In the far southwestern section of the Monadnock region is a popular – and unlikely – music venue that brings local bands and good times to Mason. Martin and Linda Ruggiero opened The Driving Range -also known as Marty’s - over 20 years ago. It is a full service golf driving range, batting area and a snack bar (featuring 40 flavors of ice cream, lobster rolls and barbeque) with indoor and outdoor seating. Overlooking the rolling, lush grounds that forms a natural amphitheater is a Tiki Bar and music stage.
I stopped by one Thursday evening early in the season. In spite of the cool temperature and a 3-day rain stretch that just ended hours earlier, a sizeable crowd formed to take in some rock covers performed by Eastwood Peak. There was a party mood with lots of mingling by patrons who ranged in age from 20-something to 60-ish, a few couples dancing on the lawn, and friendly wait staff. Think rural Cheers meets outdoor Trader Vic's and you will find an evening getaway right in southwestern New Hampshire.
Three years ago Nicole Ruggiero took the reins. "My parents built Marty’s from the ground up. It put me through school and taught me work ethic at a very young age; I grew up in the business. When I was 16, I decided to get a job outside of the family business," Nicole laughed as she recalled those early days. "My mother passed away fairly suddenly in September of 2010. I was finishing my B.A. degree in Vermont at the time. My father gave me the option to move home and take over, or he would have to sell it. Marty’s was basically my mother’s livelihood – she ate, breathed, slept The Driving Range so I didn’t want to let it go.”
For Nicole, that first season held the challenge of learning how to operate the business while grieving the untimely loss of her mother. “I literally walked into the business blindly when I opened up in the spring. There was no one there to guide me. I just had to pick things up as I went along. It went well but I needed something to keep my interest.” It was at the end of Nicole’s first year - in the fall of 2011 that she decided to build the Tiki Bar and book her first music event - a concert featuring Roots of Creation. “At the time I felt like it was ‘go big or go home’. That show was a turning point. I saw that we really had something positive to offer the area”, Nicole remembers. Since then the band continues to open and close Marty’s Summer Music Series with their RoC the Range concerts.
The following year Nicole added a weekly Thursday Cruise Night. From 6-8:00 a DJ plays classics and oldies, and then a live cover band plays until 11:00. In addition to music and the car show, there is a 50-50 raffle and trophies awarded each week for cars and motorcycles.
Last year, Nicole added an annual July 4th ThrowDown. “It’s my favorite holiday, so I like to go all out. We had Rob Benton - an America's Got Talent finalist from the Manchester area. The crowd was so impressed with his performance that I ended up booking him multiple times throughout the summer,” said Nicole. “This year we have Tom Dixon with a full band, two opening acts and Atlas fireworks.” Tom is originally from New Hampshire and moved to Nashville to pursue his country music career.
This season’s addition is a stage built so that larger acts will be able to perform on Saturday nights. “We have all genres of bands playing - reggae, bluegrass, jam, funk, blues, rock… Right now we have Monadnock area bands performing and I am looking forward to hosting more regional bands from around New England and New York. We have the capacity for thousands of guests on our 10-acre property.” The stage will be broken in by Roots of Creation’s seventh performance at Marty’s Driving Range on June 28.
The music line-up for July’s Cruise Nights is Eastwood Peak on July 3, Bruce Marshall Group on July 10, Sheepdip on July 17, Small Town Stranded on July 24, and Mike Ordway on July 31. Aside from Roots of Creation, the Summer Music Series on Saturday evenings will be hosting Ghost Dinner Band, The Youngest Sun, Sophistafunk, and Adam Ezra Group, to name a few. To view scheduled shows and learn more about Marty’s Driving Range, visit http://www.martysofmason.com/ or go to their Facebook page. Better yet, check them out in person at 96 Old Turnpike Road (Route 124) in Mason.
Lynn Merlone is the founder of Monadnotes, a website featuring musical offerings and opportunities in the Monadnock region.Here you find pages with descriptions of local musicians by genre; music venues and events; music instruction; open mics, jams and karaoke; and musical groups for you to join.The Event Calendar boasts the most complete listings of musical events in southwestern New Hampshire.VisitMonadnotes: Your Music Source for the Monadnock region