By Madeline Hughes
Nearly three weeks into construction, Shelburne’s Kwiniaska Golf Club is getting up to par.
Drive past the club on Spear Street and you will notice lots of construction equipment and dirt on the course where green grass typically is.
As of Monday, three new tee boxes were constructed and two fairways were ready to be seeded. Another green is almost ready, which is the first phase of the four-phase project, explained Charli Kail, the club business manager.
Three more tee boxes and fairways have to be finished in the coming weeks before grass is planted.
The work is part of the reconfiguration of the golf course as it was sold in two parcels last year.
Kwiniaska’s previous owner, Bonnie Caldwell, sold the parcel on the west side of Spear Street to Shelburne developer Chris Snyder, and the parcel east of Spear went to Shelburne residents Bob and Marcia Nappi who plan to continue running the golf course.
“Mr. Nappi grew up on this land and farmed it before it was a course,” Kail said. “He wanted to save it and bring it back to life.”
The project under way will add six new holes to the 12 holes on the eastern property, maintaining the golf course’s history of being an 18-hole course. It is taking some rejiggering of where all the holes and tee boxes will be.
Along the way, excavators have found some interesting remnants of when the course was first built in 1964.
“It’s a time machine,” architect P.B. Dye said. While excavators were digging up part of the course, they found a rubber boot and a Molson Beer bottle. “They were drinking Molsens and one of them lost their shoe,” he said.
Not all of the original course will be dug up, but some of the current hole configurations will change. The course also will evolve from a par-72 course to a par-69 course.
“It’s a new life for the course,” Kail said.
That’s why the owners brought Dye. “He’s a big deal in the golf world,” Kail explained.
This is the first golf course Dye has helped design in Vermont. Dye comes from a long line of golf course architects who have collectively designed hundreds of golf courses all over the world and across the United States.
“What this project here is giving to the game of golf is 100 percent why I’m up here,” Dye said while driving around in a golf cart, noting that he had been on the ground every day during the project for the first two weeks of construction.
His main goal for the newly designed course: That it ultimately is playable for all skill levels and ages.
“I gotta get Mrs. Havercamp around to play golf and have fun with her friends,” Dye said, referencing the iconic 1980 golf-comedy film, “Caddyshack.”
It’s the fun and customer service that matters to the Nappis and Kail. When they started hiring staff for this season they wanted to make sure the course had a good atmosphere that players would enjoy returning to.
Currently, Kwiniaska has leased the six holes on the parcel west of Spear from Snyder through Oct. 31; the season is set to end Nov. 4.
The Snyder property was tied up in the development review process because of an emergency water dispute between the town of Shelburne and city of South Burlington. The parties resolved the dispute with the town of Shelburne and Snyder paying $20,000 and $81,000 to South Burlington respectively.
Now the development review board is picking up where it left off in its review of plans for the 91-unit residential project. Shelburne Town Planning and Zoning Director Dean Pierce said the developer has submitted a newly revised application that updates the emergency water source. Once the board reviews that application, Snyder can make its final permit-approval application, Pierce said.
As for Kwiniaska, when the course opens next spring, it may take some time for the grass to grow in at the new holes, but all 18 should be playable next summer.
With that goal in sight, the crew has been working 12-hour days, seven days a week to ensure grass is planted while conditions are still good..
“It’s amazing what we’ve accomplished in two weeks,” Dye said. “We have a chance of getting (the grass) all planted in time.”