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Hole In One! Local Golfers Purchase Newport Golf Club

Jun 30, 2023 12:52PM ● By Mark Aiken Photos Courtesy Of Newport Golf Club
Don Hague knows “special” when he sees it. “The Newport Golf Club is a real gem of the Sugar River Valley,” he says. The Sugar River, in fact, runs through the course (golfers will want to factor the river in their strategies on Holes 14, 15, and 18), which offers beautiful and varied views of nearby Croyden Notch.

The modern iteration of the Newport Golf Club, which was founded as a nine-hole course on cleared farmland in the 1920s, began in the 1990s as a course designed by renowned golf course architect Phil Wogan. The club went through several owners until it fell into the hands of a bank over the past three years. Under such an ownership arrangement, although remaining open, it is difficult for any club to thrive, and members rightly worry into whose hands a property might fall. 

Last fall, a group of 13 club members joined forces and finances to purchase the club. “I played here as a kid,” says Don, a longtime summer resident of nearby Lake Sunapee. “A group of us wanted to turn things around.” With Don as the majority investor, the group of 13 is determined to see Newport Golf Club live up to its potential. The course opened in April, and there are already obvious changes and improvements afoot.

Newport Golf Club’s investor group, all from the local area, are (from left) Don Hague, Charlie Olsen, Ed Albro, Steve Haselton, Rob Daley, Frank Tagliatela, Bob Scheele, Dwight LaFontaine, Art Springsteen, and Gary Summerton, course superintendent. Not pictured: Mike O’Connell, Christine Bell, Ken Merrow, and Mark and Arlene Halstead. Photo by D. Beaudry.




A Special Place

Most everyone who plays Newport notices a similar aspect of the course—its beauty. Along with the course designer Wogan, another course architect named George Sargent helped to design the course. “They really brought out the beauty of the natural environment that was around the course,” says Don, noting the river running through it and the mountain views. “It’s just a really idyllic golfing experience.”

Knowing that the most important aspects of a golf course are the actual course conditions, the first thing the new owners did was to commission the United States Golf Association to do an agronomic assessment of the course. Then, based on the findings, they began making upgrades for improvement—investments that simply haven’t been available to greenskeeping staff in recent years. Investments include a new $100,000 pumphouse to move water from the river to the course, greenskeeping equipment, aerification equipment, and rolling and precision spraying equipment.
Newport already has a reputation for having some of the nicest greens in the region, says Don. “We’re really focusing on the conditions of the bunkers and fairways,” he says.

In addition to the course itself, Newport has a refurbished clubhouse, the Sunrise Pavilion capable of hosting weddings and other events, a restaurant (the Hole in One Diner), and a new golf pro, KeithTowers from Florida. The club hasn’t had a restaurant in three years, so Don is particularly excited about having a food option for golfers and other residents and visitors. Nor has it had a pro shop, so he’s equally excited about Keith and the fully stocked shop.

Passion for a Special Place

The new owners of Newport Golf Club don’t have specific experience running a golf operation, other than their passion for preserving a special place and an enjoyment of the lifetime sport of golf. They have seen investment groups scoop up other courses like Newport only to flip the properties for profit—often not for the betterment of the property, the course, or the character of the place. With Don serving as club manager, he and his group determined not to let this happen to Newport.

Don, who retired from a career in the electronics industry, knows a thing or two about running a business, having run a family business and having earned a master’s degree in business from MIT. “It takes a lot of different skills to run a golf club,” he says, noting that every one of the investors in the group has been involved in some way, from helping with renovations to getting a point-of-sale system set up. “Between the 13 of us, we have a lot of varied experience,” he adds.

Don himself started golfing—and caddying—at age 12. Despite taking lessons, he doesn’t describe himself as having been that good. “I went through periods of my life when I was completely obsessed with golf and other periods when I was disinterested,” he says, adding proudly that, as he got older, he took more lessons that really helped. “Last summer I shot my age,” he says—a 72, which is a more than respectable golf score. Perhaps he truly has found his calling. 

A Community Treasure

Part of what makes Newport Golf Club special is the place and role it has in the community. “Newport is an enthusiastic, very tight, working-class community,” says Don, noting that some demographics analysis show more than 10 percent of Newport’s population golfs at the club. “Whenever you go out to eat with someone from Newport, they always look around the restaurant and see someone they went to school with or something similar,” he adds.

Meanwhile, the local community extends beyond Newport to the surrounding towns in both New Hampshire and Vermont. The club already offers memberships and comparatively low daily rates, and it extends a discount to Vermont and New Hampshire residents. “We don’t want to change anything until we can give our established customers confidence that we’re going to make improvements and provide value,” says Don.

Meanwhile, the club supports the community through charitable donations, fundraisers, and other forms of community involvement. Local high school golf teams will use the club; this summer there will be several summer camp sessions; there are plans for several golf leagues and tournaments; and there will be gala events (designer George Sargent spoke at the spring gala). Meanwhile, the club has plans to install solar panels. “Golf courses do use electricity, and we will be able to generate more than 50 percent of our electrical needs from the solar installation,” Don says.

Northern New England is characterized by an independent spirit, a sense of community, and beautiful natural surroundings. The Newport Golf Club, in its nearly 100-year history, fits that mold exactly. Don Hague and his team of investors have every intention of solidifying the club so that it can serve the local community for years to come. 

Newport Golf Club

112 Unity Road

Newport, NH

(603) 863-7787

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