The former Hampden (Mass.) Country Club has undergone a $45 million overhaul under owner Guy Antonacci, and hosted a “pre-grand opening” over Memorial Day weekend. Renovations have been ongoing since the club closed in July 2012, six months after being purchased at auction for $1.4 million.
The finishing touches on a $45 million overhaul are coming together on GreatHorse, the latest highly-anticipated golf property at the former Hampden Country Club, the Springfield (Mass.)-based The Republican reported.
“It’s been a long time coming,” GreatHorse president Guy Antonacci said. “You have to go to a place like Long Island, or even Boston, to find something like this.”
The club, owned by the Antonacci family, opened this weekend for membership play and use, The Republican reported.
“We’re calling it a ‘pre-grand opening,’ ” Antonacci said of the opening for its charter members. “The rest will come later.”
Long known for what Antonacci has called a “100-mile view” to the west, the club’s 26,000-sq. ft. “mountain rustic” clubhouse and 10,000-sq. ft. outdoor patio are signature, hillside features, The Republican reported.
“The golf industry is not exactly booming, so to present a project like this to people…it’s re-energizing to everybody,” GreatHorse head professional Billy Downes said.
Antonacci said the club’s single-word name, without reference to golf club or country club, derived from the Italian translation of Leonardo Da Vinci’s late 15th century “Gran Cavallo” statue, The Republican reported.
“It was innovative then and the name related to my family’s history with horses,” Antonacci said of the family’s harness racing livelihood. “Horses have been a big part of my family for the last 50 years. We’re known as one of the best breeding farms in the industry.”
The side-facing, silhouette logo that displays the head and mane of a Standardbred horse was exactly the look that Antonacci sought, The Republican reported.
“It’s simple, clean and classy,” Antonacci said. “We want the logo to stand on its own, without the name, like the Nike swoosh or the Ralph Lauren horse.”
The golf course has undergone a complete facelift, to the point where Downes said all that is recognizable from its original 1973 design is the routing of its holes, The Republican reported.
“Everything is new—the irrigation, tee boxes, fairways, greens, bunkers, car paths,” Downes said. “The flatter holes are now shaped with bunkers, about 150 of them.”
Renovations have been ongoing since the club closed in July 2012, six months after being purchased at auction for $1.4 million, The Republican reported.
“We started tearing apart bunkers at the start of that season, but then it turned from a ($3 million) bunker renovation to a full-course renovation,” Downes said.
The championship level golf course is playable for all skill levels, with five different tees (marked by horseshoes) at every hole. The re-design can be stretched out to more than 7,300 yards, The Republican reported.
“I grew up playing here and the big complaint was the first and 10th holes, with tee shots that were blind after 60 yards down the hill,” Downes said. “We moved the most earth on Nos. 1, 9, 10 and 15. Brian Silva gave it a ton of modern characteristics, with an old school feel.”
Among notable, on-course changes are: A peninsula green at No. 4, which is drivable from 275 yards at the forward tees; a double-green at Nos. 5 and 7; and a pond that is surrounded by a 60-yard by 40-yard horseshoe-shaped tee box at the par-3 12th hole, The Republican reported.
Downes said the club hopes to attract championship tournaments and that down the road it would “kick the tires” on the possibility of hosting regional and national-caliber events. A teaching center facility is planned next to the current construction of a range that is 300 yards long and has an acre of teeing ground. A 10,000-sq. ft. putting green is the largest of three planned, as well as a short game practice area that can handle bunker shots up to 90 yards, The Republican reported.
“I can’t even tell you how great the opportunities will be for teaching, custom-club fitting, junior clinics, short game—it’s geared toward every level of player,” Downes said. “Being a golfer, seeing the reaction of people has exceeded expectations.”
Antonacci also praised the work of superintendent Dave Rafferty and staff, which has 15 holes available for full use. The greens at Nos. 9 and 10 should be ready by mid-summer, while the 18th will play as a par 3, The Republican reported.
“Dave’s been phenomenal,” Antonacci said. “He’s the reason the golf course looks the way it does. Billy, Dave, the routing and the view are the only things that remain from the old place.”
Five weeks after initiating a membership drive, Antonacci said the club has already lined up 100 members, The Republican reported.
“It’s contagious here, the place really sells itself,” Antonacci said. “Our new (and prospective) members are so enthusiastic. When they first come up here, they leave saying ‘Why would I want to be anywhere else?’ Ninety percent of the people we’ve brought here, have become members within a week.”
Ownership and management personnel described the “lifestyle club’s” atmosphere as “casual elegance,” The Republican reported.
“We want you to relax. You work hard and if you want to come up with your family wearing jeans and a nice shirt, we want you to,” Downes said. “We’ll be laid back, but elegant.”
Antonacci said a half-dozen wedding receptions have been booked in a 9,500-sq. ft. banquet hall, set separate from the clubhouse, The Republican reported.