Harris golf empire stretches far

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It has been more than 40 years since Dick Harris, 68, began his golf career patrolling the shop, course and practice area as head pro at Auburn’s Martindale Country Club (CC) back in 1967, the Red Sox’ “Impossible Dream” year.

Since then, the Harris clan, which includes sons Jeff, 45, and Jason, 38, have conjured up their own dream. Today Harris Golf is reportedly the largest privately owned, single operator of golf facilities in New England.

The family portfolio includes: Freeport CC, Falmouth CC, Highland Green Golf Club (GC) (Topsham), Sunday River Golf Club (Newry), Old Marsh Country Club (Wells), Penobscot Valley Country Club (Orono) and Wilson Lake Country Club (Wilton,)

Patriarch Dick, who has spent much of his life in the Portland area, started caddying and playing at Portland CC at age 8. After a 20-year stint at Martindale, he helped found Falmouth CC in the mid-1980s.

Harris Golf began with the purchase of Boothbay CC, a 1920s-era. nine-hole course, in 1994. The Harrises designed and built 15 new holes on the property to establish one of the top 18-hole facilities on the Maine coast. Their success at Boothbay led to other golf opportunities. In 2004 the family built Sunday River GC. The family built Old Marsh in 2004 and took ownership of Penobscot Valley the same year. The family sold Harris Golf Shop in South Portland in 2006) as well as Bath CC and Boothbay CC in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

Harris Golf is an innovative company that has sought to grow golf participation at a time when many courses are struggling to attract new players and retain existing ones.

One of the firm’s most dating moves is the Harris Golf Discovery Schools. Launched in 2008 to help players lecome better and happier players, affiliated clubs provide free, weekly instructional clinics with PGA professionals for any members. In addition to the clinics, Falmouth CC offers golf fitness and conditioning programs with a certified golf fitness instructor. An ever-changing monthly calendar of events keeps things interesting for members and non-members alike.

The family has also taken the lead in helping promote the golf industry’s message that golf facilities are environmentally friendly.

Earlier this year, the company implemented the “Harris Golf Environmental Initiative.” The mandate effectively took acreage equal to 18 holes out of play company-wide. Returning that land to a more natural state translated to less maintenance, water, fertilizer, chemicals, fuel, labor and electricity. At the same time, the company’s Environmental Initiative gave its properties a better aesthetic (more color and texture), did not impact playability., increased habitat and lessened impact on the environment.

To celebrate the Environmental Initiative the company introduced “The Initiative Pass.” For $60, the pass provides 18 holes including cart Monday through Thursday at Sunday River, Old Marsh or Penobscot Valley and includes a bonus pass to play 18 holes Monday through Thursday at Harris Golf’s newest offering, Highland Green in Topsham.

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The 10th green at Falmouth CC