“We have lots of hope and see lots of potential,” said one member of the family that bought the 116-year-old property on Lake Champlain. “Positive energy is the word we like to use.”
The current owners of Westport (N.Y.) Country Club are not moving forward to sell the property, Sun Community News of Elizabethtown, N.Y. reported, and instead plan on opening, updating and operating the popular local links on Lake Champlain themselves.
“We would like to open sometime in April, depending on the weather,” one of the owners, Leslie Hall Butzer, told Sun Community News.
Butzer and her brother Robert Hall removed the property from their brother John Hall’s ownership with a mortgage purchase about three years ago, sparking bankruptcy and litigation. The transfer of ownership was completed last fall, as C&RB reported (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/2016/09/court-orders-bankruptcy-sale-westport-n-y-cc/), to move the golf course and its historic clubhouse out of bankruptcy court and state court proceedings.
While the family’s attorney recently indicated that a sale of the 327-acre property was being explored, Butzer told Sun Community News that “the sale is not going to happen.”
Instead, Sun Community News reported, Butzer and her sister Rickie Hall, a PGA golf instructor, traveled to Westport from Florida last week to survey the course.
“We came into town to investigate what needs to get done,” Butzer said. “There are repairs needed on the clubhouse along with other items. The maintenance equipment will also be updated.”
The clubhouse restaurant likely won’t reopen this year, Butzer noted. “But we are looking to obtain permits to serve some food, like hot dogs and hamburgers, and first getting the course up to par,” she said. “We’re feeling that the course is going to be in better condition than it has ever been.”
According to its website, the club has a 116-year-old history that began with a 6-hole course called the “Westport Golf Links,” in conjunction with the then-famous, now-defunct Westport Inn.
Shortly after the turn of the century, the course was expanded to 9 holes under the supervision of greenskeeper Thomas Lee, and in 1928, Scottish architect Thomas Winton was hired to create an 18-hole course.
Reviving the club is a business prospect that the new owners very much look forward to, Butzer told Sun Community News, given the welcome they have received in Westport and the fondness local residents have for the golf course.
“We have lots of hope and see lots of potential. Positive energy is the word we like to use,” Butzer said.
“We would like to get the men’s league up and running again,” she added.
The new ownership is also looking forward to providing golf lessons and membership options, Sun Community News reported. “The family is dedicated to making the golf course work,” Butzer said.
Regarding improvements for the clubhouse, the owners would like to create a bigger events center and possibly pursue the addition of a housing development on surrounding land—a project that has been discussed with town officials in the past, Sun Community News reported. But at this point, the Hall/Butzer team is just beginning to review town zoning that would impact such development.
For now, Butzer said, the important thing is to get the golf course in shape for the upcoming season—including equipment, which is sorely needed to refurbish the greens.
Mike “Ike” Tyler, a Supervisor on the Westport, N.Y., Town Board, told Sun Community News that Butzer and Hall came to meet with him on March 16th.
“The first meeting I had with this group was very positive,” Tyler said. “I have a feeling something nice is going to happen at Westport Country Club,”
”In the months preceding, we’ve heard a lot of hearsay, and maybe 20 people a week have asked me what’s going on at the golf course,” Tyler added.
Speaking in person with the owners gave Tyler confidence in the future of the town’s popular golf links and its clubhouse venue, Sun Community News reported.
“I think it is a major step in the right direction that we finally get to meet the owners and talk to them,” Tyler said. “I have informed them, like any business in town, we will do whatever it takes to help them be successful. And I am anticipating good things happening up there in the next few years.”
The Hall/Butzer family is installing a new telephone line and said they will make sure to announce next steps once membership options and firm dates to open are in place, Sun Community News reported.