(Photo: Dave Gorgon/MediaNews Group)
The property with a Donald Ross-designed course now has nearly 500 member families after being “near death” with fewer than 70 in the 1990s. Club leaders and members mobilized to bring about the turnaround through a “rescue and grow” operation that included strategic cost-cutting, “Next Generation” membership recruiting, fundraising and work by committees that honed in on specific needs and initiatives.
After a “near-death experience” that saw its membership dwindle to fewer than 70 families during the 1990s recession, Grosse Ile (Mich.) Golf & Country Club has rebounded to be able to celebrate its 100thanniversary this year with nearly 500 member families, the Southgate (Mich.) News-Herald reported.
The turnaround occurred, the News-Herald reported, after club leaders and members were mobilized and deployed a “rescue-and-grow” operation that included strategic cost-cutting, membership recruiting and a collection of committees that honed in on specific needs and initiatives. The efforts included fundraising through a “1919” committee and a “Next Generation” campaign membership drive that boosted under-40 membership.
That successful rescue effort, the News-Herald reported, was just the latest example of how for decade after decade and generation after generation, members of Grosse Ile have shown commitment to leaving the place better than they found it.
The written history of the club is chock-full of examples of how the land, the golf course and the club’s facilities have been built, nurtured, replaced, restored and improved, the News-Herald reported. Preservation, maintenance and respect have been watchwords for the club’s physical—and social—values.
“It’s a special place,” Leo Stevenson, the club’s President, told the News-Herald, adding that members are quick to meet the needs of the club and of one another. “It’s all about making friends and forging friendships into lifelong bonds.”
The turnaround is evidence, Stevenson added, that much is learned when you live to 100. The club has weathered two world wars, the Great Recession and other challenges, ranging from an outbreak of diseased trees to societal changes that disrupted the perceptions and lure of private clubs.
Rick Nykiel, a dentist and former club President, cited a handful of factors contributing to the club’s longevity. “You start with this being a Donald Ross-designed course,” Nykiel told the News-Herald. “He was way ahead of his time, and we were the beneficiaries.”
The enduring golf culture on Grosse Ile, located on the Detroit River in Wayne County south of Detroit, is a plus, Nykield added, noting that the island community is home to two other courses, West Shore Golf and Country Club, and Waters Edge.
Like Stevenson, Nykiel said a steadfast core of members is at the heart of the club’s success. “My parents took me to the club when I was 8 years old and I never left,” he said. “There is pride in this club and it shows.”
In tough times, Nykiel added, members would bring their own equipment—from shovels to heavy equipment—to help maintain and upgrade the course.
And when the lean times occurred, Stevenson told the News-Herald, “Members would come to me and say: ‘Leo, we can’t let this club go down. It’s too important to Grosse Ile and [the Downriver region].’”
The club’s 100th anniversary is also serving as a call to action, Stevenson noted, that has led to a committed for the club to more than double its contributions to The Salvation Army.
Brian Loftus, a Supervisor for Grosse Ile Township, told the News-Herald that relations between the club and the community have been mutually beneficial.
“The club is an iconic part of the community,” Loftus said. “It’s an asset in many ways.”’
As an airline pilot before he was a township official, Loftus added, he would encounter travelers in California and elsewhere who were familiar with the golf club and Grosse Ile. “They would tell me, ‘It’s just beautiful,’” he said.
Committee work is continuing as the club looks to the future, Stevenson told the News-Herald. While it’s difficult for clubs to sustain themselves for 100 years, he said, “we’ve done it, and we continue to do it.”’
Nykiel, 67, agrees and predicts another century of success for the club, the News-Herald reported. “I don’t think I will be here for that,” he said with a smile. “But the club will be there. We’re planning on it.”
The News-Herald’s report also included a special listing of “100 Things to Know About Grosse Ile Golf and Country Club (http://www.thenewsherald.com/news/things-to-know-about-grosse-ile-golf-and-country-club/article_22359064-01c6-11ea-a4ad-53f70a4f4004.html)