Meridian Industrial




When you travel the long and winding driveway off Wilbraham Road in Hampden, red lettering on a black sign spells out what’s next — “Now leaving Western Massachusetts,” not literally, but in spirit.

“We love the game of golf but since we don’t love the attitude at most clubs, we decided to build GreatHorse around the idea of like-minded members enjoying a lifestyle club without the stuffiness of traditional clubs,” said General Manager Bryan Smithwick.

“We want to transform you mentally and physically to another place where you can find true relaxation and enjoyment, where you can build long lasting memories with your friends and family,” he added.

In a world of regulations, GreatHorse is a private, 150-acre club that tossed aside the rulebook when it opened in 2015.

“There was some concern with having a lot of people and not a ton of structure when it comes to member behavior, but the ‘no rules’ approach has been a huge plus for us,” said Smithwick.

While GreatHorse doesn’t ban cellphones in the dining room, it hasn’t had a problem with members making loud calls one table over from an adjacent party. There’s not much of a dress code — T-shirts can be untucked; collared shirts are optional, and jeans are encouraged.

And no one goes wild if a wet child scampers from the pool through the dining room to find a parent.

“The no rules culture has been something members truly find interesting and different,” said Smithwick. “Our culture serves as an extension of the member’s living room. We’re a place where they truly have a good time.”

There may be groups of four on the golf course or parties of six in the dining room, but that’s where pairing-up ends. There are no GreatHorse cliques, said Smithwick.

“We have a membership that has really built strong bonds with each other and stays connected,” he said.

GreatHorse bills itself as an “opulent mountain retreat” with a world-class golf and clubhouse amenities such as an outdoor pool, private spa, fitness center, golf simulators, a kids club, platform tennis courts, pickle ball, a restaurant and bar.

“We’re a privately owned club, which is very beneficial because when we want to make changes, we don’t have to go through a board,” said Smithwick. “We can review the changes we’d like to make with ownership and push them through fast.”

The Antonacci family of Somers owns the club. They have been well-known nationally as successful horse breeders for over 50 years. The family owns or has been involved in the breeding of five Hambletonian Champions.

In Italian, Great Horse means ‘Gran Cavallo,’ the title of Leonardo DaVinci’s famous horse statue in Milan.

GreatHorse has some 500 members, all living within 50 miles of the club. The resort’s restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner to around 350 people each day during the high season from May to October. The dining staff puts on hundreds of events each year, from private parties to corporate gatherings.

Employees help book bands, order flowers, pick colors, create menus and can coordinate the entire event.

GreatHorse offers a challenging par-72 golf course that weaves together natural wetlands, mountainous views and over 207 bunkers into a world-class club. There is also a 10,000-square-foot putting green, 13 short game bunkers and a three-season driving range with covered hitting bays.

Golfers can improve their game in the performance center, which is staffed by professionals that help anyone from newbie to veteran golfers with their stance, swings, chips and putts. Indoor simulators transport players around the world so they can virtually play nearly three-dozen of the greatest courses in the sport. The simulators also augment personal lessons by analyzing swings and producing reports children and adults can use to adjust their approach.

Executive Chef James Lentz is in charge of the kitchen. He has trained and worked at restaurants in Boston, Manhattan, New York, and New Jersey. He’ll be traveling internationally this year, gaining new experiences and adding a European flair to a menu that currently features steaks and Italian dishes.

“What I enjoy most about this job is knowing I’m feeding the 500 members coming here to eat my food and knowing they’re happy and not choosing to go to another restaurant,” said Lentz.

Lentz encourages his staff to be creative and visionary. If they see an interesting dish online, in a magazine or on TV, they’re encouraged to bring in the idea and cook it up. “There’s no limit to what you can do with food, and you’re not serving the same menu every day. It really keeps cooks and chefs on their toes,” said Lentz.

GreatHorse is very much a multidimensional resort with features such as a concierge service that helps members book transportation on planes and trains to anywhere in the world. Staff can also arrange travel plans and make restaurant reservations.

The resort offers two paid luxury car services and drivers that can be used to pick up guests at, or bring members to, an airport or train station. The vehicles can be rented to members who want to be chauffeured from one place to another for a night on the town.

If the plan is to stay in, there is onsite lodging where members and their guests can spend the weekend, a week or longer. Ten cabanas can be rented for private time by the pool.

Smithwick describes time at GreatHorse as handcrafted. When members express preferences on club applications, the staff remembers what’s on those forms. Employees also pay attention to special requests and what members are saying in conversations, putting that information into a database that guides service.

“We know what the member wants to eat or drink before they even tell us,” said Smithwick.

“We’re going to know about any food allergies so they feel safe when they come to eat with us. We’re going to create this incredible dining experience they’re not going to find anywhere else,” he continued.

Smithwick said he loves making sure GreatHorse is on par with the finest resorts in the world.

“We’re constantly thinking of ways to entertain the membership so it’s not monotonous. There’s always a challenge and something we can do differently,” he said. “We pride ourselves on dishing out some of the finest hospitality in this market.”


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