The oldest course in New Hampshire with the original nine from 1895 will be reopening in 2024 under new management. The course will feature a slightly new layout, including a 19th hole. No, not a restaurant called the 19th Hole – there will actually be an additional hole on the course. Read on to find out why.
I recently sat down with David and Sarah Hill who partnered with Forrest and Stacey Hicks to buy the Waumbek Golf Club, and get it ready to open for the 2024 season.
One of only a few golf courses north of the White Mountains, Waumbek Golf Club sits right across the street from the mountain that shares its name. Hikers in the state have likely driven right by and parked across the street at the Starr King trailhead.
“We drove by the course and it had turned into hayfields.” -David Hill
Home to some of the best views in the state of New Hampshire, the property had fallen into disrepair in 2022. David and Sarah had been playing the course for 40 years and remember how vibrant the golf community was in the 80s and 90s. For years they joked with Forrest and Stacey Hicks, “We should buy that golf course and fix it up.” In 2022 that vision became a reality, and all the ideas they had to improve the property went into motion.
Improving the golf experience for all players
Since acquiring the course, they’ve made a number of improvements, which they do a great job documenting on the Waumbek Instagram account. They’ve added bunkers, improved irrigation, smoothed out bumpy fairways, and even tweaked the course layout along with the help of course architect Ross Forbes. Even with the upgrades, they still plan to maintain the historic character of the course.
The 17th hole used to be a par 5 where your drive would land just short of a state road, and your second shot was over that road. Then, the 18th hole was a par 3. They’ve added a new green to make hole 17 a par 3, which you now complete, cross the road, and tee off for the par 5 18th hole.
“The old golf game was 18 holes or nothing.”
Historically the 9th hole at Waumbek has left golfers far away from the club house. To improve the experience for golfers playing 9 holes, they’ve added an alternate 9th hole. After the 8th hole, instead of hitting downhill, away from the clubhouse, you can turn back and play the alternate 9th, a short par 3 that takes you back in the correct direction.
The course will reopen with 4 tee boxes – blue, white, gold and green – giving golfers ample choice to find a yardage that allows all skill levels to participate. Topping out at just over 6,000 yards from the blue tees and playing to a par of 71, Waumbek is a place that will welcome golfers of all skill levels.
Building a new club house
“For the past 25 years the clubhouse was a double-wide trailer home,” Hill shared with me. The new team is building a brand new clubhouse with a full pro shop, bar and restaurant.
While buying a golf course is the dream of so many golf lovers, it’s not as easy as one might think. David mentioned how managing a golf course is like getting into four different businesses all at the same time. You have to be experts in:
- Agriculture – to grow grass, keep the fairways dry and maintain the course.
- Retail – to stock a pro shop, sell merchandise and book tee times.
- Food and beverage – to run the bar and restaurant
- Events – to accommodate large parties and gatherings
The Hicks and Hill families are both entrepreneurial with a love for their local community and are leveraging their skills to make the project a success. Forrest and Stacey Hicks own a logging business and were able to clear a lot of trees, improve the drainage, and build bridges to revamp the course. They have also hosted weddings and run large-scale events, which may help in the future if the clubhouse is used as an event space.
An experience for all four seasons
As with anywhere in New Hampshire, the golfing season is only about half of the year. Most courses open some time in April and stay open until October. However, the Waumbek property has the potential to be an attraction year round. Many golf courses reopen in the winters as nordic ski destinations, and the restaurant could attract the thousands of tourists who visit Santa’s Village, which is right down the road.
The Hills envision creating a vibrant golf community where people can enjoy beautiful scenery, play golf, and have a great meal. The course will remain a public course, accessible to many golfers who live nearby, or who visit the North Country for the summer.
I was thrilled to meet the visionaries behind this course renovation and can’t wait to play the course when it opens next year!