Bob Maibusch, the first American to become a Master Greenkeeper, bought the Spofford, N.H., golf course last year and has been working to transform the 116-year-old golf course into a gem. Maibusch spent 31 years as the superintendent of Hinsdale Golf Club outside Chicago, a private course with an entirely different clientele and conditions than the public, nine-hole Pine Grove Springs.
When Bob Maibusch first laid eyes on Pine Grove Springs Country Club in January 2015, the Spofford, N.H., golf course was under three-and-a-half feet of snow, but he still bought the nine-hole golf course and moved to Spofford from Chicago, the Keene, N.H., Sentinel Source reported.
“I didn’t know what was under all the snow, but the terrain out there was fantastic,” Maibusch said. “So I said ‘Let’s see if we can work something out.’ And we did.”
Maibusch has been hard at work fixing up the course, which had fallen on some hard times. He’s putting his lifetime of experience into turning the 116-year-old course from an eyesore to a gem, the Source reported.
“I’m (at the course) for 12 to 14 hours, seven days a week, and then I got home and collapse,” Maibusch said.
Maibusch is a golf lifer. He attended Michigan State on a caddy scholarship, and after graduating, he spent 31 years as the superintendent at Hinsdale Golf Club just outside of Chicago. He is also one of the few Master Greenkeepers in the United States, becoming the first American to receive the honor in 1992, the Source reported.
But when Maibusch and his wife decided to move to New Hampshire, he thought his time with golf was over. Their children had moved out of the house, and his wife wanted to move back to New England, where she is originally from. Once they settled on New Hampshire, Maibusch looked around for what he could do, the Source reported.
“I wasn’t even looking to stay in the golf business, but then I saw this and one thing led to another and we were able to strike a deal,” Maibusch said. “So now I’m here.”
Maibusch is in his second year of owning Pine Grove Springs. When he first arrived, he was a little shocked at how poorly the conditions had gotten. “There were a lot of things wrong, and still are,” Maibusch said. “We’ve been slowly working on as much of that as we can.”
The first thing Maibusch did was re-seed the greens and tee boxes. Renovations are still going on. The biggest challenge so far has been learning how to solve problems he never had to deal with during his 31-year stint at Hinsdale, the Source reported.
“We don’t have anything like this (course) in Chicago,” Maibusch said. “Our soils are different and I’ve never seen so much rock—there are boulders everywhere. In 31 years of digging up the same golf course, I probably dug up five boulders the size of a trash can. I couldn’t go 50 yards here without finding one. There was definitely a learning curve.”
But despite the early difficulties, Maibusch is pleased with the potential of his purchase. “The layout is there and we’ve got the terrain,” Maibusch said. “There are so many positives to this property.”
Maibusch is also serving a much different clientele. Hinsdale is a private, PGA-quality club where members expect certain conditions on the course. Pine Grove Springs members are just looking for a nice place where they can hit some balls and have fun, the Source reported.
“I’ve had to adjust my way of thinking in terms of golf course conditions,” Maibusch said. “I was at a high-end private club in Chicago, and there’s a certain demand in terms of conditions. They wanted greens that were rolling 13 on the stimpmeter every day. Here, that’s not a concern.”
Not having to meet the demand that was placed upon him at his previous course helps Maibusch because of how fewer resources he has at Pine Grove Springs. “I went from a club where I had 22 people on my grounds staff, to where we have two, three if you include me,” Maibusch said. “It’s a whole different ballgame here.”
Pine Grove Springs does not have the same equipment Maibusch had at Hinsdale. He said the only equipment the course had when he arrived was old and barely usable, so that was something he had to fix. Luckily for him, he was able to work his contacts from his days in Chicago to acquire some solid, barely-used equipment that gets the job done, the Source reported.
“There have been a lot of things that money wasn’t spent on—upgrading equipment, fertilizer or weed killer, things of that nature,” Maibusch said. “Those are the things we’ve been concentrating on.”
One of the bigger issues is the lack of a proper irrigation system on the fairways. Because the soil is so thin in some areas, it is difficult to input a root irrigation system, which makes it hard to keep the grass hydrated. “When we get into hot and dry conditions, it’s pretty difficult to do much with the fairways,” Maibusch said.
But even with the struggles, reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. “The members have been great,” Maibusch said. “They’ve been very encouraging. People notice that we’re trying to improve things, so that’s been helpful.”
The staff is also happy with the changes Maibusch has ushered in. In fact, Maibusch said many members of the staff said they were about to leave until they heard about the new ownership, the Source reported.
“I was fortunate because I inherited a really good staff,” Maibusch said. “That was encouraging. The staff has been terrific.”
Maibusch is grateful his work has been noticed, because there has been a lot of it. “Golf courses are always a work in progress,” Maibusch said. “Some people think of golf courses as a static thing—there’s nothing static about them. It’s always changing.”
In fact, Maibusch has put in so much work that he still doesn’t really know his way around the area. He spent last winter in Chicago tying up some loose ends, so any time he has had in New Hampshire has been spent working on the course, the Source reported.
“I know how to get to Brattleboro and to Keene,” Maibusch said. “I literally have not seen any other areas around here.”