'The Way It Rolled': Mount Snow Golf School Founder Reflects On Closure After 4 Decades
The Original Golf School at Mount Snow has been making better golfers since 1978. For more than 40 years, Jay Morelli has given lessons on longer drives, precision putting, and more. But the school at Mount Snow is no more: It doesn’t plan to re-open next season.
VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb spoke with Jay Morelli. Their conversation below has been edited and condensed for clarity, and it started off with a question about the Original Golf School’s name, and whether it really was the first one in the country.
Jay Morelli: We were one of the first that really dedicated a course, facility and staff to one place. There were a couple of traveling shows that were out there, but we were the first people to really pick one spot.
We call it the “original” because so many people copied our school. It was just originally The Golf School at Mount Snow, that was the first name. And so many people copied it that the marketing guys said we should change the name and make it The Original Golf School.
You know, at one time we had a staff of 35, 40 pros, and they could easily go to another course and say that they had the golf school, because it was easy to copy.
All you really need is a practice area and a golf pro and some marketing bucks, and you’ve got a golf school. So we've been copied by so many people that the marketing people said, let's call it the Original Golf School, because that's what it is.
Mitch Wertlieb: This school has survived for 40-plus years. What made it unique?
The facility was terrific in the sense that Mount Snow was a terrific golf course. I think we had a very good approach to teaching. We pretty much just taught fundamental golf, very basic stuff, and really tried to make everybody happy. I think our goal was to have people have a good learning experience and have some fun in the meantime. So that combination really stuck.
It wasn't a school where we tried to reinvent the wheel. We weren’t trying to remake golfers. We were just trying to give them good, solid information, and the solid information worked.
And that's what makes this kind of sad. You know, you were doing programs right up until this summer. So why is the school closing now?
Well, Vail bought us last fall, and we just don't fit into their mode. You know, Vail is obviously a billion dollar ski company, and then they're not really into golf. And golf is an outlier. I think, in general, with Vail, and the golf school is a real outlier. And we just didn't fit into their program.
There was no problems with anything. We had a wonderful summer. We had great feedback from the students. Everybody was very happy. We adhered to all the CDC requirements and Vail protocols as far as the virus went, but it just doesn't fit into Vail’s scheme of things. And it's their football, you know. So if they decide not to do it, they wouldn't do it – the contract was not for eternity. It came to an end, pretty much.
The contract wasn't for eternity, as you say. But in an article in the Bennington Banner, I think you described an effort to make a counter-offer to Vail to keep the school open, but it was unsuccessful. What was the offer?
The offer pretty much was that we would do all the – I would do all the ads, I would do all the marketing. But I don't think the counter-offer really mattered. I think it's a matter of the fact that we just didn't fit into the Vail program. And that was pretty much it. They’re a ski area – golf is just not part of their world. That’s kind of the way it rolls.
I'm wondering, Jay, what you'd say to people who might be hearing this and don't play golf, don't really care much about the sport. I mean, why should they care about this loss, of all the things to do in Vermont, why should golf be on the list?
The summers in Vermont – it is breathtaking, as you know. There's no better place to enjoy it than on the golf course. And for people who don't play golf, they learn how to play golf, going out in the fresh air. And it's great exercise. I think they really enjoy the experience, enjoy Vermont a lot more.
Every golf course in Vermont is beautiful. I don’t care where you build it, what side of the mountain, they're all beautiful, and it's just a great spot. And, you know, golf has a certain enchantment that goes with it. You get hooked, you know. And even the people who don't play too much or newer players, we all get hooked. It's that kind of game.
Yeah. In this age of COVID, too, it's one of the few sports where it's not quite as dangerous to be out there. You know, in the great outdoors, you can keep your distance from people and such.
Basically you've got 200 players on 200 acres, you know, so there's plenty of elbow room out there.
Well, what's next for you? I mean, you've been teaching golf for decades in Vermont. Are you going to keep doing that in some capacity?
Yeah, we plan to move the school to Haystack [Golf Course in nearby Wilmington]. We've just have a tentative agreement. We don't have anything solid yet, but we're excited about that. Haystack as it is a wonderful golf course that’s right around the corner. The only issue is, it's a little bit smaller facilities, so the golf school won’t quite as big, so we'll probably just be able to do about half of that.
We've closed our comments. Read about ways to get in touch here.
Editor's Note: VPR reached out to Vail Resorts for comment but did not receive a response as to the reason behind the closure of the golf school.