With plans for a golf academy that would combine athletic and academic learning for high school age students living in what was once one of southwestern Connecticut’s more prestigious inns, the Golf Performance Center on Route 7 has acquired the former Stonehenge property in Ridgefield.
“Stonehenge allows us to create boarding for students and create an academic program for them and also a golf development program,” said Golf Performance Center founder Roger Knick.
In addition to the 10-acre Stonehenge property, Knick said he his partner John Foster had also acquired roughly four acres at the corner of Route 7 and Haviland Road, across from the Golf Performance Center.
Documents on file in town hall show the Stonehenge site sold Dec. 7 for $1.5 million, with the purchaser listed as EAP Property LLC, a Delaware-based corporation. EAP Property LLC also closed on two parcels totaling about 3.6 acres on the corner of Haviland Road and Ethan Allen Highway (Route 7) on Feb. 28, for a total of $900,000.
“That’s our future growth,” Knick said.
Stonehenge Inn operated at the site from 1946 until 2017, when it closed. Founded by Victor Gilbert — who named his inn after the prehistoric Stonehenge site with its stone monoliths in England, where Gilbert was stationed during World War II. The inn was sold to chef Albert Stockli in 1965. The original 1823 building burned to the ground in 1988 and was rebuilt and reopened — still under the Stonehenge name — by Douglas Seville and David Davis. It closed in 2017 after the unexpected death of a new owner, Drew Friedman of Westport, in 2016. Friedman, who also owned Cobbs Mill Inn in Weston and Onion Alley in Westport, had acquired Stonehenge in 2015.
In addition to providing dormitory rooms for a boarding school that combines golf with academics, the Stonehenge property is envisioned as serving as a kind of club for Golf Performance Center’s adult members, according to Knick.
“We’ll have an adult lounge,” he said.
The Golf Performance Center, on the corner of Route 7 and what is called both Great Pond Road or Pickett’s Ridge Road, has about 65 adult members — some of whom belong to local golf clubs, as well, and others who belong only to the Golf Performance Center and then play around on various courses in the area, Knick said.
The Stonehenge acquisition would allow a substantial expansion of programs for young people.
The 13-year-old Golf Performance Center has for two years had a “full day achieve program” that combines golf instruction and academics, according to Knick.
“Right now it’s inside our current location. We have an academic center, after-school services.”
The program offers what Knick described as “a non-traditional high school experience” through the “premier on-line school program” offered by K12 International Academy.
“We want to make sure the kids get the best academic program,” he said.
Around the world
About nine day students are currently enrolled and Knick said he has a lot of interest in the boarding program that is envisioned at the Stonehenge property — some of it from international students.
“We’ve had interest from China, India, France, South Korea, Columbia,” he said.
“Our overall goal is have 24 kids in that program,” he said. “Having 16 rooms down there, doubling up ... we anticipate being able to accommodate 24 to 32 kids of high school age for boarding,” Knick said.
The Golf Performance Center could also operate summer programs for students from seventh grade and up at the site.
Plans are for the former Stonehenge inn buildings to provide both dormitory rooms and food service.
His goal is to have the Stonehenge property operational with food service “in the next 20 to 30 days and rooms available, we hope, by mid-April,” Knick said.
He envisions only limited athletic facilities on the Stonehenge site — perhaps a putting green, and potentially also a “sport court” where kids could play basketball and play other sports.
Diet would be part of the program.
“Once we have boarding, when we have kids staying there for the golf program, we’ll work in some performance food,” Knick said.
Off the golf course
The school’s aim would not be to create golf pros.
“A lot of kids, the dream is to be a professional golfer,” Knick said.
But the school would focus on helping kids achieve success in “high school golf, college golf, and maybe beyond that,” Knick said.
Over the last 20 years, Knick said, he “has had over 80 kids go on to play at the college level” after studying golf with him.
“I’m the founder and I’m still one of the coaches,” Knick said.
Other staff at the Golf Performance Center includes Dennis Hillman, the director of coaching, and Tyler Campbell, who heads performance coaching — which includes nutrition and physical conditioning.
“We try to help these kids achieve their greatness on the golf course, in the classroom, and in life.”