Local businessman brings three Vacationland courses back to life.>BY WAYNE MILLS
Dan Hourihan was on the fast track to success. Little did he know it would eventually involve owning golf courses.
Hourihan was president and general counsel at Sports Advisors Group in Boston, where he represented more than 50 Major League Baseball players, when he decided to make a drastic career shift around 20 years ago.
“I wanted to get into something where I could make my mark by being creative instead of just practicing law” he says. “I became more interested in something that would outlst me”
So he took a job with a firm in Southern Maine that specialized in real estate and health care facilities, and that also owned a rudimentary nine-hole golf course named Spring Valley in Scarborough. Over time, Hourihan realized that the company had no plans for the golf course and spotted an opportunity. So he bought the 203-acre parcel of land in 1997.
“I had been around the sports world with athletes and worked at ski areas since I was 18, so I had an affinity for getting into the recreational business,” he said.
Hourihan decided he had no use for the existing nine holes, so he started from scratch, hiring golf course architect Tom Walker, a former design associate of golfing legend Gary Player, to build what would become Nonesuch River Golf Course.
“When we hired Tom we asked that he make the course very user-friendly and not overly long,” Hourihan said. “It is the way golf should be. At only 6,347 yards from the tips, with forgiving fairways and no crazy greens, it appeals to golfers of all levels. It’s a fun course.”
Despite the recession, business has remained steady at Nonesuch River, which opened in 1997. The club offers numerous clinics and group lessons from three PGA teaching pros on an expansive practice range. With six membership categories, public play and fun events like the Monday Night Scramble sponsored by Sebago Brewing, Nonesuch always has something happening.
After getting his first taste of the golf business, Hourihan looked
“I like the variety of tasks, the inside-outside aspect and the types of things you create,” he says. “I like the balance between business and hospitality.”
So when the owners of Dunegrass Golf Club in Old Orchard Beach offered Hourihan a management contract in 2011, he readily signed it.
Dunegrass, which opened in 1998, is an 18-hole Dan Maples design built on rolling sand dunes, kettle ponds and low-profile scrub pines. Maples is a familiar name to golfers who have visited Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where he designed Heritage Club, Oyster Bay, The Wizard, Sea Trail, The Witch and Willbrook Plantation. Dunegrass is his only course north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
At 6,684 yards from the tips, Dunegrass is a resort-style, yet challenging course. “It appeals more to the avid golfer,” Hourihan says.
Encouraged by his successes at Nonesuch and Dunegrass, Hourihan has since taken on the management of Bridgton Highlands Country Club in the Sebago Lakes region. Bridgton Highlands boasts the only A. W. Tillinghast design in the state. Tillinghast, who designed Winged Foot, Bethpage Black and Baltusrol, put his classic touch on nine holes that opened in 1926, with a second nine added in 1992 by new ownership.
The golf course sits on top of Highland Ridge, overlooking Bridgton Lake and offers spectacular views of Shawnee Peak, Mount Washington and the White Mountains. The club evokes the atmosphere of a classic summer resort, featuring an old-school clubhouse with a cozy bar and lots of history. Bridgton Highlands also includes four tennis courts, instruction programs and an array of activities.
One of Maine’s best deals is “The Triple Play,” which offers discounts at all three courses if you are a member at one of the clubs.
While some in the golf industry take a dim view of golf’s prospects these days, Dan Hourihan sees it differently. “I’m optimistic about the future,” he says. “There are 26 million tourists visiting Maine every year, and if we offer a great experience at a fair price then we will do well.”