May 24, 2011

The Course of History

Sure, it's scenic. But for Jim Busby of Derry, the third hole water hazard is not
 always a pretty sight at Hoodkroft Country Club.
Union Leader Correspondent
Before it was a golf course, it was all dairy cows and farm land.
DERRY -- Before there was a sprawling nine-hole golf course in the center of town, there were cows.
Lots of cows.

It’s been more than 40 years since H.P. Hood Inc. sold off the herd, bringing an end to the local dairy farm operation that put this town on the map.

But the legacy left behind by all those cows continues.

Hoodkroft County Club President Ken Conti would dare you to find a course where the greens are naturally greener, 
thanks to acres of well-fertilized grass. 
Bob Mazalewski of Sandown points out the new 
advertising placards available to businesses,
which helps support the Hoodkroft Country Club.
Mostly, though, local golfers are grateful for the legacy left behind by the father of Hood Inc., one Harvey Perley Hood, a humble milkman who moved from Boston to Derry Village in 1856 to see if he could build a business with the help of the newly constructed railroad system in town.
His sons eventually took over the business, and in the end, grandson Gilbert H.

Hood was the one who made sure that the 130 acres of well-grazed farmland would remain as open recreation space for the town.

“It was Hood’s vision,” said Ed Holm, director at Hoodkroft. “He had an offer to buy this piece of property, but he turned it down.”

In 1971 the golf course was built — the original clubhouse was across the street, where Chen’s restaurant now stands.

“There was a pool behind that building, and there used to be clay tennis courts over there,” said Holm, pointing toward the golf course parking lot. “It was ahead of its time in 1971. That’s how they built private clubs back then, designed for the upper echelon players. This has always been a rookie man’s club, but it’s one of the best. I believe we keep the nicest greens in
 the state.”
You won’t get an argument from Bob Mazalewski of Sandown, who has been a member at Hoodkroft for 25 years. He belongs to the Derry Men’s League, which
 is still going strong since it was established in 1947 at the Derryfield Country Club in Manchester.
Mazalewski introduces the rest of his foursome for the Thursday afternoon league play.

“That’s Ron ‘The Show’ Megan of Salem, Gene ‘Dancing in the Rain’ Kelly of Derry, and Jim ‘The Buzzard’ Busby, also of Derry,” says the guy the others call “Mazzy,” especially in unison when he hits a straight shot down the center of the fairway.

As Kelly tees up, Mazalewski explains why Hoodkroft’s third hole is one of the toughest in the state.

“There’s water on the left, sand on the right, it’s a twotiered green and it plays from 185 yards all the way back to 240 yards,” Mazalewski said.

“It’s evil.”

Four swings later, and the four players were heading toward the flag, Mazalewski shifted toward the sand trap for his errant ball, while Busby hunted through the high grass next to the pond for his.

It takes the better part of two hours to cover the ninehole course, particularly on a picture perfect spring
 evening like this one. Fox pups watch the action from atop their den on the edge of the woods. A chorus of song birds flutter through the pines, their music punctuated by a pair of geese grousing in the water nearby. A fat beaver waddles toward a pile of sticks, and a brown bird with lemony wings pokes around for bugs. White seed puffs float in the breeze, like tiny tumbleweeds, as the sun casts long shadows across the manicured greens.
Mazalewski tees up on the fourth hole and hits a long shot that arches just left of the fairway.

“It landed in the vicinity of my father’s tree,” he says, explaining how he planted a small flowering dogwood in memory of his dad, Bob Mazalewski Sr., who was a club member for years before he died. “There are a lot of trees and memorial benches around, dedicated to past members.”

That’s one of the many things that gives Hoodkroft its appeal, especially to the hometown crowd. It’s the history and the legacy, the exposure to nature and the peaceful backdrop to a pastime that is all about having
 some fun.
There are plenty of larger golf courses within driving distance — even in town, said Conti. But if you ask these guys, they will tell you nothing beats the value of having a community golf club like Hoodkroft.

“One of the benefits of this club is that we don’t require tee times during the week — only on weekends,” said Conti. “Many of the other clubs around are so busy, if you wanted to play tomorrow, you couldn’t.”

When the course was laid out, there was room for future expansion to 18 holes, something that never materialized as the town eventually expanded, and land on the far
 side of the golf course, behind Parkland Medical Center, was dedicated for recreation as Alexander-Carr Park.
Ideally, the club would like to see membership grow by 25 or 30 this year.

“Sure, some new members would be great. Our maximum is about 200, and we’re not quite there. But what we’d really like to see are more greens fees players; we welcome both. But in the spirit of being a community golf course, anybody should be able to come here at any time and enjoy a game of golf.”
For more information about membership and daily or weekend special rates, call 434-0651, or go to

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