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Downfall of the country club?

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
Okay - maybe it isn't a "downfall", but I have heard stories from friends of mine that still live in the Pittsburgh area that some country clubs are having difficulty keeping the membership up and if the trend continues, these clubs may be looking at going semi-private or even public (or housing developments). Clubs that used to be "invite only" through sponsorship by a current member are now actively seeking new members by taking out ads in the local newspaper, or you can download an application off of the internet. I wanted to know if anyone else has been observing a similar trend or if this is something specific to western PA (or it may be overblown and not that big a deal in PA either).

Any thoughts?

Last thought - I have worked at country clubs, but never belonged to one and if some of these places opened their doors to the public, I would play them in a heartbeat. I was just wondering if this was a trend, blip on the radar or nothing at all.

jorgesgolf
post #2 of 33

Re: Downfall of the country club?

Originally Posted by jorgesgolf View Post
Okay - maybe it isn't a "downfall", but I have heard stories from friends of mine that still live in the Pittsburgh area that some country clubs are having difficulty keeping the membership up and if the trend continues, these clubs may be looking at going semi-private or even public (or housing developments). Clubs that used to be "invite only" through sponsorship by a current member are now actively seeking new members by taking out ads in the local newspaper, or you can download an application off of the internet. I wanted to know if anyone else has been observing a similar trend or if this is something specific to western PA (or it may be overblown and not that big a deal in PA either).

Any thoughts?

Last thought - I have worked at country clubs, but never belonged to one and if some of these places opened their doors to the public, I would play them in a heartbeat. I was just wondering if this was a trend, blip on the radar or nothing at all.

jorgesgolf


Not sure of this specific issue, but I've read that a lot of courses in the Myrtle Beach area are having a hard time of it. A lot of areas overbuilt their golf facilities during the boom of the 90's, and now many are struggling to stay in business. It's expensive to maintain a course in good condition, and if a player has a choice, he's going to play at the best course he can afford. My home public course charges about $30 per 18 holes... That means I can play 100 rounds for $3000.... Last I heard that was about the cost for annual dues for a moderate private club. I don't think I've ever played 100 rounds in a year... maybe got close to that over a 2 year period during my most active golfing time. I also know that most clubs have a minimum amount that must be spent in the restaurant each month too.

Most of the players I know wouldn't join such a club, not so much because of the expense, but because of the relative restrictiveness of it. Unless you have unlimited resources, you are almost committed to playing one course, eating in one restaurant. We prefer the freedom of being able to play any course, any day, and dining in a great variety of eateries, without having to worry about whether we are getting our money's worth out of our membership.

Maybe that whole private club philosophy needs some serious overhauling. I know that a lot of clubs now are semi-private, giving preferences to those paying a monthly or annual dues, but also opening their doors to the general public to fill out the playing schedule. Many offer just golf memberships without the dining requirements added in. I played at a semi-private club in Florida in February... seems like a good way to go.
post #3 of 33

Re: Downfall of the country club?

Originally Posted by jorgesgolf View Post
Last thought - I have worked at country clubs, but never belonged to one and if some of these places opened their doors to the public, I would play them in a heartbeat. I was just wondering if this was a trend, blip on the radar or nothing at all.

Having lived near, but never been to, a country club, I don't see the big deal with one. Are the tee times much better? Worth the cost? I've played a former country club course (Knollwood in LA area is run by American Golf and is public now).

Besides, I rarely swim and I rarely play tennis, and I don't have (nor plan on having) a family, so I don't see the big attraction. Maybe it's just me.


Would I play a new (to me) course if it were public and nearby? Absolutely!

I live near some great country clubs that I wish I could play. Bel Air, Riviera (site of the Nissan Open), Brentwood, Los Angeles... but I doubt these places are cash starved.
post #4 of 33
Thread Starter 

Re: Downfall of the country club?

Originally Posted by Shindig View Post
Having lived near, but never been to, a country club, I don't see the big deal with one. Are the tee times much better? Worth the cost? I've played a former country club course (Knollwood in LA area is run by American Golf and is public now).

Besides, I rarely swim and I rarely play tennis, and I don't have (nor plan on having) a family, so I don't see the big attraction. Maybe it's just me.


Would I play a new (to me) course if it were public and nearby? Absolutely!

I live near some great country clubs that I wish I could play. Bel Air, Riviera (site of the Nissan Open), Brentwood, Los Angeles... but I doubt these places are cash starved.

The places that you mentioned are those upper-echelon clubs that have a certain clientele (sp?) and will survive through thick-and-thin, no doubt. Likewise, Oakmont CC is obviously not going anywhere. I was thinking more along the lines of the lower level clubs that are somewhat the center of the community, where people of upper-middle class used to belong to, but that may not be the case anymore. It may have something to do with what Fourputt said, in that people want variety in their golf and their leisure time and don't want to be tied down to one golf course and one restaurant (where they have to spend a certain amount of money). I love Pittsburgh, but one knock on the city has been that it has problems keeping its young professionals from leaving the area. I thought that might be one reason for diminished membership in this particular region - meaning that older individuals are leaving the ranks of country club membership and younger people with the means to join are not around to do so. But - what do I know?
post #5 of 33

Re: Downfall of the country club?

Originally Posted by jorgesgolf View Post
The places that you mentioned are those upper-echelon clubs that have a certain clientele (sp?) and will survive through thick-and-thin, no doubt. Likewise, Oakmont CC is obviously not going anywhere. I was thinking more along the lines of the lower level clubs that are somewhat the center of the community, where people of upper-middle class used to belong to, but that may not be the case anymore. It may have something to do with what Fourputt said, in that people want variety in their golf and their leisure time and don't want to be tied down to one golf course and one restaurant (where they have to spend a certain amount of money). I love Pittsburgh, but one knock on the city has been that it has problems keeping its young professionals from leaving the area. I thought that might be one reason for diminished membership in this particular region - meaning that older individuals are leaving the ranks of country club membership and younger people with the means to join are not around to do so. But - what do I know?
The variety thing sounds about right. I need to bring my own lunch to work now-and-then just because the variety around here isn't great. I can't imagine having a minimum to spend in a restaurant over a period of time.

Now, if there were a golf-only membership for an area at a reasonable price, I can see spending money on that. Priority for a good golf course, esp. with reciprocal rights elsewhere, without worrying that I have to pay for the whole family membership and family events thing, might be up my alley. Once I'm no longer in school.
post #6 of 33

Re: Downfall of the country club?

Sounds like everyone has touched a part of the reasons private clubs are looking for new ways to get new members. I think the main two reasons are the new young upper management people do not stay with the same companys or area longer than usually six years then they move to new cities for promotions in their company or new companys. Some of the older private courses are still run by the older members and they want to keep the club the same as when they joined even though the reasons have change. the older member used the club for business deals, they still are used for that reason but now many of the old members kids belong to the club thru their parents and are only using the club as a play ground for theirselfs and friends.
post #7 of 33

Re: Downfall of the country club?

In my opinion you will see Private clubs which opened in the last 10 years begin to allow public play. The reason for this is b/c too many clubs opened when golf hit its boom and now they can not keep up the membership b/c people want variety and they do not want montly dues. The other reason is that this isnt the 1950's where people go to the club on the weekends and the men play golf, the woman play tennis and the kids do whatever it is that they would do. People with family's want to spend more time together... The clubs that have been private forever will never go away. They are run by old money and they would rather shut down then ever allow normal folks in to play. You will always have rich folks who want to sip scotch and smoke cigars with thier rich buddies and you have the have nots who want to enjoy golf but not to the extent of 30k per year...
post #8 of 33

Re: Downfall of the country club?

We are having the same thing happen in the suburban Detroit area. As most of you may know, our ecconomy ranks near the very bottom nationally. Our area is driven by the auto industry. The last few years have been terrible and unfortunately there are only signs of it getting worse.

The country clubs around here range from the elite like Oakland Hills and Franklin Hills that will always heve a waiting list to the moderate ones that are seeing their membeship numbers drop at alarming rates. It is clearly an industry that requires disposable income. It gets tougher each year for people to justify paying a few hundred a month on dues and food minimums.

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal last year that mentioned one of our local clubs. Forrest Lake is a nice club in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. It is one of the more affluant areas in the country. At the time of the article they had a waiting list in the double figures of people trying to get out of their memberships. They have an equity based membership and to cancel you basically have to sell your membership back to the club. There were not enough new members waiting to join to offset the ones trying to leave.

A few years ago, another one in the same area, Wabeek, sent letters out to members of other local clubs offering to waive the initiation fee and give reduced dues to anyone that would join.

I would love to join one and the time is probably good for someone looking to join with all of the deals they are running. At the same time, I can't justify it right now. I play on Wednesday nights in a couples league that is all friends and family and I play on Sunday mornings with my regular group that is also all family. To justify the cost, I would have to play way more often, which my schedule won't allow, and probably give up those regular rounds to play at the club. I still would like to join a club eventually. I have always said by the time I'm 40. That give me 3 1/2 years.
post #9 of 33

Re: Downfall of the country club?

There aren't too many country clubs in my area but the ones that are here are hurting. We have so many good courses around here people I talk to have a difficult time spending that kind of money to play one course all the time. Plus none of the country clubs around here have really great courses. All the real good courses are public. I don't know, I understand the desire to belong to a course for the comradery, but I have a lot of that at my muni. I know almost everyone. Its the same guys there everyday until 10:00AM when the general public invades. I don't know if every muni has that, but its almost like I am a member at the Muni Country Club.
post #10 of 33

Re: Downfall of the country club?

I live in WV...not a huge goilf stste..but we've lost several courses over the past few years to development, and had an 18 hole Championship course scheduled for construction,be cancelled. I hear that many courses will be closing due to financial reasons, or are up for sale now in South carolina...I don't know this.
post #11 of 33

Re: Downfall of the country club?

I was looking for an thread like this....

I live in Southern NH, about an hour north of Boston and I just joined this club. www.skymeadow.com

This place use to have a $15,000 Initiation fee with annual dues being $4,500.
Because membership is so low, they just dropped the Initian fee to $6000 and you can pay it off over five years. This course is always in GREAT shape and the layout is awesome too. My wife and I make $150k a year combined, so we're not rich, but we felt this was a luxury we could afford for now...

Anyway, I was wondering what you guys are paying out there for private club memberships? I've joined public courses in the past that have memberships available, but I got tired of never being able to get out because they have tournaments going off three times a week. I play well over 65 rounds a year and this place charges $85.00 for a guest fee, so I'll get my moneys worth.

I also spend about $500 a year in range balls, which I don't have to worry about anymore since this course has a grass driving range and balls are included in the price of membership.

Would love to hear from other's opinions out there...
post #12 of 33

Re: Downfall of the country club?

I live in Central Pennsylvania (Harrisburg area) and there are quite a number of country clubs here. The most famous is probably Hershey Country Club with two courses (East and West) - they used to host the Reese's Cup on the Nationwide tour. They just finished a $25 million (?) renovation, and they are looking for new members. Inititation is $12,000 and monthly dues are $367 and F&B minimum is $275/quarter. You also have to pay $18 for a cart anytime you play! It works out to $536/month, not counting the initiation fee if you play 52 rounds. Plus, Hershey is not super exlusive, in that guests of the Hershey Hotel and Heshey Lodge are allowed to play. I think Hogan was the pro here at one point. Too expensive for my blood, and Hershey is 40 minutes away from where I live...

Similar to Hershey, there are a number of other clubs that are marketing memberships, especially to the younger generation (20s, 30s). Then, there's the West Shore Country Club in Camp Hill, PA (which some regard as the best golf course in the area), that is capped at 425 members, and there is a waiting list a mile long. Either a member dies or someone leaves..
post #13 of 33
Thread Starter 

Re: Downfall of the country club?

I found an interesting article this weekend on the SmartMoney website entitled "10 Things Your Country Club Won't Tell You." I think this an article people might want to read if they are thinking about joining a private club. Certainly, these are generalizations and don't apply to all clubs but I have read similar accounts in other articles I found during my web search.
post #14 of 33

Re: Downfall of the country club?

Originally Posted by jorgesgolf View Post
I found an interesting article this weekend on the SmartMoney website entitled "10 Things Your Country Club Won't Tell You." I think this an article people might want to read if they are thinking about joining a private club. Certainly, these are generalizations and don't apply to all clubs but I have read similar accounts in other articles I found during my web search.

I found the article you're talking about and most of it is CRAP...

http://www.smartmoney.com/10things/i...tory=april2005

Before joining a club you should know exactly how much the int. fee is, the annual dues..etc. My place has no obligation for the Int fee or dues...

If I decide to walk away after 3 months of being member, I don't owe them a dime. I pay on a monthly basis which comes out to $370 or so a month. When I was playing public courses and going to the range I was spending more than that a month on golf...
post #15 of 33

Re: Downfall of the country club?

Originally Posted by GoingfortheGreen View Post
I live in Central Pennsylvania (Harrisburg area) and there are quite a number of country clubs here. The most famous is probably Hershey Country Club with two courses (East and West) - they used to host the Reese's Cup on the Nationwide tour. They just finished a $25 million (?) renovation, and they are looking for new members. Inititation is $12,000 and monthly dues are $367 and F&B minimum is $275/quarter. You also have to pay $18 for a cart anytime you play! It works out to $536/month, not counting the initiation fee if you play 52 rounds. Plus, Hershey is not super exlusive, in that guests of the Hershey Hotel and Heshey Lodge are allowed to play. I think Hogan was the pro here at one point. Too expensive for my blood, and Hershey is 40 minutes away from where I live...


Ugh! Maybe it's the "I'm in my 20s" talking, but I've used a cart exactly once and hated the experience. I later walked the same club and had a much more enjoyable round (despite torrential rain for two holes in the walking time).
post #16 of 33
Thread Starter 

Re: Downfall of the country club?

Originally Posted by jcard71 View Post
I found the article you're talking about and most of it is CRAP...

http://www.smartmoney.com/10things/i...tory=april2005

Before joining a club you should know exactly how much the int. fee is, the annual dues..etc. My place has no obligation for the Int fee or dues...

If I decide to walk away after 3 months of being member, I don't owe them a dime. I pay on a monthly basis which comes out to $370 or so a month. When I was playing public courses and going to the range I was spending more than that a month on golf...

Most of it might be "crap" in your case, but like I said, they are generalizations and don't necessarily apply to every club that exists. Of course it is imporant to note that the club that you just joined decreased the initation fee by over half and now allows you to pay it off over 5 years. That type of deal looks like it would fall under the first point that they are trying to make.
post #17 of 33

Re: Downfall of the country club?

Originally Posted by jorgesgolf View Post
Most of it might be "crap" in your case, but like I said, they are generalizations and don't necessarily apply to every club that exists. Of course it is imporant to note that the club that you just joined decreased the initation fee by over half and now allows you to pay it off over 5 years. That type of deal looks like it would fall under the first point that they are trying to make.

If you look at the site closely, there are all kinds of "10 things your blank blank blank didn''t tell you..."

I'm not denying that country clubs are in tough shape, but I guess I'm lucky that they did lowe the Int fee, right?

I'd still rather belong to a private club then play a 5 hour round at public course
post #18 of 33

Re: Downfall of the country club?

Originally Posted by Shindig View Post
Ugh! Maybe it's the "I'm in my 20s" talking, but I've used a cart exactly once and hated the experience. I later walked the same club and had a much more enjoyable round (despite torrential rain for two holes in the walking time).
IMHO the cart fee is not really excessive, but to require it seems to be so...

At the West Shore Country Club, you are more than welcome to walk. Being a 'full golf member' means you really pay for 'free'.

All Hershey costs (monthly dues, F&B, etc.) I mentioned were for a family....
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