Column: What’s next for Carter Country Club?

Jim Moretti, of Lebanon, and Paula Dorr, of Grantham, left, reach out for a hug after Moretti sank his team's final putt during the fourth annual Spark golf scramble tournament at Carter Country Club in Lebanon, N.H., Saturday, August 26, 2017. The tournament benefits the Spark Community Center for people of differing abilities. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Jim Moretti, of Lebanon, and Paula Dorr, of Grantham, left, reach out for a hug after Moretti sank his team's final putt during the fourth annual Spark golf scramble tournament at Carter Country Club in Lebanon, N.H., Saturday, August 26, 2017. The tournament benefits the Spark Community Center for people of differing abilities. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — James M. Patterson

Matt Maxham, general manager of the Carter Country Club, picks up half putting cups at the club in Lebanon, N.H., on Nov. 5, 2018. Monday was their last day for the season.  (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Matt Maxham, general manager of the Carter Country Club, picks up half putting cups at the club in Lebanon, N.H., on Nov. 5, 2018. Monday was their last day for the season. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

Dave Hollis practices his putting outside the club house at the Carter Country Club where he works in Lebanon, N.H. Monday, November 9, 2015. The course was built in 1923 and may now be moved and rebuilt as part of a redevelopment by owner Doug Homan. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
<p><i>Copyright © Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.</i></p> Dave Hollis practices his putting on Monday outside the club house at the Carter Country Club where he works in Lebanon. The course was built in 1923 and may now be moved and rebuilt as part of a redevelopment by owner Doug Homan. After more than four months of delays, the Lebanon Planning Board began its review Monday of Homan’s proposal to move the course and construct about 300 homes on the land.Valley News — James M. Patterson

Dave Hollis practices his putting outside the club house at the Carter Country Club where he works in Lebanon, N.H. Monday, November 9, 2015. The course was built in 1923 and may now be moved and rebuilt as part of a redevelopment by owner Doug Homan. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Copyright © Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Dave Hollis practices his putting on Monday outside the club house at the Carter Country Club where he works in Lebanon. The course was built in 1923 and may now be moved and rebuilt as part of a redevelopment by owner Doug Homan. After more than four months of delays, the Lebanon Planning Board began its review Monday of Homan’s proposal to move the course and construct about 300 homes on the land.Valley News — James M. Patterson

By DICK NELSON

For The Valley News

Published: 03-08-2024 4:50 PM

There are many scores of Upper Valley golfers, especially senior golfers like myself, wallowing in a sea of confusion over the recent turn of events surrounding our beloved Carter Country Club. In an email to Carter Community Building Association members, cited in the Valley News on March 1, we were told our home-away-from-home during spring, summer and fall “may go away.” (The CCBA was designated by former Carter owner Peanie Goodwin as its caretaker.)

In the same email, we were told the course would remain open for at least another year, and in a currently-secret agreement with course owner and New London developer Doug Homan “hopefully for much longer.” Golfers are asking: what does this mean?

We have been presented with a large helping of legal mumbo jumbo from the parties involved and as we dust off our clubs and get ready to hit the first tee, we will feel like the Sword of Damocles is hanging over our heads, ready to drop at any moment. For the past several years, it has appeared that the fervent wish of former owner Goodwin to keep the course open in perpetuity was — after much contentious back-and-forth — finally settled, once and for all, in favor of us golfers. Now, like a zombie, all the previous controversy has once again reared its ugly head. This is a sore shame.

Tucked right between Lebanon and West Lebanon, Carter was designed by golf legend Donald Ross in 1923 and for an entire century has been a refuge for local golfers — scratch players and duffers alike — to find fun, relaxation and camaraderie, a break from the travails of everyday life, at a very reasonable price.

Under the masterful care of groundskeeper Matt Maxham, Carter has gradually been improved, year after year. The fairways are better than ever. I have seen Matt on his hands and knees, sculpting the edges of sand traps to make them more attractive. He recently obtained a sand sweeper, to make trap surfaces more uniform. In recent years, the greens have been in perfect condition, as good as any at the more expensive courses nearby, and better than most.

When the clubhouse porch began to sag, Matt and his small staff restored it themselves. Because of the threadbare budget imposed by the current owner, we do not have a club pro. But we get along just fine without one. Now that same owner wants to come in with bulldozers and wreck the whole thing, on his fourth, fifth, sixth try? I’ve lost count. How many mulligans can one man have?

The current plan calls for shutting down the golf course and constructing a mixed residential-retail complex that would include 400 apartments, 86 senior units, 60,000 square feet of retail space and a 300-seat restaurant, which would sit right on top of the current fourth green.

Speaking of the fourth green, as part of the toughest hole at Carter, that green has decided the outcome of many Senior Golf League “tournaments,” when nine holes of play end up with a tie score among two or more randomly-selected four-man teams. In that scenario, the team with the best score on hole four wins the pot, which might be as much as $12 or even $14. Clearly, the allure of the Tuesday Senior League is not to get rich. The dozens (sometimes 40-plus) golfers — almost all in our 70s or even 80s — are there to spend a couple of hours with our longtime friends, enjoy the human contact, and get some exercise at the same time. Winning is nice, but secondary.

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Many of Carter’s senior members are now already exchanging emails, wondering, “When do you think Carter will open?” Especially this year, with the absurd weather and lack of snow.

During the winter months, with Carter closed, many senior golfers gather at Maplefields on Route 4 to have coffee, share some laughs, enjoy each other’s company and stare longingly at the course — right across the street — through big picture windows. These gatherings are held Tuesdays at 9 a.m., just like senior league.

The closing of Carter would put an end to all of this. There is no other course to fall back on. Others are too far away, or too expensive, or too hard to walk with a bag or pull cart. Hanover is closed after a similar brouhaha.

We all know that getting old is no picnic. But doctors tell us that as we age, getting exercise, keeping moving, is a key component to staying healthy, and perhaps heading off the onset of dementia. They also continually stress that the other great challenge facing seniors, many with no partner at home, is loneliness. The Senior Golf League, and the friendship among Carter golfers in general, is a powerful antidote to being lonely.

Regarding this proposed development project: most people I have talked to say that we have enough retail space, up and down Route 12A in particular. A 300-seat restaurant? Who’s going to work there? Other, much smaller, restaurants are closing because they cannot find workers. Housing? Surely we need more of that. Lebanon seems to have a couple of very large housing projects about to be built near downtown, but there is always a need for more.

How about this idea? Homan, the developer, also owns the super-elite 18-hole Lake Sunapee Country Club in New London. Since that course has nine “extra” holes, how about building the housing there, along with some retail? They would still have a country club and Lebanon would, too. But perhaps the millionaires who play at Lake Sunapee have more clout than us average Joes who frequent Carter.

Until all of this is out in the open, rumors will continue to swirl. One has it that Homan is offering the CCBA $250,000 to let him close down Carter and build his project. But who knows? I dropped in to the CCBA this past Wednesday to try to chat with Executive Director Kerry Artman, but she was “unavailable” and in an email later that day recommended I “please reach out to our attorney Jeremy Eggleton (at the Concord firm of Orr & Reno) about any questions, comments or concerns” I might have. No thanks.

However, the CCBA annual meeting will be held Tuesday evening, March 12, at the Carter Community Building. Maybe we can get some answers there.

As many have said, Carter Country Club is one of the true remaining icons in the City of Lebanon. We need to hang on to these with all our might. If Carter goes, what’s next? Muriel’s Donuts taken over by a Dunkin’ franchise? It makes me shudder to even think about that.

Dick Nelson is a former Valley News reporter and sportswriter, and a longtime member of Carter Country Club. He lives in Lebanon.