When the bottom drops out of the economy, the luxuries like those found every weekend at the base of 18 (or 19) holes are usually the first to be deemed out of bounds in the family budget. Of course, circumstances usually affords the intermittent opportunity to hit a public course but paying thousands in annual dues at a private club becomes much harder to justify in the face of added bills and sinking checking accounts. This leaves clubs like the Mahopac Golf Club in a position where their main source of income is left lagging as membership declines in favorof the numerous public pay as go options.
“Our attrition rate is probably double this year,” says club manager Howard Kelly, as a waiting list is usually the standard at this member owned course. On the other hand, he’ll tell you there’s never been a more affordable time to gain membership to a top notch club, whose rates are already very competitive for the Westchester/Putnam area. In supplement, MGC is making membership more user and financially friendly by switching the order of initiation fees. New members pay the $1,500, two-year bond membership fee (which is refunded if they leave) ahead of the higher initiation fee, now due in year three or four.
Nonetheless, Mahopac realizes that affordable golf in tough times is still a difficult case to make if only one member of the family scores Saturday afternoons away from those left behind at home. With lake front property that had lay fallow for many years, the club rehabilitated the beach to broaden its appeal to those in the family who can’t make a claim to a handicap. Hoping to attract members with younger families (and keeping on the regulars), says club president Vincent Vesce, We wanted something additional for family members to do, while Mom or Dad cycle their loop.
But family friendly really isn’t a new thing, as junior clinics have always applied to children, grandchildren and even nieces and nephews, while the unstuffy nature of the club automatically gives off a feel of all inclusiveness. Describing MGC as not being a private club in the stereotypical sense, Mr. Vesce says, “We could be characterized more or less as a working man’s or women’s private club.”
Regardless, whatever degrees of income that happen to be on hand can usually be counted in a golf course’sparking lot – or not, according to Mr. Kelly. A pickup parked next to a Mercedes, he says, the guy in the pickup may have more money but you wouldn’t know it by the way he acts.
Either way, he adds, people blend in and keep the focus on playing golf but MGC has still had to make financial decisions to keep themselves ahead of their expenses. “Where in the past we may have taken certain expenditures for granted – now we are scrutinizing our expenses before we go forward with them just to make sure every dollar that we spend gets some relative level of value,” says Mr. Vesce.
Personnel wise, some staff have been cut, as a good deal more cross over is now occurring between the crews from the house side and the course side. We really had to examine the services our staff is able to provide and come to the conclusion that amenities won’t be that noticeable to our members and guests, so that they don’t begin to wonder, says Mr. Vesce, “is this really worth it.”
“That’s the acid test,” he adds, but the course is always the number one priority and owner membership may be the best asset MGC has to those ends and getting by in this economic climate. “I think it creates an atmosphere where it’s all for one and one for all,” says Mr. Vesce, and doing what they can to bring in other quality people for the same type of time, comes second nature, he adds.
In turn, it all cycles back to a mission that only a member owned course can truly lay claim with non-profit status. “All the money that goes into the club is there for one reason and one reason only and that is to make it an enjoyable experience for our members, our member’s families and their guests,” concludes Mr. Vesce.