By: Danny and Alice Scott
Manchester Country Club is a very special spot in Vermont, along the Battenkill River. The course was creatively mapped out by Geoffrey Cornish on his maple farm with the front nine flowing through a tranquil valley and the back nine over the wooded hills. Number 10 tees off over a Monet, pond painting with lily pads and monarchs flitting to purplish milkweed blooms. Here we spotted the blue heron that inspired the Manchester logo, a heron in flight. The shop is full of stylish logo apparel and accessories to remember your round.
We met Sean Monahan, the Golf Course Superintendent on number 13 which he described as once the toughest hole in Vermont. That was before they removed some of the fairway bunkering, but it is still a big challenge with water to the right and then more to the left before the green, which has a deceptive slope. Sean says they shoot to get the greens dry and fast, especially after the heavy summer rains. He believes the course was designed in a maintenance friendly way and eliminating 20 total bunkers makes it even easier to maintain and play.
Ranger Jack Cronin is passionate about his golf, sharing course knowledge. He turned into our caddy on 14 where the green is flanked by bunkers on the right and fescue to the left. Jack regaled us with his stories of caddying on the cape for JFK and Jackie, and playing red rover with Teddy, “nice family.” We moved on to 15, a dogleg left from the tips but straighter from the forward tees. Big trouble surrounding this green might eliminate that advantage if you hit the fescue off the fairway slightly right or to the deepest bunkers on the course to the left. 18 crosses back over the railway tracks where a bear was spotted the week before. The sound of the train adds to the rural serenity of Manchester Country Club. 18 looks very daunting from the back tees, downhill, over the tracks with water crossing every which way. Again, the forward tee is much closer to the hole but no less daunting as a stream and marshes on both sides pose a challenge for many short or errant hitters to carry. A trick shot landed Alice’s ball on the little wooden bridge and guided it safely over the water for a primo par to finish.
Michelle Dougherty, CCM is the new General Manager/COO who joined Peter Weatherby, PGA as the Head Golf Professional at Manchester Country Club, where the US Sr AM Qualifier was held, and the New England Senior Amateur Championship’s host Club in mid-September. They are taking great pride in the club and teaming together to improve the community. Michelle is leading the staff with a big heart and commitment to fun and excellence. She says that Peter is amazing with the junior program, and we noticed his amazing demeanor while interacting with seniors as well. They have increased membership by over 25% and have ongoing applications to be vetted. Membership has the privilege of amenities and a sense of community that matches the peaceful surrounding nature of Vermont, and so they perform background checks and orientation to ensure a good fit in this community where some members have 59+ years. They are targeting families for full golf, tennis, and social memberships.
The associates at Manchester Country Club are welcoming and seem very happy with their “office.” It is a harmonious setting for all members. Thursday is ladies’ day. After nine holes and refreshing in their locker room that is cutely furnished with country décor, they lunch on the veranda looking out to the pollinator gardens, practice green and velvety fairways. It’s a pleasant ending to any type of play. It is a place we’d long to belong.
Stay and play packages are available with a dozen higher end affiliated inns to experience and enjoy. Manchester is a quaint town with boutique shops and designer outlets to satisfy all shopaholics. We stayed in Dorset, at the lovely Dorset Inn on the Green, 20 minutes away. Established in 1796, it houses an old tavern, living quarters, two dining rooms inside and tables al fresco with 28 guest rooms bearing names of famous folks like Rockwell. We stayed in #28, Cephas room. Cephas Kent was a founder of the area. The rooms have been lavishly upgraded with modern amenities while still reflecting the historic charm of a bygone era. Compliments to the chef for surf and turf choices of halibut and filet mignon that we recommend sharing, leaving no room for desserts but we noticed other guests happy with their sweet endings. The Green is on Church Street, a little strip of grass, artfully decorated with flowers around a flag and signage. The little Union Store has supplied residents for 200 years. Theatre is big in these parts and people are anxious for the live performances. which have been limited to outdoor or nil performances during pandemic sequestering. Everyone is family in Dorset, just like they are at Manchester Country Club.
For more information about Manchester (VT) Country Club and membership options, visit: www.mccvt.com