For people biting the bullet on the household budget, where does a golf club membership fall on the priority list? Pretty low, according to some country clubs.
For people biting the bullet on the household budget, where does a golf club membership fall on the priority list?
Pretty low, according to some country clubs.
"We had 67 members leave the club last year," said Mark Klotz, the club pro at Marlborough Country Club. A normal loss for the club is 30 members in a year.
"It's the economy of course," he said. "I know some of our members are between jobs and the first thing they take out is the golf."
Marlborough Country Club managers foresaw a rough period in the short term so they acted quickly last fall, waiving a $4,000 initiation fee for new members and keeping their annual membership fee at the same rate of $3,300.
The club has signed 60 new members in the recruitment drive.
"We were one of the first to do it so that's where we lucked out," Klotz said.
Discounted memberships, waived initiation fees and special recruitment drives are all new tactics being taken by a usually exclusive group as country clubs across the country try to survive the poor economy.
Citing a survey by the National Golf Foundation, The New York Times last week reported that at least 500 clubs nationwide are desperately trying to raise money and about 15 percent of the 4,400 private clubs were in serious financial straits.
The survey showed that the most exclusive clubs were least affected by the economic swoon.
"We're OK. We have a four-year wait list," said Daniel O'Connell, the general manager at Charles River Country Club in Newton. The club does not publish its membership fees.
Though not the priciest club in MetroWest, Framingham Country Club is a step above most semi-private clubs with its $17,000 bond and $15,000 initiation fee for new members. Annual dues for a single member are about $5,100.
Some of Framingham's members are hurting.
This winter, the club lost 12 to 15 percent of its membership either through resignations or requests for one-year leaves, according to president Larry Dore. The club normally loses 5 to 8 percent of its members.
"It wasn't devastating; it's understandable," said Dore. "It is your ultimate luxury item."
Instead of offering discounts or waivers, Dore said his club is trying to cut some expenses and giving new members extra time to pay the hefty entrance fee.
"Everybody is having the same problem but I don't feel like we want to give it away," Dore said. Already, the club has signed up five new members.
Hopedale Country Club isn't giving it away, but the club has slashed its fees.
An initiation fee at the 9-hole semi-private course used to cost $3,500. It's now $1,000, according to the club's Web site.
"We lost 17 members but picked up another 10," said Joe Potty, the PGA golf professional in Hopedale. "We figured we'd lose some with the economy this year but right now we seem to be kind of fortunate."
It's not all rough in the golf world. Some are seeing only fairways and greens.
"We were all pleasantly surprised at how well the expo turned out," said Mike Gilbert, assistant manager of Golfer's Warehouse in Natick, referring to the chain's annual spring sale held last weekend. "Traffic was down a little but the people that are spending money in golf are still spending money in golf."
But that's not to say the retail side isn't doing more to attract customers. Golfer's Warehouse is offering zero percent financing on purchases over $500 and discounted combo packages on custom fitting for clubs.
"People are going to keep the hobby going," Gilbert said. "Golf is kind of addicting, but I think anything is vulnerable."
Rob Haneisen can be reached at 508-626-3882 or e-mail him at email@example.com.
The MetroWest Daily News