Five years after being devastated by Tropical Storm Irene, the prestigious golf club is back on its feet.By Wayne Mills
It is virtually impossible to comprehend what The Quechee Club looked like after Tropical Storm Irene swept through on August 28, 2011. Today, as you sit on Dewey’s Deck and watch golfers sauntering along the Lakeland Course, with the Ottauquechee River lazily meandering its way east to the Connecticut River, the setting is serene and idyllic.
But it was a vastly different picture five years ago. As the only New England state without a seacoast, Vermont is usually spared the wrath of tropical storms that race north from the Caribbean and along the Eastern Seaboard. But Tropical Storm Irene dropped 15 inches of rain in 24 hours onto an already waterlogged landscape, and a state of mountains, valleys and rivers couldn’t contain the water.
The White, Winooski and Ottauquechee rivers all ran more than 20 feet over their high-water marks, wiping out bridges, roads, houses and businesses. Nearly 120 sections of state highway were closed and 34 bridges were damaged. Three of the state’s iconic covered bridges were swept away by the raging waters.
The Quechee Club was not spared.
“[The damage to the golf course] was staggering,” said Ken Lallier, the golf course superintendent. “We were overwhelmed. We didn’t even know where to begin.”
After the initial shock, a spirited discussion regarding the path forward was held by the Quechee membership, which owns the club. The decision was made to not only repair the golf course damage, but to make additional improvements to the club.
Fortunately, the club had previously contracted with McCurrach Golf Construction of Florida to provide renovation work on the greens and bunkers in the fall of 2011. Obviously, those plans changed, but McCurrach quickly shifted gears to help The Quechee Club restore the golf facility.
Twenty-seven of the club’s 36 holes were re-opened by June 2012, with all 36 ready for play the following summer at a cost of more than $4 million.
“It was a painful process and we ended up doing a lot more than we had planned on doing because of Irene,” Lallier said. “But in the end we are in a better place.”
With such a massive investment, the club reevaluated the entire operation. A professional research group was hired to survey the membership, which has led to improvements throughout the 5,500-acre property. The bunkers were redone and new grass was planted on every green on the Geoffrey Cornish-designed Highland and Lakeland courses. New forward tees were added on 22 holes, which have proven popular with women, seniors and children.
The largest, most visible change is the newly constructed Aquatics Complex and Fitness Center that is adjacent to the main clubhouse. The $5 million facility includes new indoor and outdoor pools, an expansive deck surrounding the exterior pool and a larger indoor pool area with an aerobics room. A shade structure built along the pool provides an area for rest and relaxation, along with a play area for kids and a snack bar.
“With the extensive upgrades we believe this is going to be a great addition for the community and the members, and we hope to attract more families to the area,” said Tim Lewis, Quechee Club general manager.
Area dining options include the farm-to-table Davidson’s restaurant, Dewey’s Deck at the clubhouse and Murphy’s Tavern, a cozy and relaxed pub at Lake Pinneo.
Located near the picture-postcard village of Woodstock, Quechee offers a relaxed, yet refined four-season experience. Quechee Lakes is mellow, slow and easy. It presents Vermont at its finest, which means fresh air, clean water, no traffic and a laid-back pace amidst the mountains, fields, rivers, farms and small-town life.
Now five years removed from the devastation of Tropical Storm Irene, the Quechee community and The Quechee Club have come back better than ever.