By BILL BROTHERTON
NAHANT — A new management team is making big changes at the town’s 9-hole golf course.
John Moore and Anthony De Dominicis are partners in Play it as it Lies Golf Management Inc., chosen by the town to manage its public golf course, which sits on 39 oceanfront acres of conservation land on Willow Road. PGA professional Toby Ahern will run the golf operation.
The former Kelley Greens is being transformed into a clubhouse/dining/ function facility that will serve as the base of operations for Nahant Golf Club.
For the past decade, the property has been managed by Michael O’Callaghan. His lease expired on Dec. 31. Jeff Chelgren, town administrator, and the Golf Course Management Committee selected Play it as it Lies’ lease proposal. The new managers were on site on New Year’s Day, ready to start ambitious improvements. Their deal with the town is for five years, with the opportunity to go to 15 years. The managers declined to say how much they are investing in the project. “It is significant and ongoing; we don’t have a final figure yet, but it is more than anyone has ever invested here,” said De Dominicis.
Moore added that improvements will be ongoing throughout the life of the lease.
An April opening is planned.
“Jeff Chelgren and the town have been fantastic, very supportive and encouraging, very forward-thinking by extending the potential length of the lease,” said De Dominicis. “It feels very much like a partnership with the town,” added Moore.
Each of “The Big Three” brings a distinct skill set to the table.
Ahern, the St. John’s Prep and University of Richmond grad who cut his teeth at the former Colonial Country Club course in Lynnfield, has spent the past 25 years as golf director at Ferncroft Country Club.
Moore, whose Navy Yard Bistro in Charlestown is a frequent Best of Boston winner, grew up in Nahant and played the course often as a boy. “We are a hospitality company, first and foremost,” said Moore. “This will not only be a golf club; we are also committed to providing a fine dining experience, a nice bar and lounge, upgraded function space and entertainment. Good food at a reasonable price. I would also like to bring in some of Boston’s top chefs for cooking demonstrations in the new patio/grilling area.”
A second entrance will lead directly to the 42-seat Season’s restaurant; families will not have to walk through the lounge to access the dining room. The bar area will be upgraded and will feature 20 high-top tables and 22 seats at the bar. The pro shop will also be updated.
“Everything will be new,” said Moore. The husband-wife team of Bill and Jeanne Finnerty served as architect and interior designer.
Grounds superintendent De Dominicis, an experienced GCSAA member, said many capital improvements are planned for the course. “We’ve invested heavily in golf course maintenance equipment,” he said. “The grounds will be beautified. … Having Nahant Country Club become a certified Audubon sanctuary is something I’d like to make happen.” He plans to install two wells and modernize the irrigation system, so the course could be self-sufficient for water.
“Above all, I’d like to bring the course up to its potential,” he said.
At a meeting on Feb. 13, the NGC Senior Management Team provided an update on the extensive clubhouse renovations and describe planned menu offerings for the restaurant, golf outings and functions, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. They talked about upcoming events, including a Derby Day party, cooking classes and guest chefs.
An overview of the improvements to the golf operation were discussed. They include a more experienced golf staff and a heavy investment in golf equipment to enhance the overall golf experience for both members and non-members.
Ahern plans to beef up the golf programs for juniors and women in addition to assisting the many leagues that play the par-30 course regularly. “Given people’s lifestyles today, where time is so valuable, the nine holes we offer is a more realistic option. People won’t have to spend six hours on the course, about one hour and 45 minutes for nine holes on Saturday will be the norm,” Ahern said.
The name change to Nahant Golf Club is overdue and will help with rebranding efforts, said the managing partners. The Play it as it Lies moniker playfully plays off of Rule 13 in the PGA’s rules of golf.
For more information and details about leagues and booking the venue for outings, go to nahantgolfclub.com.