When tailored to the interests of younger members, club camp programs can instill the physical and social skills they need to flourish.
For kids, summertime is a dream: no school, no responsibilities, and long days filled with swimming, playing and laughing with friends. By putting together thoughtful camp programs, club properties can become the ideal setting for younger members’ lifelong memories—while also providing their parents with welcomed peace of mind.
At Tulsa (Okla.) Country Club, the summer-camp program draws full attendance season after season—and Lesley Stone, the club’s Director of Membership & Marketing, believes the camp’s staff is the primary reason why. Mother-daughter team Michelle Horgen and Kali Terry are both pre-kindergarten teachers during the school year who then bring their talents to the club each summer.
|SUMMING IT UP
• When opening camps for registration, let parents know which weeks will fill up quickly, so they can plan accordingly.
Before Horgen came on board as a camp counselor in 2010, Tulsa CC outsourced its camp staff. But wanting more consistency and a more personal touch, the club decided to bring operations in-house. A couple of years after Horgen began, she brought on her daughter to help shape the program.
“They have a great dynamic between the two of them,” Stone says. “The consistency and creativity between them has elevated our camps to the next level.”
Tulsa CC’s summer program runs for six weeks, sandwiched between the club’s junior golf camps, from June to July, except for the week of July 4 (“We’ve found it’s very hard to populate that week,” Stone explains). Each day officially begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m., but busy parents can drop kids off a half-hour early and pick them up a half-hour late if necessary.
“We do have a lot of working parents, so we offer extended hours so they don’t have to take time off work,” Stone says.
Though the club is closed on Mondays, camp is still offered that day. Kids ages 5 to 11 can sign up for camps on a week-to-week basis, and kids 12 to 15 are invited to sign up as junior camp counselors. The junior counselors have to pay to attend, Stone notes, but they are given a daily stipend for food. The total number of junior counselors often fluctuates quite a bit from season to season, she adds, as the program competes with other sports and art camps they might want to attend.
Typically, Tulsa CC’s summer camps see 20 kids sign up each week, which Stone says is a comfortable number. “During some weeks in July, we wish we could allow more, but we want to give the children who are attending the best programming and attention that we can,” she says. “We want parents to know that their kids are safe.”
Members get an opportunity to register for the camp program through early-bird registration, but enrollment is then also opened to the public. “While we do want guests here, we want our members to have first priority,” Stone says.
By February each year, Stone reports, Tulsa CC starts to get phone calls about its programs for that summer. Forms go out by March, with a waiting list often forming quickly for weeks in July. The club highlights the weeks that often fill up, so members make sure to register their kids on time.
“We don’t need to market outside of the club—at local schools, we’re pretty well known,” Stone says. “Our program is very sought-after.”
In fact, the camp program is often a big selling point with prospective member families, Stone reports. And it helped Tulsa CC experience an influx of junior members—those 34 and under—in 2011, after a renovation project shifted the club to a more family-oriented dynamic.
Because Horgen and Terry have worked with the club for years, they’ve been able to learn what kids do—and do not— like. “They’re very willing to test out new programming each season and week,” Stone says. “They do develop a structure, but they’re not on a strict curriculum. We went from a very cut-and-dried program, where one size did not fit all, to one that’s now completely tailored to the children of this club.”
The Tulsa CC program offers different themes—from shark week to sports week to superhero week—with a curriculum that includes arts and crafts, swimming, and sports, all tailored to that week’s theme. Kids receive lunch and snacks each day, and even the culinary staff gets in on the fun by developing special menus that play into that week’s theme.
Last year, the club’s program included a campout-themed week, with tents set up on the lawn, grilled hot dogs, and s’mores on the firepit. Past activities have included tennis and golf lessons, tae kwon do classes, and fishing on the golf course’s pond. The club will even bring special guests, such as local police, to talk about safety, or firefighters who bring their truck for a tour and then let kids play with the hose. Campers have also enjoyed some off-site activities, including walking to a nearby children’s museum for a morning of learning.
After soaking up some education, the kids hop in Tulsa CC’s pool every day at 2:30 p.m. Beyond giving lessons, the club’s staff gets involved with the camps’ special touches. On costume-theme days, after kids dress up and parade around the clubhouse, the staff votes on a winning outfit that earns a prize. On days when kids have cooking lessons, they bring their creations to the staff offices, to show them off and share.
In the future, Stone hopes to instill more charitable elements into the program. “We want to help kids understand the world around them and to learn to give back,” she says. “We’re talking about expanding an anti-bullying program we do with the Tulsa SPCA, where they come in and talk about how to treat dogs, and how that relates to life.
“We have a very captive audience, so we might as well teach them something useful,” Stone adds.
Club camp programs are typically a summer affair, giving kids a place to go when school is out. La Cañada Flintridge (Calif.) Country Club, however, has three separate camps, offered in the winter as well as the standard summer schedule.
La Cañada Flintridge’s programs include a golf camp and a tennis camp, which are singularly focused on developing those respective skills, as well as a day camp billed as an all-around sports-oriented camp that includes swimming, golf, tennis, arts and crafts, themed weeks, and skill building.
The programming itself varies from season to season, says Director of Marketing Pamela Dreyfuss, and even changes based on the skill sets of the counselors. “We utilize the skills of our young counselors, so if they’re adept at a particular talent or skill, like karate or yoga, we would incorporate that,” Dreyfuss explains.
La Cañada Flintridge’s chef offers cooking lessons to campers in the club’s kitchen or banquet space, and an employee who knows sign language recently taught kids a few phrases. “We pull from all different parts of the club, incorporating the talents of employees,” Dreyfuss says.
The job of camp director falls to a full-time employee who “wears a lot of different hats” at the club, Dreyfuss says, including running a childcare service when camps are not in session. College students and high schoolers are hired each season to act as camp counselors. “They’re terrific—their energy is great, and the kids love them,” Dreyfuss notes.
La Cañada Flintridge has operated its camps in-house for the past five years. “We started off by hiring an outside company, and they were terrific,” Dreyfuss says. “But we decided to do it ourselves to make it more targeted to our population. We wanted to be able to offer more in-depth golf and tennis camp programs, because that’s what people seem to want.”
Summer sessions last 10 weeks, from June to August, while the winter session is held over the holiday break for three weeks. Kids are welcome to come and go week by week, and even do drop-in days. For the day camp, kids ages 5 to 10 attend, though younger campers will be allowed if they can handle the long day.
The day camp typically has about 30 campers in both summer and winter sessions, while the golf and tennis camps have 15 each. All camps are open to non-members, but members can attend at a lower cost. Unrented banquet rooms act as kids’ “touch down” spaces, while other parts of the property—from the golf course to tennis courts, and even the ballroom and kitchen—are also used as needed. On-property “field trips,” such as scavenger hunts and nature walks, allow the kids to further explore the grounds.
“Ideally, we’d love to have an outdoor area designated for play, but we don’t have that just for the kids, so we have to get a little creative,” Dreyfuss says.
To keep kids focused, La Cañada Flintridge’s camps have a strict “no technology” rule. “We feel really strongly—and as a parent, I do, too—that when kids come to camp, it’s time to get away from all that,” Dreyfuss explains. “[We want them] to be active, make friends, build skills, and go home and feel the goodness of being tired after a big day.”
Ultimately, that camp programs at La Cañada Flintridge are intended to keep kids entertained and challenged, while fostering the skill sets they need throughout life.
“We are very proud of our young golfers and just had our first high school-age tournament in December. We also just started a special student-golfer membership,” Dreyfuss says. “So we see the camps as part of developing young kids in sports and keeping them active and fit.”