Jay Collier, who holds a five-year lease to run Pine Hill Golf Club, is eager to see how his ideas over the winter turn out this spring, whenever Old Man Winter decides to loosen his grip.
Two ideas for the nine-hole South Brewer golf course came when he talked to the owners at nearby Rocky Knoll Country Club in Orrington. They worked out a deal that has the two clubs cooperating on a couple of fronts.
The cooperation starts with a men’s league. Teaching pro Mark Hall has conducted one each Wednesday at Rocky Knoll, a series of tournaments with a different format each week. This year, it’ll be a little different.
“We’re going to be alternating weeks with Rocky Knoll,” said Collier.
Some of the players at Rocky Knoll were formerly members at Pine Hill, and some of the Pine Hill players also participated in leagues and tournaments at Rocky Knoll. So the two clubs took their cooperation a step further by allowing players who are members at one club to become members at the other club for half price.
A basic individual membership at Pine Hill is $500, and a senior membership is $425. At Rocky Knoll, the basic men’s membership is $570, and it’s $455 for seniors and ladies.
“We thought it was a good chance to offer members an opportunity to play somewhere else, in case there was a tournament going on” or for some other reason, said Tom Bryant, operations manager at Rocky Knoll.
“The only restriction is they can’t play in the (other club’s) club championship,” said Bryant. “Otherwise, they’re a full-fledged member.”
The biggest benefit could be from joining, for instance, the men’s league or the women’s league.
At Rocky Knoll, the leagues are open to anyone, but nonmembers have to pay a greens fee in addition to the weekly tournament fee. Pine Hill players who take advantage of the half-price offer won’t have to pay the greens fee, and vice versa for the Pine Hill leagues.
Bryant, one of the golfers who was once a Pine Hill member, thinks the number who take advantage of the offer will be relatively small at first.
“We might get half a dozen from Pine Hill and they might get half a dozen from here, then I think you’ll see it grow,” said Bryant.
Bryant was pleased when Collier approached him about the cooperation.
“I was very impressed with the guy, he’s very congenial,” said Bryant, who has embraced Collier’s idea.
“We might even explore doing it with other courses,” Bryant said.
Collier also looks to the past to see Pine Hill’s future.
“We’re going to change No. 4,” said Collier. “We’re going to return the water (to a small depression bordering the left side of the green).”
Collier pointed out that No. 4, which plays to 319 yards on the front from the white tees and about 275 yards from the blue tees on the back, is listed as the No. 1 handicap hole. It hasn’t always played to that in recent years after the water hole was allowed to dry up.
“This will make it the No. 1 hole again,” said Collier, despite the water measuring only a couple of yards wide, a few yards long and several inches deep.
“A lot of the members I’ve talked to are enthusiastic about it,” he said.
Collier, a Pittsburgh native, is enthusiastic about running the golf course.
He first came to Maine in the 1980s when he was executive director of the Augusta Civic Center and that’s when he first met Joe Pate, who was running the Bangor Auditorium and Civic Center. They’ve been friends ever since.
While visiting Pate last year, he learned that Pine Hill owners Jim and Cathy Gero were looking for a new leaseholder because Pam Foss, daughter of original owner Bob Little, didn’t want to do it anymore.
Gero selected Collier, and Collier said Gero is behind him on the changes he has proposed.
Other changes this year include dressing up the clubhouse, expanding the restaurant menu and expanding the back deck that looks over the ninth hole, adding tables and more seating.
He has lined up 15 sponsors already for the scorecards, tee boxes and more, and he has been working just as hard on attracting more golfers.
He worked with the Wellness Council of Maine to get businesses to consider golf as part of their health programs.
“They’ve been great to work with,” he said.
In addition, Hall will also give lessons by appointment at Pine Hill, as well as conducting the youth and women’s golf lessons put on by the Brewer Parks and Recreation Department.
“We’re going to have a couple new tourneys, a new logo, new sign and new website (www.pinehillgolf.org),” said Collier.
He was a little disappointed he couldn’t get pinehill.com.
“I didn’t realize how many Pine Hills there are,” he said.
Future projects may include a maintenance shed that will get the equipment out of the clubhouse basement.
Longtime member Bob Sekera of Eddington has suggested adding locker rooms.
“I’d like to ride my motorcycle (over) sometimes, but I can’t bring my clubs with me,” he said.
Collier has made it clear that he is willing to listen to all suggestions, even giving out his email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and phone number (843-597-2566).
“The more ideas and recommendations I have, the better for making the course better for everybody,” said Collier.
Dexter postpones open house
Due to Friday’s expected heavy snowfall, Saturday’s annual open house at Dexter Municipal Golf Course has been rescheduled for April 9.
The clubhouse will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and several activities are planned.
There will be contests on the golf simulator, a sale on merchandise closeouts and discontinued items, raffling off a membership and refreshments.