Monday, April 23, 2018

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Bill Doyle Golf
wdoyle@telegram.com

Mike Herrick had worked at Shaker Hills Golf Club in Harvard for 13 years, including 11 as head pro, when he received some shocking news in February — the club was closing and would be sold at a foreclosure auction.
 
“I thought we were in pretty good shape,” Herrick said Friday, “but then I heard what was going on, and I was told we had like a week to go.”
 
That’s right, only a week.

“Obviously,” Herrick said, “in the beginning I was devastated after putting so much time and effort in. I had my family and was very rooted in the community, and to one day turn around and it’s all gone. Where does a golf professional go to find another job in the area in such a tough market? We were figuring we’d have to move out of state possibly.”
 
Herrick was lucky enough to be hired just a week after Shaker Hills closed, as the head pro at Wedgewood Pines CC, a private club in Stow.
 
“I’m happy to be here,” Herrick said. “It’s a great facility.”

The fate of Shaker Hills, on the other hand, is still to be determined. A foreclosure auction is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at the club. According to the Boston Business Journal, a legal notice said Shaker Hills received a $2.13 million mortgage from Middlesex Savings Bank in Natick, but failed to meet its obligations.
 
The club could declare bankruptcy before the auction, but in an email, Dan McLaughlin, owner of McLaughlin & Co. Auctioneers of Boston, said the auction is still on schedule.
 
“We fully expect that the auction will happen at that time,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin, by the way, is a co-owner of two golf courses, Shining Rock GC in Northbridge and Hopkinton CC.
 
Many clubs are struggling due to the weak economy and the construction of too many golf courses in the region. Shaker Hills would be the third golf course in Central Massachusetts to be sold at a foreclosure auction in less than two years. The Jan Company purchased Sterling National Country Club for $4 million at a foreclosure auction in May 2010, and John Magill, owner of Highfields Golf and Country Club in Grafton, purchased Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton for $5 million at a foreclosure auction the following November.
 
Brian Silva, one of the club’s four owners, designed Shaker Hills, which opened in 1991. In the early 1990s, Golf Digest rated Shaker Hills as the No. 1 public course in the state and No. 4 among private and public courses.
 
“It just goes to show you how many courses opened up in the last 20 years,” Herrick said.
 
Red Tail Golf Club, also designed by Silva, opened in 2001 in Devens less than 10 minutes from Shaker Hills and was one of many newer courses that lured away golfers.
 
“I’m sure they all hurt,” Herrick said. “In our heyday back then, there was no Granite Links, no Pine Hills. Then all of a sudden Butter Brook and Red Tail opened. There were a lot of courses that opened.”
 
Shaker Hills lowered its greens fees last year in an attempt to attract more customers.
 
“We weren’t too bad,” Herrick said. “I thought we were busier than most places to be honest. I’d hear people come in on a Wednesday and say, ‘I just played XYZ courses, and they had no one there, and I’ve played here, and you look busy.’ I heard that a lot. For whatever reason, it didn’t work out. I don’t know why.”
 
The course, which features elevated tees and tree-lined fairways, is located in Harvard, and the clubhouse sits in Ayer. For seven years, Shaker Hills served as the qualifying site for the Champions Tour’s Bank of America Championship at Nashawtuc CC.

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