The public course perched 800 feet above the Hudson River in Garrison, N.Y. was designed by Dick Wilson in 1961 and features scenic views and varied topography. A plan was in place to reduce the course from 18 holes to 9 to make way for the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, but owner Chris Davis said golf is not economically sustainable and the entire course will close after the 2021 season, with the focus then concentrated on the property’s inn, restaurant and wedding and catering venue.
Chris Davis, the owner of The Garrison in Garrison, N.Y. said on April 2nd that he plans to close its 18-hole, par-72 championship public golf course after the 2021 season because of significant financial losses, but will ensure that conservation easements prevent commercial development of the land, The Highlands Current of Cold Spring, N.Y. reported.
Davis said the decision was independent of a plan by the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (HVSF) to move its longtime home at Boscobel to 52 acres Davis donated at The Garrison site, The Highlands Current reported. The plan had been to reduce the course from 18 to nine holes to make room for the festival.
The other businesses operated by The Garrison—a wedding and catering venue, a small inn and The Valley Restaurant—will remain in operation, Davis said in a statement, The Highlands Current reported.
The golf course, which was designed in 1961 by Dick Wilson will begin its final season on April 5th, The Highlands Current reported. The course is perched 800 feet above the Hudson River and known for its views of the rugged Hudson Highlands terrain, as well as its varied topography that includes woodsy, rolling hills, many elevation changes, tough tee shots over deep ravines, side hill lies and challenging greens.
The Garrison’s statement cited “many years of significant losses from golf operations and the failure to achieve any significant synergy between golf and its core wedding, catering and restaurant businesses” in explaining the course’s closure, The Highlands Current reported.
“We’ve invested heavily in golf for two decades,” said General Manger Chip Allemann in the statement. “Like so many commercial golf courses around the country, we simply failed to become economically sustainable in light of declining play and the increased number of courses” in the region.
The decision to close the course had been postponed by the COVID-19 shutdown, when golf became one of a relatively few recreational activities allowed by New York State, Allemann noted.
“However, with the end of the pandemic in sight and faced with a number of deferred maintenance items, we have decided to focus our resources on our core hospitality businesses which employ more people and, we believe, have a brighter future,” he said.
The course will close regardless of whether the Town of Philipstown, N.Y. approves the move of the Shakespeare festival to the property, Allemann said. The plan to downsize to nine holes was dropped because it would require a redesign and other costs that “would not be justified,” he said.
Davis also runs the nearby Highlands Country Club, which has a nine-hole course that he said will remain open, The Highlands Current reported. That land is owned by the Open Space Institute.
Davis also said he has grown concerned with the ecological impacts of maintaining The Garrison course, The Highlands Current reported. “Each year we use over 1 million gallons of water for irrigation and apply fertilizers and pesticides,” he said. “One way or another I’m determined to see all that land returned to a more natural, ecologically healthy state.”
When golf courses fail, development often follows, Davis acknowledged. “I completely understand the questions we’ve gotten from the community about our long-term plans for the lands surrounding our core hospitality operations and the future Shakespeare site,” he said in the statement. “These concerns, together with the decision to close the course, have caused us to accelerate our thinking.”
The land “will be permanently protected, through a combination of conservation easements, land donations, and/or deed restrictions,” Davis said.
Allemann added that Davis “bought this land to save it and to prevent it from the type of development that the town didn’t want then or now,” The Highlands Current reported.
“With today’s decisions, he’s realized his vision, and done so in a way that will allow our core wedding, beverage and hospitality businesses, boosted by our co-location with Hudson Valley Shakespeare, to prosper,” Allemann said.
The Garrison property is 299.3 acres, The Highlands Current reported. After the course closes, Davis said he would offer easements and/or ownership of about 155 acres to a land trust that will develop a conservation plan with community input.
The remaining 145 acres will include the hospitality businesses, the acreage given to HVSF and a parcel for a single-family home, all of which Davis said will be protected through deed restrictions and/or conservation easements, The Highlands Current reported.
With the course closing, HVSF will receive more acreage than planned to provide more flexibility for its site design in response to the town’s ongoing review, Davis said.
When HVSF announced Davis’ gift in August, it said he planned to divide the 155 acres into four parcels: 52 acres for HVSF; 95 acres for a nine-hole course; 28 acres for Davis’ residence; and 27 acres along Route 9 that might eventually also be given to HVSF, The Highlands Current reported.
HVSF said it also would be given the catering business, inn and restaurant to run as for-profit ventures, with profits returning to the festival, The Highlands Current reported. That plan remains in place, Allemann said, pending approval of the HVSF project by the town.
“Our restaurant, bar, terrace dining, picnic and inn operations all will benefit” from HVSF audiences, Allemann said in the statement, “and we are already planning hospitality services that will delight the Shakespeare audiences while maintaining the highest standards of service to our wedding and other guests.”
Davis is a director of the Hudson Highlands Land Trust, which he chaired for more than 15 years, and the chair of the group planning the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail between the towns of Cold Spring and Beacon, The Highlands Current reported. He also is a vice chair of the American Museum of Natural History, a former director of Scenic Hudson, and a financial supporter of HVSF.
“Chris Davis has, I think, for several decades been looking for a community-minded, sustainable, adaptable reuse” for The Garrison property, Davis McCallum, HVSF’s artistic director, said in August, The Highlands Current reported. “I think he saw in the Shakespeare Festival a local organization that could be the next steward of the land.”
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