Why We Matter, Too

By | January 24th, 2018

Joe Barks, Editor, Club & Resort Business

General-media reports about the fate of club properties when disasters strike—and recognition of clubs’ contributions to recovery efforts that extend well beyond their boundaries—always fall short of the full story.

No, our cover photo for the January issue (and below) was not Photoshopped or enhanced in any way. It’s not our version of “fake news.” It’s a real-life depiction of the very real threat that was posed last year to Beacon Rock Golf Course in Washington state.

While that story involves a lot more than just the fact that some golfers at Beacon Rock continued their rounds as a wildfire approached, it was the “oblivious” or “uncaring” golfer aspect of the shot that of course got most of the attention—and then drew a lot of disparaging remarks about the club and golf industry after the photo went viral. And yes, Beacon Rock did use the image for some lighthearted promotion through its Facebook page. But the club—like every property that’s featured in this month’s cover story—also didn’t ignore its obligations to its community, and its employees, and didn’t hesitate to take any steps that could help to minimize the impact of the crisis and bring about the return of a sense of normalcy as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, general-media reports about the fate of club properties when disasters strike—and recognition of clubs’ contributions to recovery efforts that extend well beyond their boundaries—always fall short of the full story. More than ten years after Hurricane Katrina came as close to wiping out a major metropolitan area as we’ll see any natural disaster do in our lifetimes, most historical accounts still shortchange the critical role that the membership and staff of New Orleans Country Club (NOCC) played in ensuring that the city would survive (“Restoring the Roots,” C&RB, December 2008). The NOCC property and golf course became an important staging area for lifesaving search-and-rescue helicopter efforts conducted by the National Guard throughout the city. And the incredible efforts by General Manager Bobby Crifasi and his staff to get the clubhouse functional again turned NOCC into a vital hub for reviving the city and getting its economic engines humming again, as it was used by members who were civic and business leaders and had no other place to go.

When we talked to the clubs featured in this issue about their disaster-recovery experiences, we heard much the same thing, with several relating how they made their facilities available to first responders and the public and helped to procure and provide needed supplies and services for their communities. And of course, the fact that clubs found ways to keep their employees working was no less insignificant in getting those areas back on their feet, either. (Eagle Creek G&CC in Naples, Fla., even provided double pay as an incentive to those who could make it in to help in the first week after Hurricane Irma hit, while still paying those who couldn’t get to work.)

But when we asked the affected clubs’ managers if there was any coverage of what their properties, and their members and staff, were going through, the answer was always the same. “I think the local media was afraid to mention anything about us as a private club, because it would look like they were concerned about the wrong social class,” said Craig Meyer, Executive Chef of Houston’s Lakeside Country Club. “But at the same time, they kept showing footage of ‘citizens’ who were helping others evacuate—and a lot of times those were our members and staff who’d gone out in their own boats to help.”

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