In 2025, the Ticonderoga Golf Course will be one hundred years old. Established as a country club by International Paper for the use of its managers and their families, and to induce more families to move to Ticonderoga, it was a gathering place for many in the community.
Like all country clubs, it had a swimming pool, tennis courts and a restaurant, in this case, one fashioned from a 19th century farmhouse.
And, of course, it had a golf course. Ticonderoga’s was designed by Seymour Dunn, a Scot who was head pro at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland – one of the oldest in the British Isles – before arriving in the US in the early 1900s.
Thanks to the commitment of local residents, it looks as though the Ticonderoga Golf Course will live to see its centennial, with a better golf course, a better club house and an even larger role to play in the wider community.
The New Golf Course
“After decades of ups and downs, it was becoming clear that as we faced our centennial, we were in major trouble,” said Jay Wells, a Ticonderoga native and an officer of the club. “The golf course suffered from annual flooding, we had a declining and aging membership and we were seeing a drop in the numbers participating in events and activities.”
The turn-around began when a $3.5-million project to reconstruct the golf course broke ground five years ago, funded largely by some very generous northern Lake George residents.
“They saw that we were having these troubles and they wanted to help. And they did,” said Jay Wells.
“The course was really broken,” said Paul Brauner, a member of the club’s board of directors. “Rain meant zero revenues. What should be the biggest week of the year could instead become a total washout.”
Brauner continued, “If we hadn’t begun the reconstruction of the golf course, I think you’d see a ‘For Sale’ sign on the property now. Especially after the fire.”
A New Club House for a Regional Destination
The fire that Brauner alludes to is, of course, the one that destroyed the old farmhouse that contained the club house, pro shop, locker rooms and the restaurant on Memorial Day weekend two years ago.
Not long after the 2018 fire, the golf course’s board retained Mike Phinney, founder of the Saratoga-based Phinney Design Group, to design a new club house to replace the one that burned to the ground.
Already well-known by the board, having designed Oak Cottage and the year-round William Boyd conference center at Silver Bay, as well as his own family’s home in Hague, Phinney also had a personal connection to the golf course.
“Some of my earliest memories are of this place;
when I was a young boy we lived in Ticonderoga. My father was a purchasing agent for International Paper before being promoted and transferred to corporate headquarters in New York,” said Phinney.
“Priority Number One for the board of directors is to make the club house the community center it was in its heyday,” said Phinney.
That goal requires a larger, more flexible club house, one that can accommodate community events, family gatherings and company receptions, among other things.
“There’s a need for certain sized space that remains unmet on this end of the lake,” said Paul Brauner. “That’s an opportunity for us as we go forward. That’s revenue we haven’t had access to in the past.”
Brauner said the board’s discussions with Phinney produced a plan that would enable the club house to host private events without interfering with the activities of golfers or restaurant patrons.
He said the board is also in discussions with a prominent Capital District chef to cater the clubhouse’s special events.
A Supporting Role in a Reviving Community
Just as the golf course’s troubles were not unrelated to a stagnating local economy, its recovery will be a function of newly emerging, positive trends in the area’s changing economy, said Jay Wells.
“Over the past 40 years, we witnessed many changes, few for the better: a declining population, lost jobs, closed businesses, zombie homes, alcohol and drug abuse,” said Wells. “At the same time, there are people who have seen the opportunity here, in part because of its tremendous beauty. They’re taking risks and making investments.”
The Ticonderoga Golf Course is making a similar investment in the future, said Wells.
“We see ourselves as much more than a golf course. We’re
helping to rebuild a community where people come to live, work and play,” said Wells. “As I sit here, the future looks bright. With the new club house, we’ll have something everyone can take pride in, that will re-enforce the success we see around us.”
An expanding, second home community on northern Lake George is here to support the course and take advantage of the club house, said Mike Phinney.
“People are discovering the lake’s northern end and coming to the realization that it could be more of a destination than it is already,” said Phinney. “So investment in real estate is among the things we’re seeing.”
The Challenges Ahead
The group’s vision of a regional golf course and event space, one that could help fuel the growth of more businesses, such as new lodging facilities, must still overcome a number of challenges if it is to be realized.
Foremost among them: fund raising.
“We need to raise roughly $3 million. We’re more than half way there,” said Paul Brauner.
To raise the rest, “We’re all hard at work, trying to touch base with anyone who has a connection to the club. We’re talking to people every day. There’s no time to pause.”
Failure is not an option, said Brauner.
“We have to keep going until we finish,” he said. “We’re not quitting.”
But there’s reason to be hopeful, he added.
“People see that we’re fighting through every obstacle and that we’re making progress. As the building starts to go up, as it becomes a bit more of a reality, I see a change in people’s attitude. We’re delivering on a promise to the community. People want to be a part of that,” said Brauner.