the Waumbek Golf Course taken last year . It showed a fallow field covered in tall brown grass, indistinguishable from a mountain meadow. Then, standing where the photo was taken, he pointed to the same scene today — Verdant fairways, manicured greens, and signs reading “Golf Course Under Renovation.”
It was proof positive: The Waumbek is coming back to life.
The course did not open for the 2022 season and many believed it would be carved up, sold as residential lots, and — like an errant shot into the trees — would be lost and gone forever.
Fate had other plans. That September, David and Sarah Hill purchased the iconic 18-hole course in partnership with Forrest and Stacey Hicks. They immediately went to work.
Over the past 12 months, crews have overhauled the tee boxes, greens, fairways, and drainage and irrigation systems. The former clubhouse has been torn down and a much bigger, 3,900-square-foot pro shop/restaurant is taking shape. Framing should be completed by the winter.
Plans call for the course to re-open in summer 2024, with a date to be determined.
It’s a passion project of sorts.
The four partners are local residents and entrepreneurs with a deep attachment to the golf course.
The Hills have played golf at the Waumbek since the mid-1980s when Bob Dichard and his parents Moe and Annie managed the course.
Meanwhile, Forrest Hicks was raised down the street from the course and he and his wife currently live next to the sixth green.
“My first job as a kid, I hunted golf balls here when I was 7 or 8 years old and sold them on the weekends,” said Hicks, standing by the 18th green. “I just love this place.”
EXPERIENCE & KNOW HOW
While new to golf course management, they bring a wealth of business experience.
The Hills own and operate Dental Herb Co. of Lancaster, which markets all-natural dental products, and previously owned P.J. Noyes Co. of Lancaster, now known as Trividia Manufacturing Solutions.
The Hicks own multiple Jefferson-based businesses: Hicks Logging, Carlisle Place physical and occupational therapy, Bellevue Barn wedding venue, and The Chapel.
“It’s definitely a labor of love,” David Hill said. “But it’s also a very interesting and potentially rewarding project that we never would have undertaken without the Hicks family as our partners. It’s a great partnership because each of the sets of partners has different skills that complement one another.”
The Hills, who grew P.J. Noyes from seven to 150 employees and oversaw multiple physical expansions, look forward to the challenge of re-opening and revitalizing the golf course.
“It’s very exciting. It feels like a really good mission after spending more than 30 years building businesses in Lancaster,” David Hill said. “It’s a way in which we can do something productive that really gives back to the community.”
BETTER THAN BEFORE
The remodeled course will feature many improvements.
There will be an alternate ninth hole, which will allow people to play a nine-hole round and conveniently finish at the clubhouse. The course will feature the addition of “green tees” which will pay like a Par 3 course. They will cater to beginners and encourage newcomers to take up the sport.The 17th hole was shortened to a Par 3 (with a new green) to prevent people from hitting over the road and 18 was lengthened to a Par 5. A fully functioning bathroom will be located on the fifth hole.
And, of course, the new clubhouse will feature a wrap-around deck with a breathtaking, panoramic view of the Presidential Range.
Asked what he looks forward to doing once the Waumbek re-opens, Hicks said with a laugh, “I can’t wait to drink a beer on that porch.”
The Waumbek Golf Club is billed as New Hampshire’s oldest 18-hole golf course.
The original nine-hole course was designed and opened by Scottish golf professional Willie Norton in 1895 and was expanded to 18 holes by America’s first homegrown golf professional, Arthur Fenn, in 1898.
Measuring 6,128 yards from the blue tees under the old layout, the course was located alongside the 500-room Grand Waumbek Hotel, which burned down in 1928.
Nestled in the foothills of the White Mountains Presidential Range, it was taken over by Tom Friel and his family in the late 1990s.
In April 2022, Friel’s daughter announced that the course would not open because Tom was sick, the course manager had stepped down, and staff positions could not be filled due to a labor shortage.
Subsequently, the golf carts were sold, all lawn mowing activities ceased, and the property was listed for sale as “open land.”
The 370-acre property was listed at $1.3 million on Aug. 10 and the Hicks-Hill partnership made an offer on Aug. 18, 2022. It went under contract less than a week later.