Upated: January 28, 2010
2. What was your connection to Waubeeka? When
did you first play there?
I don’t know for sure when I first played Waubeeka. My father Rudy Goff was the golf professional at the other golf course in Williamstown, Taconic Golf Club. He was also the Williams College golf coach for 20 years. Taconic is ranked as one of the top five college courses in the country. I basically grew up there. I am guessing, but I was probably 10 years old when I first played Waubeeka. It was only three miles from my house. I subsequently played a lot of competitive golf there through my high school and college years.
A highlight for me was winning the Western Massachusetts High School Championship at Waubeeka as a senior in 1982. This was not the biggest event in the world, but as a high school kid, it was big. I had performed poorly at the event as a junior. As a senior, I was paired in the first group of the day with the defending champion. Going head to head, we tied at 74 on a wet and windy day, but had to wait four hours for the field to come in. I figured a playoff was likely. I spent a lot of time hitting balls with my father to prepare for the playoff while the defending champion sat in the clubhouse eating cheeseburgers. I won the first playoff hole handily and it was done. The picture in the newspaper showed my dad behind me as I hit off the first tee in the playoff. My dad died a few years later so that is a poignant memory for me and an emotional connection to Waubeeka.
3. What were your initial impressions regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the course?
I viewed Waubeeka as a special and beautiful place. Waubeeka is in the garden spot of the Berkshires with the river, the mountains, the varied terrain and the views. That and some interesting holes were its strengths. A weakness in my mind is the intersecting golf holes. Right off the bat, golfers on #1 would be playing down #9 and vice versa. This is not the only place on the course where this occurs. We are fixing the intersection issue in the renovation. When I was a kid, Waubeeka was generally not in very good condition. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Waubeeka had improved greatly in recent years due to the stellar efforts of Greg Tudor who was brought in 2006. Waubeeka was on the rise before we ever showed up. In particular, Waubeeka is known for excellent greens that roll well, perhaps the best in the county.
4. What were the factors that drove you to purchase the course in 2007?
The short story is that we bought it on gut instinct and without a plan.
The longer story is that my wife and I live in Denver, but we received a call from my brother Bruce (who, by the way, was a captain of the Williams golf team as well as a NCAA all-American golfer) in Williamstown who read an article in the newspaper that the course was for sale. I loved growing up in Williamstown and the Berkshires and had thought over the years about owning a piece of ground in Williamstown. I had played over 100 rounds of golf there and knew the place like the back of my hand. My parents always taught me to buy prime property. This, to me, was the premier property in Williamstown after Mount Hope Farm. My mind was racing right from the get-go and we started doing due diligence with help from my brother Bruce. My understanding was that most of the other interested potential buyers were looking to shut the golf course down and develop the property. We believe that would have been a very bad outcome for the area.
I studied the financials and looked into the management, and operations of Waubeeka. I had not been there in many years. In addition to the strength of superintendent Greg Tudor, Mark Mills, the general manager, was key to our confidence in buying Waubeeka. We live 2000 miles away and didn’t really want to commit a lot of time to worrying about the day to day operations of a golf course. Mark is an exceptional manager who runs the course effectively and efficiently. He is the heart and soul of the place as well. People like going there because of this guy – it is like “Cheers” – everyone knows your name. I also learned how intensely loyal and fanatical the members are. Having a great superintendent, a strong manager and a loyal following for the course gave us confidence that we could keep Waubeeka in operation. All of this was very reassuring. We made a discounted offer for the property. I believe that the sellers took into account our reputation as a golf family which would take care of Waubeeka.
5. What is your overall goal/vision for the course?
I would say initially that we did not have one. It all happened too fast. We took time to get to know the Waubeeka team there and what they felt were the most needed changes on the course. We hired Mark Mungeam and Tim Gerrish of Mungeam Cornish Golf Design and set about on a very limited, renovation project to address these priorities. This was simply a renovation or reconstruction of two holes. Right away, I found golf course design addictive and we hatched plans to add fairway and greenside bunkers to a few “freeway” holes to turn them into much more interesting, strategic holes.
Superintendent Greg Tudor encouraged us to develop a full course plan. I pushed back, not wanting to spend the money or commit to that scale of a renovation. Another way of looking at this is that we have been making it up as we go. It goes against the conventional wisdom of coming up with a master plan that is interconnected, but I have a family and full-time job so I basically work on this when I have the time. I believe the renovation will ultimately be better because we learned along the way, and we took our time to focus on designing one great hole at a time.
The initial renovation met strong reviews which encouraged us to keep going. I realize I have not answered your question yet. Keeping it simple, our objective now is to make Waubeeka a top ten public course in Massachusetts. We may not get there, but you have to aim high and try. We want to steadily improve the course and bring it up to its potential. Waubeeka has great bones with its topography, the river and the wonderful views. It is up to us to execute on the vision.
I love Waubeeka, but I find many of the holes to be uninspiring beyond having some good mountain views. Many are straight-away with few fairway bunkers, a flat round green, and flat left and right greenside bunkers that do not come into play. There are also a few really dramatic holes with dramatically sloped greens, like #11 and #16, that you might four-putt. But, many of the holes are fairly vanilla. I hate vanilla. The nice thing though is that this gives us a fairly blank slate to add bunkers and improved green complexes to introduce more strategy and thought into playing Waubeeka.
6. What major work has been done to the course since you purchased it?
We started by taking on the projects that would make the course more functional. The first hole was a horribly difficult starting hole that backed up the course right from the start. We worked up a renovation plan for the first hole that would make it a fair, but interesting starting hole and minimize any issue of intersecting play with the ninth. See More by clicking here
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