June 24, 2020
“It was about more than the cows,” said Tom Ayer, superintendent of Cedar Knoll Country Club, as he looked out at where it all started – hole ten.
Every day, the cows had to be milked, the fields worked, and the animals fed, but each summer evening, the whip of a golf club whistled against the fresh air. The image of Tom’s brother, Tim, against an empty pasture was all it took to get the ball rolling.
As Raymond and Ruth Ayer saw their son out hitting golf balls, they envisioned lush grassy hills and the various shades of green that would accompany a golf course. At hole ten they tested out the possibility of a new future by experimenting with new grass. In one tireless year of reworking the fields and toiling over ideas, Cedar Knoll Country Club was born. And 25 years later, Cedar Knoll is a centerpiece of the Hinesburg community and a place of employment for many Ayers and Bissonettes.
Tom’s grandfather slowly pieced together the property, stitching the land together under his family name as farmers retired and others sold out. Ruth, the current owner, inherited the property. Her and her husband, recognizing they were the only ones who wanted to continue farming, looked forward to the country club as a way of conserving the land, keeping it open and productive.
The tradition of family business breathes an unmatched energy and togetherness into the country club’s community.
Tom’s son, Jordan said “I think it [working with family] helps foster a sense of community here that’s different than you’ll find at a lot other courses. You come here and it’s more of a family even with the members who aren’t related to us and have just joined and become part of the family throughout the years. I think … being family run really helps foster that kind of atmosphere that we have.”
Jordan works in the kitchen, but when he has the time, he can be found playing golf and engaged in long conversations with the members. “I know what’s going on in their life. They have an inkling of what’s going on up here in mine,” he said.
Tom finds himself similarly engaged with the Cedar Knoll members.
“We’ve made a lot of friends here on the golf course. Most of our friends are related to the golf course now,” Tom said.
The members are friendly and the community is welcoming.
“You just talk with anybody, you can come out and if there’s somebody out here who you kind of know and you say, hey, do you want to play. People are willing to go out and play with you even if they have no idea who you are or just might be,” Jordan said.
Bruce Aiken, a member since Cedar Knoll Country Club opened, often shares a beer with his fellow members at the bar and restaurant. He says he enjoys getting outside. “We just have a good time golfing,” Aiken said. Cedar Knoll has had members faithfully returning year after year.
The Ayer family continues to build its community by extending their restaurant and banquet facilities. They offer events, including weddings and rehearsal dinners. They are installing a pergola over the deck so members have a better outdoor dining experience.
“More people are enjoying our deck and the restaurant. Even if they don’t golf, they come up more now than ever,” Tom said.
Cedar Knoll expanded their instruction options to include youth golf programs and lessons from professional Ryan Taraskiewicz. A lot of kids are taking advantage of the golf course and its opportunities, said Tom.
Springing from rolling fields and knee-deep pastures, Cedar Knoll is now the largest golf course in Chittenden county with 27 holes. Four generations of golfers have now kept the course running.
“Huge golf course, practice facility, restaurant. We really do have it all. And it’s a very affordable price that we charge,” Tom said.
While Covid-19 restrictions interfered with many of the planned events, the Ayer family initiated proper precautions such as changing tee times to keep their members safe. As always, they ensure that everyone can enjoy their facilities, get outside, and keep on golfing.
“That’s what I enjoy, seeing it look beautiful and seeing people out here having a good time,” Tom said.