The Florida club, which dates back to 1923 and once had 900 members, had seen its membership ranks fall precipitously, but no-initiation-fee packages have attracted new interest. A new $4 million clubhouse could be built if progress continues.
The Country Club of Winter Haven (Fla.), born in 1923 as the Lake Region Country Club and then renamed in 2013 after being bought by a group of equity members, has rolled out three promotional pricing options in an effort to attract new members, reported The Ledger of Lakeland, Fla.
Once the home of 900 or so members including citrus barons and elected officials, the club’s membership had fallen into the 140s when 2014 began, The Ledger reported. But membership has now climbed back to its current 186, thanks largely to new membership options that carry no initiation fees and resulted in 15 new memberships in the first three weeks after being introduced, The Ledger reported.
The club’s new Discovery Golf Membership offers full use of golf, tennis, fitness and dining facilities, and advance tee times, for $350 a month. A seasonal option offers the same privileges between November 1 and April 30, for $550 a month. For those less interested in golf, the Discovery Tennis Membership offers use of tennis, fitness and dining facilities, with advance court times and no court fees, as well as six rounds of golf per year, for $200 a month.
The club’s General Manager, Randy Houseman, told The Ledger that the new approaches represented a new understanding of the market. “We’ve reacted to that and adjusted,” Houseman said.
The club has plans for several million dollars’ worth of upgrades, The Ledger reported, and a lot of work has already gone into the 290-acre property since it was bought by the member group.
“Every piece of grass out here is new,” Houseman said.
So are the sand bunkers, irrigation system and landscaping, thanks to a Rees Jones/Bill Bergin redesign completed in the summer of 2013. There are even a few new ponds.
The golf course has matured in a way that has made it one of the best in the area, Houseman told The Ledger. The greenery is filling in and the fairways are carpet-like clean and smooth.
Roger Phillips, Chairman of the club’s Membership Committee and a 40-year member, told The Ledger that he has seen changes not only in Winter Haven’s name, ownership and facilities quality, but also in its culture.
“It’s a friendly, friendly atmosphere,” he said, noting that all potential members are welcome on the golf course, regardless of their ability.
And if you don’t have a foursome, that’s OK—you’ll be invited to join someone else’s and make a five-some, Phillips added.
“Here you can pretty much go out how you like, as long as you’re not imposing on anybody,” Houseman concurred.
Phillips said the club is targeting members between the ages of 35 and 50, to get more families involved.
“That’s what’s going to help this thing grow,” he said.
Big projects at the club, including a proposed 25,000-sq. ft., $4 million clubhouse, will likely need another two to three years before being completed, Houseman told The Ledger.