21st Century Fox: A Bright Future for the Fox Hill Club

Four years into private ownership, The Fox Hill Club is out of the woods and ready for what’s next

Welded from pieces of steel pipe, a 10-foot-high periscope adjoins the back tee on the 463-yard 9th at The Fox Hill Club in Longmont. It allows a view of the fairway and green beyond the crest of the hill so golfers don’t hit into the group ahead of them. “Other courses with similar blind holes have an all-clear bell by the green, but people forget to ring it,” explains PGA Head Golf Professional Scott Stevenson. “This works much better.”

It works because it not only keeps things safe; it also keeps them moving. A stated two-hours-or-less-per-nine-holes pace of play is one of the myriad virtues of this 42-year old club and its 7,123 yards of old-school parkland golf, where mature cottonwoods, elms and oaks narrow the fairways, and six bodies of water define more than half the holes. Frank Hummel designed this deep-bunkered layout, and his small, subtly moving greens require a touch as delicate as those porcelain figurines that share his surname.

If anyone can read those greens, it’s my host Jim Brown, a Colorado Golf Hall of Fame board member who drains bomb after bomb en route to a smooth, one-over-par 71—“I can’t count it, though,” he says later, “because of a couple gimmes”—during a match where he and his partner, Terry Miller, thump Stevenson and me.

Fox Hill’s layout is the real winner on this day: tough and tight with holes of varying shapes, strategies and lengths that don’t repeat. Singling out one amounts to picking a favorite among my children, but the tough par-4 doglegs on Nos. 3 and 6 stand out, as do the vibrant petunia bed bordering the pond on the 373-yard 12th (pictured below) and the water that twice crosses the 433-yard 16th—as a pond off the tee, and a creek fronting the green.

And then there’s the polarizing 15th (pictured below), the hole members either love or hate. Although it’s on the back nine, “it should be the number-one handicap hole,” says Stevenson without any argument from our group. The reasons are its length (487 from the tips), tightness (a lake runs from tee to green along the right; trees encroach from the left) and smallish green (some say it can’t hold a long iron or fairway utility shot; others say the back-to-front slope makes it eminently receptive). Women play it as a 423-yard par 5, the men as a 462-yard (from the blues) par 4. An informal poll of 14 members splits the vote between “best par- 4 on the course” and “too long, tight and tough.” Holes like 15 make for a challenging test, made all the more enjoyable by immaculate playing conditions, courtesy of Superintendent Rich Parker, and ubiquitous flower plantings by botanist Tom Houk.

The entire ambiance of the club radiates a similar vibrancy. Juniors fill out the swimming, tennis and programs, and the clubhouse grille bustles with members and guests; it also welcomes diners from the general public who come to savor upscale pub grub at lunch or tuck into heartier fare like grilled trout with artichoke and parmesan fritters at dinner.

“The culture here is fantastic,” Brown says as I inhale a post-round “Proper Reuben.” “There are new members, longtime members, returning members, young families. They all want to be here.”

While clearly a cheerleader, Brown can also remember a time when members were not so happy, back when they owned the club. “Now that we don’t have a board of directors to deal with,” he says, “we don’t have politics and good business decisions are being made.”


Brown is referring to the days leading up to the Fox Hill Country Club’s 2010 foreclosure, when the club routinely hemorrhaged money, racking up about $35,000 per month in losses. It deferred maintenance and regularly assessed—and reassessed— members who were resigning by the dozen. Owing the bank $4 million, the club went into foreclosure in December of 2010.

In February 2011, good news came when Colorado National Golf Club owner Stephen Kerr (pronounced “care”) and Boulder commercial developer Stephen Tebo bought Fox Hill for $3.9 million. The purchase spared the club from a foreclosure auction and put operational oversight in the hands of Colorado National’s Director of Operations Matt Schalk. “We’re not going to assess members for management shortfalls,” Schalk promised then. “It’s all going to be on us.”

True to his word, the new owners invested upwards of a half-million dollars to redress maintenance issues and improve the facility. Running it “like a business,” they eliminated numerous inefficiencies and consolidated operations whenever possible. Renaming it The Fox Hill Club, they upgraded the logo and signage along Highway 119, modernized the interiors, invested in new maintenance equipment, improved food service and made personnel changes. To leverage purchasing power, they hired Arizona-based OB Sports, which also manages Colorado National, and counts two other Colorado courses among its 42-course portfolio.

They did not raise dues and kept the initiation at $3,000—even lowering it at times. Members could also enjoy cartfee- only reciprocal playing arrangements with Colorado National, Greeley Country Club and Fort Collins Country Club.

All good, right? Well, while the new energy excited existing members and attracted new ones, others surmised Kerr was planning to take the club public, “which couldn’t be further from the truth,” says Schalk.

Fact, however, can be stranger than fiction. In early 2012, as Fox Hill prepared to celebrate its 40th anniversary, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted Kerr on tax evasion charges. This prompted speculation that the club would again have to be sold, or, even worse, seized by the government.

None of those scenarios played out or will play out. The case eventually resulted in a 10-month sentence for Kerr and more scurrilous gossip about Fox Hill.

“To this day, I have people asking me where I’m going to play now that my club is closing,” says Brown. “Everyone thinks they know something. What they should know is that this club is getting better all the time.”

“I want to assure you that in no way are those developments going to impair or inhibit the operation and future of The Fox Hill Club,” Schalk wrote in a letter to members shortly after the indictment. His story hasn’t changed in three years.

“People don’t pay attention that Steve Kerr is only a 50 percent partner,” he says. “We are extremely well capitalized— Steve Tebo is extremely successful and the ultimate silent partner. Every year we’ve invested heavily in improving the member experience at the club.”


Those investments are paying dividends for the club and its members.

A collection of new Life Fitness machines sparkles in the freshly expanded fitness room. The club converted an underused part of the men’s locker room into a well-appointed member’s lounge, which opened last October. “This way they can settle their bets and get a little loud without disturbing families in the main restaurant,” explains Schalk. Currently called “The Bunker,” after a similar setup at Greeley Country Club, the lounge continues to look for an appellation all its own. In the running: “The Foxhole”,“The Den” and some other options.

This year, new cart paths will soon ribbon the course, and plans call for upgrades to the tennis and pool areas.

Thanks to special pricing and a referral program, the club signed up 60 new members last year, and currently has close to 400, counting both golf and social categories. Some are returning after seeing the positive direction the club is taking. Others, like Wendy and Ron Williams, are new. Avid golfers, the Williamses, who are moving north from Westminster, joined with their two children, aged 11 and 17, after months of shopping.

“Being around different clubs growing up, I think it’s good to have a wide range of ages and people,” Wendy explains. “My husband and I are in our mid-40s, and there are members older and younger than us, which makes it a good fit. It’s laidback and not stuffy, the people are extra-friendly. It’s also great for my kids to be around golf—because it’s a respectful game— and the type of people who play it. They don’t necessarily get that in school.”

The Fox Hill Club deserves a good amount of respect. Reports of this institution’s demise are not only greatly exaggerated; they’re just plain false. All it takes is some looking beyond the grillroom gossip to check the facts. And you don’t need a steel-pipe periscope to do so.


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Jon Rizzi is Colorado AvidGolfer’s editor. As of February 1, full golf membership at The Fox Hill Club was $3,000, with $390 in monthly dues. For more information: 303-651-3777; thefoxhillclub.com.

Colorado AvidGolfer is the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it. It publishes eight issues annually and proudly delivers daily content via www.coloradoavidgolfer.com.