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After watching neighboring muni course fail, New Hampshire capital decides on golf course’s future

The city of Concord, New Hampshire, is known for its history and outdoor recreation. But after watching a community an hour to the north recently lose its municipal golf courses, officials in the state’s capital are fighting to add resources to maintain the Granite State’s oldest golf course — Beaver Meadow.

The first nine holes of the storied course were built in 1896, designed by Scottish golf pro named Willie Campbell, who eight times finished in the top 10 at the Open Championship. He handled the job for just $50.

The club was originally private, but members left and formed their own golf club across the Merrimack River. The city took ownership of the course and the second nine was then designed in 1968 by prolific designer Willie Cornish, who had a role in designing 240 layouts in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Among Cornish’s most notable work is the Pines Course at The International in Bolton, Massachusetts; Center Valley (Pennsylvania) Club; and the New Course at Ashburn Golf Club in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as well as Niagara Falls Country Club, the site of the amateur Porter Cup tournament.

Among the many course-design books that Cornish authored, “The Architects of Golf” was regarded as a landmark reference work. Cornish was a frequent lecturer worldwide on golf course architecture.

The course has become a staple on the new England golf scene, hosting an LPGA Futures/Symetra from 2005 to 2013 as well as the 17th Annual New Hampshire Golf Association Stroke Play Championship in 2016.

Now, however, as the city’s council is looking to construct a new clubhouse on the historic site as part of a $10.3 million bond, pushback is coming from what council member Erle Pierce told the local Concord Monitor is a “vocal minority.”

Those in favor of the move say it will help keep the course viable in the future. While Concord officials are trying to be proactive to maintain the course, one that has turned a small profit in recent years, a case study just an hour to the north could be considered a cautionary tale.

Facing financial pressure, the small town of Bethlehem sold its course in 2020, when Kim and Mark Koprowski purchased the 18-hole course. The pair announced last summer, however, that the facility will now be closed permanently and offers might be considered on real estate investments.

At the time of the sale there were just three municipally owned courses in the state. Now there are two.

For now, there’s no specific talk of selling off the course in Concord, but a new incoming council could change that discussion in the new year.

More from the story in the Concord Monitor:

“I find anybody who wants to criticize the construction of the golf house to be a little bit naive and misinformed about the numbers and what the building means to the community,” Ward 7 councilor Keith Nyhan said before the Nov. 7 city election. “The golf course and certainly the clubhouse which is part of that golf course is a city asset and any asset that you don’t invest in or maintain is going to depreciate and that undermines the value of the property.”

Six new council members take office next month, leading to calls for the city to delay the vote. But a delay could put the bond in jeopardy as at least five members of the next council have expressed reservations about the project.

The 15-member council needs 10 votes to pass the bond and only three of the current members have said they oppose the spending, saying it’s not the right time for the city.

A vote on a taxpayer-funded bond is scheduled for Monday, although pushback from a handful of residents could alter the timeline.

Public correspondence sent to councilors ahead of Monday’s vote revealed 19 letters asking the vote on a new clubhouse to be rejected or delayed, with four letters in support. One letter of support was written by a Hooksett resident.

In addition, an online petition asking for a delay of the vote received more than 500 signatures.

“As for argument that Beaver Meadow benefits for only a select few, what about our library, pools, trails, Keach Park, and skating rink?” Pierce said. “I would guess that only a relatively few individuals use those facilities too. Would you be in support of the City defunding those City recreational properties too?”

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