Hales Mills Country Club changes hands

JOHNSTOWN – Once a dairy farm, the Hales Mills Country Club will have new owners this winter, but it will be staying in the dairy community.

Brothers Ray and Roy Dykeman, owners of two local dairy farms, are among the majority partners who soon will finalize their purchase of the 17-year-old country club that was conceived and built by their friend, dairy farmer Larry Hollenbeck.

“When I moved up to the area, I was in second grade, and we got to know Larry pretty good,” Ray Dykeman said. “I made mention a few years ago that I’d love to be in a golf course [business]. I don’t think I ever expected it to happen. But he stopped over at our shop not long ago and got talking about it.”

A phone message left at Hollenbeck’s home wasn’t returned. Ray Dykeman said they would be helping with the transition.

Hollenbeck and his wife, Bonnie, carved the par-71, 5,995-yard course and all-grass driving range out of pastures on their family dairy farm in the mid-1990s, opening in 1995.

The club on Steele Road, off Route 29, likely will formally change hands this month. Ray Dykeman did not disclose the purchase price. According to Fulton County tax records, the property takes up two town lots, covering about 240 acres, and has a full-market value near $1.2 million.

The Dykemans and Gene Bargstedt will own 90 percent of the new company. The Dykemans are lifelong dairy farmers, now milking 1,700 cows between their farms in Glen, the town of Florida and Worcester, Otsego County. Bargstedt owns Bargstedt Excavation in Amsterdam.

The Dykemans see a parallel between the dairy and golf industries, with both hurt by changing consumer needs and the economy’s general instability.

“The dairy business has been through its ups and downs, and I don’t see this business being any different,” Ray Dykeman said. The new owners, he said, “have a tremendous amount of friends and influence in the realm of golf. I think we’ll attract a lot of attention to our golf course.”

The club, which will remain open to the public, now has about 70 members, down from about 150, Ray Dykeman said. He said building up the membership and upgrading the course and clubhouse are priorities before the 2013 season begins.

The Dykemans were strategic when selecting partners. Bargsted’s excavation experience and equipment could come in handy for moving earth or digging ponds, Ray Dykeman said.

One minority partner is Rick Cheney, who formerly ran the pro shop at Holland Meadows in the town of Mayfield. He said the Hales Mills Pro Shop will carry more elite product lines, including Titleist and Callaway.

The other minority partner is Roy Lomanto, the former owner of Perry Lanes in Johnstown, who is expected to take a management role at the golf course, Ray Dykeman said.

The clubhouse includes dining facilities for 220, which Ray Dykeman says likely will be open year-round, as it was when Hales Mills first opened, and the group will pay special attention to attracting Christmas parties, weddings and other celebrations.

“The view from the clubhouse is absolutely breathtaking, especially in summertime,” Ray Dykeman said. “When we get done with it, it’ll be one of the nicest courses in the area.”