Join the Hilltop Golf Course and Preserve a Community Asset

The game of golf made its first appearance in Peterborough in the summer of 1899, when the local Peterborough Transcript printed a story about the formation of the new Golf Course. This venture was championed by three prominent residents. In 1896 Marion MacDowell bought, the then, Hillcrest Farm in Peterborough, NH as a summer residence for herself and her husband Edward MacDowell. The future plan was to provide an interdisciplinary experience, in a nurturing landscape, by creating a residential art colony. The MacDowell Colony,was founded in 1907. The golf course has been in existence since 1901. By 1932 Marion MacDowell transferred ownership to the Peterborough Country Club, with the proviso that it would always be used as a golf course. They were required to build a club house on the property to replace the building that had burnt down. Mary Lyon Cheney Schofield provided funding for the club house and Robert P. Bass, who a few years later became Governor, was its first President. The dream of the founders was that this golf course would be “supported by the community, offer delightful recreation to those who play but also serve to widen the acquaintances among townspeople.” Their dream became a reality. The new club, among the earliest in New Hampshire, quickly became the center of activity and drew golfers from throughout the region.

Over the years, the trustees were not without challenges, which included an extensive fire, flooding, hurricanes, and droughts. The response of the club members and the community to these catastrophes was always spontaneous and inspiring. Raising money and getting volunteers to renovate and repair the greens and fairways was remarkably quick and effective.

Now, 116 years later, the residents of the greater Peterborough area are being challenged again. In 2016, as the golf season wrapped up, the Board of Directors announced that the club would be closing… not just for the season but permanently. Debt and reduced revenue had led the board to their decision.

Disappointed and unwilling to see the course close, three enthusiastic golfers, Vickie Brock, Nadia MacStay and Paul Buffum have shown the same spirit as the original founders by championing the effort to preserve this community asset. All three feel confident that new leadership will be able to cut expenses and generate new sources of revenue so the course can revive its operations and flourish. The first step was to form an LLC and legally secure the course’s new name, Hilltop Golf Course. The second step was to negotiate and finalize the lease with MacDowell Colony, which owns the property.

When asked why it is important to preserve this golf course, Nadia MacStay is quick to respond, “There’s a lot of history and something special about this course. Revitalization will enable the residents in the greater Peterborough region to use the property not only for golf, but also for ongoing social, civic, cultural and educational needs for generations to come. It will remain an architectural landmark a short distance from the historic town center, a reminder of the past, and a symbol by which the town is identified. This historic gem belongs to all of us.”

More than 90 people stepped up and committed to buying a membership which made it financially feasible to move forward. Brock is optimistic, but also realistic. “Prepaid memberships won’t be enough money to get us through the entire year,” she reports. “We need additional memberships, green fees and income from advertising and fund raising. Volunteers will solicit area businesses as well as civic organizations for financial assistance. The Club will recognize donations of $2,500 or more by adding the donors’ names on tee markers. Legacy gifts of $750 are available, which will underwrite the cost of planting a tree and installing a commemorative plaque in memory of loved ones. The names of donors who contribute $100 or more will be etched on a plaque which reads “2017 Fund Drive to Reopen the Course.” Recently the group set up a “Go Fund Me” link to accept donations, www.gofundme.com/golfpeterboroughNH Brock encourages everyone to participate. “You may also donate by going to our website, Hilltopgolf.net and look for the donate button. “No donation is too small and every donation will be carefully managed.”

Since opening day, 1901, Community support for the club has always been strong and was clearly evident this Saturday as volunteers showed up with rakes and cleaning equipment to get the club ready for opening day on Saturday, April 29. Paul Buffum, who is overseeing the maintenance of the club, reports that the greens and fairways are in excellent condition and playable. “This course is a treasure, offering a quick and peaceful round of golf in today’s busy world,” he adds. The course will be open daily from 8 am until dusk through November 11.

The club website, www.hilltopgolf.net provides greens fees and membership details. Individual, couple, family, apprentice and junior memberships are available along with a buy six rounds, get one free offer and buy ten cart rentals and get the eleventh free.

To donate or pay for membership fees, checks are preferred and can be dropped off at the Club House or sent by mail to Hilltop Golf Club, 49 High Street, Peterborough, 03458. Credit cards are accepted on the website or at the club. For information, call Hilltop, 924-7769, or email vickie@hilltopgolf.net