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Stow Acres new ownership?


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$1,000,000? Don't get too excited about potential changes at Stow Acres. The entire Irrigation system needs to be replaced. Well over $1,500,000.

 

I'll echo this sentiment. I was the equipment manager for the grounds staff not too long ago, and that number needs to be closer to $5M to make any sort of real difference. Just to compete with the surrounding courses, in the next 5-10 years the following needs to be addressed:

 

-The irrigation on both courses needs to be completely replaced (which was spec'd out 5 years ago and Brian's estimate is not far off). Both systems are probably 15 years past their usable lifetime. It's an absolute drain on the grounds budget and manpower.

-I'm sure you've all seen Jason's blog post on the bunkers, and why just adding new sand is a bandaid that'll get washed away with the first real rainstorm (the Ondina sand cleaner was the best temporary solution, but budget didn't allow for the manpower to run it as much as it was needed). 90% of them need to be completely renovated (dug out, drainage and a proper liner installed, reshaped and refilled).

-The buildings ALL require serious rehab and remodeling.

-Cart paths need to be 100% paved with the amount of cart traffic each course gets. Anything else is a temporary fix.

-Drainage on 4 South, and potentially 2/17 North

-Driving range needs to be stripped, leveled, irrigation/drainage installed, and grown back in

-Grounds equipment is well past it's prime and stretched thin with so much acreage to maintain

-Grounds department operates on less than 1/2 of the budget/manpower per hole when compared to the majority of the competing courses in the area.

 

Stow is a great course, and the Lankau family are great people. When the market turned and interest in golf declined, the over-saturation of courses in the area stressed the business out too far, IMO. Long time budgetary constraints and capital projects/cultural practices being put off has brought the course to a place where it's going to take either serious funding or a dramatic decrease in acreage to turn it around. Selling off the South course has been floated around for years, and would likely ensure the survival of the business as a whole. I give Walter a lot of credit for keeping things running as long as he did and taking care of his employees despite the stresses he must've been under.

 

Drainage on the 4th Hole? That's been a problem for 35 years and there's really no practical way to solve it.

 

Walter and Roger's mistake, was not spending money, when they had money. They tried to expand, buying the Holden Courses and the boondoggle in NH. Things were good for Roger & Walter, starting the 3rd year they bought the course. They then had 10 good years, but instead of re-investing, they tried to expand elsewhere.

 

I've probably played both courses, over 500 times. I hadn't played them since the 1st year Walter & Roger bought the place, until 3 years ago. The course was in awful condition. Nothing like it was back in the Page Brothers days. I did make a hole in one on South 15 that day, so that was some redemption :)

 

I figure they've been running a budget of around $650K-$700K for the last 5 years, which is way less than required to keep the place in decent shape. As you said, the majority of the equipment, came over on the Mayflower.

 

The other issue I'm sure they have, is "water usage". The irrigation system is so old, there's limited control over the cannon heads and that just doesn't work these days, with DEP withdrawal limits.

 

The first to go, will be South Holes 1 & 2. Those lots have frontage and are easy to sell. In fairly short order, I think the entire South course will be gone.

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Yeah, but the more valuable land is on the North side, unfortunately.

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Drainage on the 4th Hole? That's been a problem for 35 years and there's really no practical way to solve it.

 

Walter and Roger's mistake, was not spending money, when they had money. They tried to expand, buying the Holden Courses and the boondoggle in NH. Things were good for Roger & Walter, starting the 3rd year they bought the course. They then had 10 good years, but instead of re-investing, they tried to expand elsewhere.

 

I've probably played both courses, over 500 times. I hadn't played them since the 1st year Walter & Roger bought the place, until 3 years ago. The course was in awful condition. Nothing like it was back in the Page Brothers days. I did make a hole in one on South 15 that day, so that was some redemption :)

 

I figure they've been running a budget of around $650K-$700K for the last 5 years, which is way less than required to keep the place in decent shape. As you said, the majority of the equipment, came over on the Mayflower.

 

The other issue I'm sure they have, is "water usage". The irrigation system is so old, there's limited control over the cannon heads and that just doesn't work these days, with DEP withdrawal limits.

 

The first to go, will be South Holes 1 & 2. Those lots have frontage and are easy to sell. In fairly short order, I think the entire South course will be gone.

 

Agree with all of these points. Great job on the hole in one!

 

A few things to note:

-Owl's nest definitely dragged things down and compounded the effects of the downturn... that's a great point.

-Believe it or not, water usage isn't really that big of an issue. Use is logged and it's within the limits (mostly due to the lack of reliability... which is the real issue). While the system is pressurized, it's nearly guaranteed to have some sort of fault every day... whether it's a line break, head blown out, pump issues, etc. The layout of the system is terrible, however... which definitely contributes to the conditions. I'd say an average of 6-8 management hours are spent every day on fixing/maintaining the irrigation.

-While it's not an easy fix, on anything but a bone dry year, 4 South is basically a swamp. The level of the turf needs to be raised 4 or so feet to bring it above the peat bog that's between 4 and 5, and adequate drainage installed. There's plenty of material on the hills between 2 and 4 to accomplish this. That, or it needs to be shortened into a par 3 from a raised teebox at the bottom of the hill.

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Weekends. Way back before they started allowing carts. I remember dropping my ball in the rack to hold our place with the starter. Loved the North, wasn't crazy about the south.

 

No ball rack at Stow Acres. Never had one. Jenner was the weekend starter for 20 years. Big board. You had to give Jenner your slip and he put it on a "clip" on the board.

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Weekends. Way back before they started allowing carts. I remember dropping my ball in the rack to hold our place with the starter. Loved the North, wasn't crazy about the south.

 

No ball rack at Stow Acres. Never had one. Jenner was the weekend starter for 20 years. Big board. You had to give Jenner your slip and he put it on a "clip" on the board.

 

Well, I am getting older, but I could have sworn there was a rack where you walked out to the 1st tee on the North Course. We used to get there really early (4:00 to 4:30AM) to get out early and I could have sworn that the drill was to mark a ball and drop it in the rack.

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I went to Stow the other day with coupons for 10 rounds purchased during their "12 days of Christmas" promotion. They would not honor them as the last owner apparently collected the $ and bailed. Apparently a lot of people got shafted with not much recourse? If anyone got their money back, let me know how!

 

Anyway, I hope they do not develop it, Stow is one of my favorite facilities in MA. I like the fact that they are putting money into the bunkering, but they chose an extremely white tropical sand which looks out of place in New England and nearly burned my corneas out from the brightness when I put my tee shot on #1 North in the sand.

Walt is back.in golf business

 

http://www.ack.net/news/20161204/land-bank-hires-golf-course-controller

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Changes are coming to Stow Acres. They are not all bad but be sure to ask about 2018 course project plans before buying a membership or booking an outing. The fact that they are working the town boards shows that this is serious ... https://www.stow-ma.gov/sites/stowma/files/minutes/2017_05.10.2017_meeting_minutes.pdf. The changes are all business-driven to get more money out of the property. The golf changes to the courses have been terrible so expect golf quality to post more bogeys.

 

The driving range is on track to be converted to housing lots. Now it gets complicated - I've heard the first part of 10 South will become the new practice facility, 10S becomes a short par 4 with the tee on 7 somewhere near the hazard. That would mean losing the best hole on the course - the 220 yd par 3 when the 7th tee is down by the pond.

 

The clubhouse will be redone to help jump start wedding//outing functions. This can only be a good thing.

 

The biggie is the desire to use Randall Road frontage to convert 2, 3 and 4 South to housing. Not sure this will happen this year or next, but it's in the works. There isn't a lot of flexibility in the routing so once they plow up two, then three and four are cut off so you might as well build there too. If they keep one, then they can at least come back on nine or keep going down five. Not real sure how they will replace 3 holes holes. Maybe a short par 3 from 5th green to a green on the 6th tee, chop up 16 into two short holes, and turn one of the other par 5's (14 or 18) into two holes? If they are doing all of this work in 2018 then I can't imagine it would be a course worth playing.

 

In general, the changes made by the new owner have all stunk. Bunkers continue to be filled in and shrunk, greens were un-playable - slow and shaggy, bunker sand a disaster. It has to be some combination of lack of golf aptitude and removing golf features to make it easier to maintain. Lucky for them there will always be demand for golf courses inside of Rt 495. It's really sad to think what could have been and how far it has fallen since hosting the US Publinx.

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Interesting info, thanks for posting though the link doesn't work. Will be sure to check in early 2018 when getting my league going for next season. Too bad for the south course as the front 9 was by far the better half of it. I'm not sure all the changes were bad but I do agree the greens have been a disaster. Over the years I've played there, they were by far the best part of those courses (admittedly not a high bar to clear). This year while they looked nice most of the time, they were probably rolling around a 5 on the stimpmeter. And the punching they did on the North side never healed in time so our last 3 weeks on that side were affected.

 

I thought from the beginning when this talk started they just just go to having 3 9 hole layouts. Might even be a way to make the back 9 part of South decent instead of the mess it is now. Will be interesting to see what they do. More likely the entire South goes away at some point I guess.

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Stowe isn't nearly as bad as Leo J Martin conditions wise. Layout for Leo J is "decent" for a muni but the conditions are just terrible. What really kills me are the greens - they are so slow it's not really worth putting (for a beginner like me) on lest you develop bad habits on a normal green.

 

My issue with Stowe, in particular the North course, is that it's pretty tight and there are a lot of severe dog legs. Limits number of drives off the tee and you end up doing some funky things like 6 off the tee and 5 in.

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On 2/16/2021 at 9:56 AM, jdl said:

Seems like things are finally happening at Stow:

 

https://www.stow-ma.gov/conservation-commission/events/135756

 

Supposedly the North course will be reduced to 9 holes and some changes to the South layout.

 Well THAT sucks,  they should take the whole SOUTH course!!!   Hated that track.  North is much better IMHO.

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