ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
The old bar at Kelley Greens, pictured, is under renovation by new management at Nahant Golf Club.
By BILL BROTHERTON
NAHANT — A golf pro, a restaurateur and a greenskeeper walk into a bar. Sawzalls are buzzing, nail guns are pounding. Dust fills the air. What was once a dark, tired-looking space is being transformed into a clubhouse/dining/function facility that will serve as the base of operations for Nahant Golf Club.
The threesome — PGA professional Toby Ahern, restaurateur John Moore and longtime Golf Course Superintendents Association of America member Anthony De Dominicis — are pleased with how quickly Wilson Brothers Construction is rehabbing the former home of Kelley Greens.
Moore and De Dominicis are partners in Play it as it Lies Golf Management Inc., chosen by the town to manage its nine-hole public golf course, which sits on 39 oceanfront acres of conservation land on Willow Road. Ahern, the St. John’s Prep and University of Richmond grad who cut his teeth at the former Colonial Country Club course in Lynnfield, has spent the past 25 years as golf director at Ferncroft Country Club.
For the past decade, the property has been managed by Michael O’Callaghan. His lease expired on Dec. 31. Jeff Chelgren, town administrator, and the Golf Course Management Committee selected Play it as it Lies’ lease proposal. The new managers were on site on New Year’s Day, ready to start ambitious improvements. Their deal with the town is for five years, with the opportunity to go to 15 years. The managers declined to say how much they are investing in the project. “It is ongoing; we don’t have a final figure yet, but it is more than anyone has ever invested here,” said De Dominicis, who lives in town.
An April opening is planned.
“Jeff Chelgren and the town have been fantastic, very supportive and encouraging, very forward-thinking by extending the potential length of the lease,” said De Dominicis. “It feels very much like a partnership with the town,” added Moore.
Each of “The Big Three” brings a distinct skill set to the table.
Moore, whose Navy Yard Bistro in Charlestown is a frequent Best of Boston winner, grew up in Nahant and played the course often as a boy. “We are a hospitality company, first and foremost,” said Moore. “This will not only be a golf club; we are also committed to providing a fine dining experience, a nice bar and lounge, upgraded function space and entertainment. Good food at a reasonable price. I’d like to see yoga classes here and see dance companies like Forty Steps Dance here. I would also like to bring in some of Boston’s top chefs for cooking demonstrations in the new patio/grilling area.”
A second entrance will lead directly to the 42-seat Season’s restaurant; families will not have to walk through the lounge to access the dining room. The bar area will be upgraded and will feature 20 high-top tables and 22 seats at the bar. The Keno and lottery machines will not be returning, Moore said. The pro shop will also be updated.
“Everything will be new,” said Moore. The husband-wife team of Bill and Jeanne Finnerty served as architect and interior designer.
Grounds superintendent De Dominicis said many capital improvements are planned for the course. “We’ve invested heavily in golf course maintenance equipment,” he said. “The grounds will be beautified. … Having Nahant Country Club become a certified Audubon sanctuary is something I’d like to make happen.” He plans to install two wells and modernize the irrigation system, so the course could be self-sufficient for water.
“Above all, I’d like to bring the course up to its potential,” he said.
Both said they will rely heavily on Ahern, who plans to beef up the golf programs for juniors and women in addition to assisting the many leagues that play the par-30 course regularly. “Given people’s lifestyles today, where time is so valuable, the nine holes we offer is a more realistic option. People won’t have to spend six hours on the course, about one hour and 45 minutes for nine holes on Saturday will be the norm,” said Ahern.
The three also heaped praise on Alisa De Dominicis, Anthony’s wife, who “helped a million different ways and kept us on track.”
For more information, go to nahantgolfclub.com.
Bill Brotherton is the Item’s Features Editor. Contact him at [email protected]