As far as long-time Meadow Creek member Glenn Goldman is concerned, the owners-to-be of the renamed Four Oaks Country Club in Dracut, Mass., are white knights masquerading in golf togs.
“I am very excited about having local ownership,” Goldman told us recently about Mike and Cindy Kuenzler and Peter and Tina Niarhos rescuing the troubled course from bankruptcy and removing the unsightly cement barriers that blocked access to the club’s parking lot. “Having local owners who live, work, and interact with members of the community on a daily basis will only enhance the experience at the course, the restaurant, and function facility for all.”
Peter Niarhos was pleased to have the support of golfers who live in the neighborhood abutting the golf course.
“We’ve had good feedback,” Niarhos, a dentist in the Merrimack Valley and now a member of Dracut’s favorite foursome, said by phone on Thursday. Mike Kuenzler, who owns All-Sports Promotions in Lowell and was an investor in the original Meadow Creek property under former owner Jeff Brem (he was listed as managing partner in a 2010 article), declined to respond to several requests for comments.
The prospective owners, who last month received the go-ahead to assume operational responsibilities when the town select board voted 5-0 in their favor, are still hammering out specifics involving the final purchase of the facility from Bank of New England and Realty Financial Partners.
Meanwhile, with the front nine holes now open to members and the public for the rest of the 2012 season, the ownership group is planning massive changes on and off the course for next year.
In addition to a complete overhaul of the pro shop, clubhouse, restaurant, and event area, the Kuenzler and Niarhos clans expect to invest a substantial but undisclosed amount into making the course itself more fan-friendly. Niarhos also declined to name the price the group will pay to purchase the course until after the sale closes within the next few weeks.
Specific renovations will occur on holes 6, 16, and 18. Brem designed No. 6, a 367-yard par-4 to be the track’s signature hole. Adding mounding to a left-side landing area some 200 yards from the back tee will accelerate pace of play by stopping well-struck drives from rolling down into a hazard, according to head golf professional Anthony Martinho.
The plan for the challenging 573-yard par-5 16th is to make the hole a par-4 by building a new tee or using the existing forward driving space. The changes are aimed at alleviating the necessity to lay up in front of a hazard or go for broke with a drive of some 280 yards over the treacherous area.
The owners also plan to clear some trees down the right side of the 18th fairway and widen the landing area to provide an open shot to the green.
The ownership group also hopes to attract newcomers and retain old members by holding the line on membership rates and dropping greens fees, especially for seniors, according to Martinho. In addition to charging about $60 for weekday golf (cart included) and $65 or so for weekends (down from some $65 and $75, respectively), the club will honor so-called “value memberships,” which golfers purchased at the start of 2012 for some $600 each, through the end of this season.
Seniors, whom Martinho believes are critical to the success of the course, can expect even more generous discounts in 2013, the head pro said.
Martinho, by the way, is making a return engagement to Four Oaks. He left Black Swan Country Club in Georgetown to resume duties he formerly held at Meadow Creek. Assistant pro Mary Wilkinson joined Martinho in his move some 20 miles down the road from the former Georgetown Club which came out from under its own bankruptcy struggles a few years ago.
Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. You may follow Kay on Twitter @golfexaminerWHAT'S YOUR REACTION?