The Maassmann family decided that the best way to stay together was to work together.
Though the family-owned Blackhead Mountain Lodge and Country Club (518-622-3157, blackheadmtn.com) in Greene County in the northern Catskills was doing well as a small resort since it opened in 1967, the Maassmanns decided on Mother's Day in 1988 that the only way to keep all the members of the tight-knit family working in close proximity was to build a golf course to grow the business.
So, a nine-hole course designed by golf architect Nicholas Psiahas opened high atop the mountains at the appropriately named Round Top in 1990. A restaurant with authentic German cuisine followed in 1994 and another nine was added in 1999.
Youngest son Peter, 43, who was away working on his PGA apprenticeship when the idea of building a golf course was hatched in 1988, welcomed the opportunity to return home to work as a PGA professional on his own turf. And older brother, Edward, 46, felt right at home maintaining the grounds as the golf course superintendent.
“My two sons have very different personalities, but they complement one another very well,” said their mother Waltraud “Wally” Maassmann, who emigrated from Germany as a teenager. “Peter is very outgoing, does a great job running the golf operation, and has a flair for marketing. Eddie is diligently out there every day loving every blade of grass. They make a great team and communicate very well.”
Wally and her husband, Ewald, are still very active in helping to run the resort. But it’s no secret that they soon hope to enjoy retirement and are thrilled that the younger generation of Maassmanns are more than willing to carry on the family tradition of good golf, great Schnitzels, and friendly service.
In fact, with her sons and their wives and the grandchildren all chipping in to keep things running smoothly, Wally was able to finish off her memoirs. The book, released just last year, is titled, “A Path of Pebbles: My Road to Life in America.”
Of course, part of her story includes the decision to build a golf course and restaurant and recently modernize the resort to accommodate small conferences, which has brought the family closer together than ever.
“If we didn’t have this, I’m sure we would have ended up like many other families where they have to go out and do other things and only see one another on special occasions,” Peter says. “Now we all see each other every day, and it’s really a team effort.”
Peter’s wife, Heather, who is a high school teacher, works at the resort during the summers as do the couple’s two children, Alley and Peter. Edward’s wife, Janet, who works in the business office at a local school, also works at Blackhead Mountain during the summers along with the couple’s children, Eric and Monica. Eric, who attends Rochester Institute of Technology, has designed and maintained the resort's Web site.
Blackhead Mountain is a shorter 6,076-yard par-72 layout that offers plenty of risk/reward opportunities for birdies if golfers can avoid the many creeks and ponds on the picturesque property.
Peter wishes he could accompany golfers when they play Blackhead Mountain for the first time, guaranteeing that he could save them five or six shots with his advice on what club to hit off the tee.
“It’s extremely difficult if you let it be difficult,” he says. “But it’s extremely fair if you let it be fair. It’s not a golf course where you need a 300-yard drive. You can get away on most holes with hitting a tee shot of about 185 to 210 yards. People get in trouble when they try to hit a driver on every hole because that’s what they’re used to.”
A perfect example of Maassmann’s theory to leave the driver in the bag comes on the tree-lined 348-yard par-4 17th, Blackhead Mountain’s signature hole. A 200-foot drop in elevation from tee to green tempts many long hitters to pull out the big stick with the hope of driving the green.
But for every golfer who clobbers a long and straight drive that kicks onto the green on this wondrous hole with a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains, there are hundreds who end up in serious jeopardy by hitting their tee shot off line. The smart play is to hit an iron or rescue club off the tee to set up a short pitch to the green.
There is no disputing the beauty of the 17th or any of the other holes on Blackhead Mountain. Though it is in a remote part of the Catskills, the beautiful views, the smell of Sauerkraut, and the hospitality of the Maassmann clan brings golfers back over and over again.
“We kind of rely on word of mouth to get people to come here because advertising is very expensive for a small, family-run business,” says Peter. “The real reason we’ve been able to succeed is that when they do get here, people really enjoy themselves. They’re treated nicely, and they do come back.”