By Polly Lynn Mikula
KILLINGTON—On May 1, four days after it opened for the season (to members only), Green Mountain National Golf Course, in Killington officially came under Brown Golf Management, including its employees. Thus far, it has four: Peter Bissell, superintendent; John MacAulay, mechanic (whom the town retained as employees separate from BGM per the contract); Bobby Peterson, tournament operations director/food and beverage manager; and Marcia Jeffery, pro shop manager/purchasing.
“All other employees have been sent a letter regarding the positions available and the new hire process … We’ll be conducting generally quick interviews when we’re in town, May 7-10,” said John Brown, CEO of Brown Golf Management. “We expect many will be rehired.”
One of the positions posted is for a general manager/head golf professional. It was posted on the PGA website Thursday, April 26, according to Brown. The position was previously held by Dave Soucy.
Brown said they’re not worried about filling the GM position prior to opening to the public mid-May. “It’s not that important. We’ll have the transitional team up here including a golf pro/general manager coming up from another course to help.”
BGM’s portfolio includes 27 golf courses in seven states (Vermont, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, and Florida.) BGM manages one other municipal-owned golf course: Tanglewood in Forsyth, N.C., which has 45 holes. Because GMNGC is now managed by BGM, members will automatically be part of the company’s reciprocal program and have access to the other BGM properties at reduced rates.
GMNGC, the town-owned course in Killington, has been a topic of contention since at least 2011, when Jim Haff politicized the town’s mishandled debt burden to GMNGC, bringing it into public view. Since then, GMNGC has come under fire for its lack of financial transparency, dwindling number of golfers, insufficient capital investments for the course’s future infrastructure (like new carts and a new irrigation system), and increasing loan requests from the town, among other things.
Select Board members say they hope the management company will be able to provide clarity on a number of the issues as well as restore GMNGC to its proper place as a economic driver for the town.
Chet Hagenbarth signed the contract with BGM just moments after being named interim town manager for the town of Killington by the Select Board, Tuesday, April 17.
This is the second time the town of Killington has hired BGM for help with GMNGC. The first time was in 2011 when BGM was brought in to consult the town on the course’s best options moving forward. At that time, the town chose to stay the course it was on. Seven years later, they’ve again contracted with BGM, but this time they want change.
“They have a great track record for success,” said Selectman Jim Haff regarding the choice to hire BGM to manage the course rather than simply consult the town. “They know GMNGC better than anybody else and they know what it takes for golf to succeed today.”
John Brown said the company will focus primarily on the experience at GMNGC and market that experience.
“From driving into GMNGC, to the pro shop, to the cleanliness, to the conditions on the course; we want this to be the showcase of the town. Everything we do in training and all our protocols are geared around creating the best possible experience,” he said.
Brown also said that they’d be focused on “growing rounds” through marketing and through partnering with local businesses (namely hotels and inns). “Most lodging units are geared toward the opposite season, we can fill rooms in their off-season … most golf groups are four-24 people,” he said, noting that he’d love to see larger groups set up at smaller boutique hotels so that they can have a private experience. “That’s fairly unique,” he said, adding that locally-owned bars and restaurants help round-out the quaint Vermont experience for visitors.
When asked about his expected timeline for growing golf rounds at GMNGC, Brown said he expects “it to build on itself,” with successive years growing faster than the first.
Meet and greet, May 9
Brown Golf Management’s CEO John Brown and his team are inviting GMNGC members and residents to the GMNGC clubhouse on Wednesday, May 9 at 6 p.m. for a brief presentation and the opportunity to ask any questions about Green Mountain National’s future.
“We just hope to cut through some of the grayness that’s out there and present our vision for 2018 and beyond,” Brown said.