The Roslyn Harbor, N.Y. club, which was purchased by RXR Realty in 2017 for $14.5 million, has undergone a revitalization. RXR invested $3 million in its golf course, clubhouse and other outdoor facilities, including the pool, patio and tennis courts. The company has reduced dues and separated membership categories into platinum, gold and silver.
On a recent weekday, a visitor to Engineers Country Club in Roslyn Harbor, N.Y. encountered Tucker Burns, the General Manager, in the lobby, the Long Island Business News reported.
“It’s so lovely here,” the guest said, peeking into elegant dining room and glimpsing the sweeping golf course, which hosted the second-ever PGA Championship in 1919, and a year later, the USGA Amateur.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Burns responded, then paused as if appreciating the surroundings for the first time.
For Burns, the club is home. He started there as a busboy in 1982, devoting 25 or so years to the club, ultimately becoming General Manager, according to the Business News report.
“I worked every position here, from valet to the bar, and then I was floor captain,” Burns said.
“I was one of the originals when country clubs were changing in those days,” he said. “When clubs got out of the jacket-and-tie realm, and French service, I was the guy that brought in the parties.”
Burns’ claim to fame was event management, he said, and people started flocking over to the club, the Business News reported.
“I was making them a lot of money,” he said.
And then the stock market crashed.
“People couldn’t write dues for country clubs,” Burns pointed out.
But now with the economy whirring again, country clubs must redefine themselves once more as membership declines, the Business News reported.
“Golf courses and clubs have particularly struggled to attract younger players, with many finding the clubs to be too conservative with respect to etiquette and the sport too difficult to learn,” according to an industry market report by IBIS World.
Add to that concerns about student debt and cost-of-living, and for these reasons, country club membership may be even more off-putting for some, according to the Business News report.
Meanwhile, some clubs have already been repurposed, while others are said to be in danger of downsizing or even closing, the Business News reported. That leaves would-be members with fewer choices. For example, the Links at Shirley (N.Y.) has made way for The Colony Preserve, a luxury retirement community. And a solar farm now sits at the former Tallgrass Golf Course in Shoreham, N.Y.
But golf and country clubs that stay nimble and know how to target prospects and market to them have a shot at growing membership, the Business News reported.
And of course, investing in the property also helps, according to the Business News report. For example, Tam O’Shanter Country Club in Brookville, N.Y., a private club, was sold in January for $15 million to Titan Golf, according Golf Digest. Titan Golf also owns The Woodmere (N.Y.) Club, which it purchased in 2017. Now the company is investing in capital improvement and seeing results, said Titan co-owner Efrem Gerszberg.
“We believe that by investing in the experience of the country club, it will attract more golfers and families,” Gerszberg told LIBN.
The company invested $300,000 within three months for capital improvements, and lowered dues, and that combination has helped attract new members The Woodmere Club.
“When we purchased Tam O’ Shanter, it had 125 full golf memberships,” Gerszberg said. “We have added over 25 members in the last three months and have agreed to cap the full golf members at 225.”
Capping the full-golf membership helps maintain the experience on the course, so that there is minimal waiting The Woodmere Club.
After purchasing Woodmere, “we invested $500,000 into capital improvements and added 50 new members,” Gerszberg said.
And Engineers Club, which was purchased by RXR Realty in 2017 for $14.5 million, according to Newsday, has also undergone revitalization. RXR invested $3 million in its championship 18-hole golf course, clubhouse and other outdoor facilities, including the pool, patio and tennis courts, its officials told the Business News. The company declined to discuss dues, though noted that they reduced dues and separated membership categories into platinum, gold and silver.
The enhancements helped the club’s membership increase from 84 equity members to 201 golf members, and 277 pool and tennis families, the Business News reported. Part of that increase is the result of smart marketing. Since RXR purchased the club, it has promoted its amenities, sending a teaching pro to its Ritz Carlton Residences in North Hills. Some people moving into Garvies Point, another RXR development in nearby Glen Cove, have joined Engineers Club, even if their condo unit is not yet completed.
Adding to the draw is the site’s rich history, the Business News reported. Burns points out that the Engineers Club was founded in 1907 by Andrew Carnegie, with members who are said to include Thomas Edison, President Herbert Hoover, H.H. Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla.
“It was a city club that had its own country club—that’s who founded this place,” Burns said of the North Shore club. “This is the Great Gatsby.”
And while Gatsby-like formalities may be of a bygone era, certain aspects remain, the Business News reported.
Country club members “don’t want formality,” he said, yet, “they want service. But they want it relaxed.”
And diversity and inclusivity are selling points, according to a report by the National Club Association.
“There are same-sex couples here, there’s diversity in ethnicity here—we welcome all of that,” Burns said. “We are still an exclusive club that is inclusive—we’re inclusively exclusive, which is probably why we’re seeing younger people. We are progressive—they want to see that.”
Of the new members, 10 percent are millennials, Burns told the Business News.
Titan, too, puts an emphasis on inclusivity, the Business News reported.
“It’s important to our members,” Gerszberg said. “They want the opportunity to meet different people and socialize.”
And with increased real estate values, talk of condo developments seems to seep into every conversation, the Business News reported. This is true at Engineers Club, where RXR is working with the Nicklaus Group, Jack Nicklaus’ golf consulting firms. The group is looking to incorporate condos into the property while maintaining a top-level full 18-hole championship track.
Meanwhile, parties, family-friendly amenities such as pool and tennis, and new revenue streams, including from residential units, are only part of the equation for clubs looking to thrive, the Business News reported. These clubs must remain strategic to attract would-be members, especially millennials, according to a 2016 study by Club Managers Association of America and The Center for Generational Kinetics. That could mean new payment options for memberships, or even new services that fit the way people live and work.
“They are the future,” Burns said. “We have to adapt ourselves to them.”
And even if millennials are swamped with work and family life, the Business News concluded, juggling expenses and lacking the time to commit to golf, that doesn’t dissuade Burns.
“The ones that have fallen in love with golf will make the time,” he said.