From golf and tennis to cross country skiing and ice skating, the Queensbury, N.Y. club offers a wide variety of activities to its members.
Glens Falls Country Club in Queensbury, N.Y. is a club for all seasons. Morgan Beldock, who has served as the club’s Director of Membership, Marketing and Communications for nearly three years, says Glens Falls’ location, scenery and highly regarded golf course distinguish it from other facilities in the area.
“It is almost a little piece of paradise nestled between the Adirondack and Vermont mountains,” says Beldock. “In the fall, the views are absolutely stunning. You pair that with our nationally ranked Donald Ross [-designed] golf course and year-round activities and events, [and] there really isn’t a better place to belong.”
General Manager Darin Crippen agrees, noting the area’s distinctive topography is seen “throughout the golf course and also gives us some great sledding hills for the kids and some challenging ups and downs for the cross country skiers. Our outdoor ice rink is also something that no other regional clubs have.”
About half of the club property is in Queensbury and the other half is in North Glens Falls.
With the club located between Lake George and Saratoga Springs in a tourist area consisting of many second homes, Beldock says she thinks many people believe Glens Falls is primarily a summertime facility. But, she points out that “over two-thirds of our members have primary residences in the surrounding counties to the club. I think being open year-round and offering winter activities does give us a boost compared to other local clubs here, but it also encourages families to join.”
Overview And History
Glens Falls Country Club offers an 18-hole golf course with nine sets of tees (ranging from 4,791 to 6,505 yards), a beach, four Har-Tru tennis courts, three heated platform tennis courts, an ice skating rink and multiple dining areas. In the summer, a different surface is installed on the platform courts so they can be used for pickleball. In the winter, Glens Falls members can use the golf course for cross country skiing, snowshoeing and sledding.
Meetings to discuss establishing a country club in Glens Falls took place in the fall and early winter of 1911, according to Beldock. She says 190 people signed up for membership by March 1912, two months before a decision was made on where the club would be built. The club initially had a 9-hole golf course, and the first foursome played a round on April 17, 1914; The course expanded to 18 holes in 1922. There was an early challenge when the clubhouse was destroyed in a fire in 1923, and a newly constructed structure opened in 1924.
The Glens Falls Open, a professional golf tournament, was played at the club from 1929 through 1939.
From the mid-1950s to the early 1960s, many improvements occurred, including installation of automatic sprinklers on the golf course, an upgrade of the kitchen facilities, an expansion of the dining area, and construction of a bar.
Membership Recruitment, Retention
Club officials say word-of-mouth support from current members plays an important role in attracting new members. Staff members also continue to work on ways to improve members’ experience to lock in their commitment for a long period of time.
“It is very common to see multiple generations of families as members,” Beldock shares. “We have a current member who now has his father’s locker and together, they have had the same locker for a combined 65 years.”
Crippen, who started working as GM in December 2021, adds, “Our members love GFCC the way it is, but they also love seeing the constant improvements that we implement.”
Glens Falls staff primarily uses email to communicate with the club’s 472 members (344 are golf members and 128 are social members). Regular messages sent out to members include a weekly publication listing upcoming events, new products and specials, and a monthly newsletter containing submissions from managers and committees.
“We have push notifications on our mobile club app, and an online event calendar listing everything from golf to social events,” Beldock says.
Crippen adds that television monitors throughout the club grounds are used to advertise events.
While winter is often a slow time for clubs in the northern part of the U.S., plenty of activities occur at Glens Falls during the cooler months. Members and their guests can cross country ski, snowshoe and sled on the golf course. There is also an outdoor ice skating rink where people can either skate or play a pick-up hockey game.
The most popular wintertime activity at Glens Falls is platform tennis, with about 70 members participating in events connected with that activity, according to Beldock.
“We have socials that include all levels of players and are a fun, round-robin style of play averaging between 20 and 30 players,” Beldock says. “We hold one of these a month, and our tournaments are normally capped at around 20 players.”
The maintenance of the winter facilities is a cooperative effort between club employees and members.
“We clear the snow off the paddle courts and the skating rink, but we have members that flood the skating rink and even the paddle program mostly manages itself,” Crippen says.
A changing of the guard has happened in the golf department, with the hiring of a new Head Golf Pro — Benton Sullivan — and a new Grounds Superintendent — Noah Tubbs. Sullivan replaced Tom Haggerty, who retired in 2022 after a half-century of service, and Tubbs assumed the reins from Chris Frielinghaus, who also stepped down last year after more than three decades in the top position. Sullivan and Tubbs previously worked as assistants in their respective departments at Glens Falls and both say they enjoy working at the club.
“I enjoy interacting with the members and making their golf more enjoyable,” Sullivan says. “A big perk is our hidden gem Top 100 golf course that we have. I also have a great staff and we all go by a couple of mottos that we use all the time: ‘Where else would you rather be?’ and ‘We are in the happiness business.’ My staff goes above and beyond to make those things happen every day.”
Tubbs says he’s committed to keeping the golf course in top shape and offers praise to his employees.
“I enjoy working at Glens Falls because of our Top 100 hidden gem golf course and challenging myself to keep making improvements so that we remain on that elite list,” Tubbs says. “I also love the location of the club along with my outstanding staff. They are a bunch of characters that keep me on my toes, but they work hard and we all have fun.”
Crippen says the club hired a new Director of Instruction — Scott Berliner — who will implement new clinics for beginners and children.
Stephen Thirolle was hired as the new racquet pro in 2022 and Crippen says Thirolle tripled the amount of offerings for lessons and clinics for tennis and pickleball. There are member-led instructional clinics and round-robins for platform tennis, according to Beldock.
“When it comes to racquet sports…our members are welcoming of all levels and skills,” Beldock says. “They encourage new players to come to round robins…and help them improve.”
Glens Falls has 75 employees — 25 full-time, year-round workers and 50 seasonal ones. Crippen says recruiting employees has been challenging during the past year due to “extreme labor shortages,” but notes the club usually retains workers once they see “how great the membership is.” He cites multiple steps the club took to keep employees on the payroll: increasing the amount of Paid Time Off for full-time, year-round staff; allowing workers to play the golf course on Mondays; staff events; and appreciation parties.
Offering employees the chance to use the golf course has proven to be a successful perk.
“We have been highlighting that [privilege] in our job postings and have been getting some very good hires,” Crippen says.
One of the most appreciated policy changes, Crippen adds, “was to give all staff a 30-minute paid lunch break, essentially by letting them go home 30 minutes earlier than previously scheduled.”
Beldock says she believes most employees would say that interacting with members is their favorite part of working at the club. For her part, Beldock says working at Glens Falls is as rewarding and enjoyable as any job she’s ever had.
“Working at GFCC is truly like being a part of a family,” she shares. “Our members are second to none, and I come in every day wanting to serve them. They take their time to get to know each of our staff members and relay their appreciation of the job we do.”
Glens Falls’ member-guest events for men’s golf, women’s golf, tennis, pickleball, platform tennis, and duplicate bridge are all well-attended, but Beldock says the three-day men’s golf event draws the most interest.
“We accept 66 teams, and the event sells out within 20 minutes each year,” she says. “Some of our male golfers get in line at the pro shop three-plus hours before signups open, hoping to get a spot.”
The tournament itself starts with practice rounds followed by a stag night dinner on Thursday and concludes with a cookout next to the scoreboard on Saturday.
Beldock says her favorite event is a Turkey Trot organized by a contingent of members. The 100 or so attendees get to participate in a fun and unorthodox round of golf.
“You may start on one hole but end up finishing on another,” Beldock says. “We have anchored boats in Round Pond for a grand finale and even had members tee off from inflatable mattresses.”
Chili and warm sliders are served to players at various spots on the golf course, and whole turkeys and pies are given as prizes to the winners of each flight.
Each April, on the eve of the opening round of The Masters Golf tournament, the club hosts a Masters party in the Grille Room within the clubhouse.
“We have Masters tablecloths and all kinds of memorabilia on the table and we replicate the same menu offered at the Masters tournament,” Crippen says.
The event includes a pool where members try to predict the Masters’ winner, guess the number of tees or balls in a vase, and answer questions in a Masters quiz.
“It is the kickoff to the season and it is often around the time some members who go to warmer weather [in winter] start to come back, ” Beldock says.
Glens Falls typically hosts carnival-style outdoor winter events that include ice skating, platform tennis, sledding and cross country skiing. There is live entertainment, streaming of football games onto a TV, a bonfire, three-on-three hockey games for adults and children, and a paddle clinic or one-day tournament.
Looking ahead, renovation of existing facilities and the addition of new structures are expected during the next few years. This year, the club plans to make about $1 million in improvements to the golf course, add four to six pickleball courts, put in a fourth platform tennis court, and construct an events gazebo on the beach property. Officials are also eyeing an estimated $10 million project to either renovate or replace the clubhouse and the golf house in the next several years.
“I was hired to manage GFCC through this process,” Crippen says. “…Zoning issues on the property have slowed this process, but we expect to be doing the clubhouse in the next two to three years and golf house in three to five years.” C+RB
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