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For the first summer in six years, the Snowmass Club is under new ownership and that means unless you are a member, a lucky local or playing in a charity event, you won’t be able to play the golf course in the heart of Snowmass Village.
When ABA Hospitality CEO Scott Brown closed on the deal in December 2018, he said he and the members wanted to get the club and course back to its private roots, and it didn’t take long.
Brown said Monday that it no longer would allow much outside play and would focus on its more than 1,100 members.
“It’s a private club. Over the last 40 years through several different owners, the club has changed and adjusted rules and has become more flexible on its access and access agreements,” Brown said. “One of the things we learned when we were doing our due diligence was the members who are paying dues are not happy about that.”
Head pro Mark Lampe, who spent 14 years at Maroon Creek Club before moving to the Snowmass Club before last summer, said there still will be limited tee times for locals.
The regular charity events at the course — Trashmasters, Challenge Aspen and the Aspen Board of Realtors — will continue to be hosted at the facility, Brown and Lampe said.
“We think it’s important to be good stewards of the community, and we will continue to host all the fundraising events,” said Lampe, who won the Trashmasters in the past. “We want to work with the local charities in the valley to give them an outlet and resource to play their events.”
He said less than 10 percent of their play last summer was non-members, and if you include the tournaments, it might be 20%.
Per an agreement in place with the town of Snowmass Village, prior to new ownership, there is limited access to the course for local residents who meet certain qualifications.
According to a 2002 recreational use agreement between the town and then-owners Snowmass Club Associates (SCA), local play criteria includes any year-round Snowmass Village resident who is employed 30 hours a week or is a full-time student in Pitkin County. They can play as many as five times per year as space is available.
The greens fee is “at the same rate as is in effect at the City of Aspen Municipal Golf Course at the time of play, not including cart fees,” according to the agreement, which is “binding on the successors … of SCA.”
Any locals interested in playing should call the pro shop, Lampe said.
The Black Saddle restaurant will remain open to the public and will continue to operate year-round and during the offseason “certainly for the forseeable future,” Brown said.
“We had a great winter at Saddle,” he said. “The local community was excited to have a new place to eat and a place open in the offseason.”
The Nordic center will return in the winters, and dog-walkers who use the course still will be allowed, but Lampe said they are seeing a problem with owners not cleaning up after their pets. If that continues, they might have to reexamine that access.
ABA Hospitality closed on the $18.5 million deal for the 212-acre Snowmass Club (including the tennis courts, a workout club and two restaurants) in December 2018. After the sale, Brown hired a design team to renovate the entire facility, and said Monday they have plans ready.
He said they are increasing the membership cost to join and that will help go toward the numerous improvements and updates around the club. Brown said the plans have been well-received by the membership.
“We’ve completely redesigned the entire club: all the public spaces, the back offices, Sage and Black Saddle restaurants and the athletics area. We have rendering and floor plans we’re putting up this week,” Brown said. “As soon as we can pull the permits we’ll start the process of renovating the club in phases.
“We don’t know what phase is going to come first but there are three areas, and we don’t want shut the club down.”
The athletic membership that was $3,500 to join now is $20,000, and the golf membership that was $12,500 to join is $50,000, Brown said.
“We priced our membership on the future of the club and the renovations we’re about to start,” he said. “We feel that’s market value, and we’re certainly still under market value in the valley.”
There are four other private clubs in the valley: Maroon Creek near Aspen; Aspen Glen in Carbondale; Roaring Fork Club in Basalt; and Ironbridge, which is semi-private, in Glenwood Springs.
Maroon Creek has a similar locals agreement with the city for Aspen residents for limited play, which includes 30 hours working in Pitkin County and a rate based off the Aspen Golf Club.
The Roaring Fork Club has a fixed rate and tee times for Basalt residents who are registered voters, head pro Greg Bryan said.
Lampe said they have increased the size of the Snowmass course maintenance crew to help take care of it “the way it needs to be taken care of.”
“We’re trying to make the course more playable and more fun,” he said. “We’re filling in some bunkers, changing the way we take care of the golf course in that we’re mowing the fairways out wider, changing the way we mow the grass around the greens and cutting down some native grass to make it more playable.”
Also new this summer, they have switched the nines; the old No. 1, which was the second-hardest hole on the course, is now No. 10. Lampe said having the 2-handicap hole was not a conducive to a good start to the round.
Toll Golf company bought the club in March 2013. It took nearly eight months for Brown and Toll Golf to close the deal last year.
Brown said Monday he didn’t know the full history of how the course started to open up to outside play, but it was clear that the members were ready to get back to a private status.
“The market fluctuated and we went through a recession. And when you go through a recession you try to find ways to generate revenue,” Brown said. “Outside-access agreements started to happen to generate additional revenue. They all made sense at the time, but it just didn’t make sense for the members.”