The “official” recession may be over, but don’t tell that to private golf clubs. A reduction in membership rolls has them scrambling to make up for the income they once counted on from dues-paying members. From old and established clubs like Country Club of Farmington (CT) to those less than a decade old, like the The Members Club at Grande Dunes in Myrtle Beach (SC), the definition of “private” has been expanded beyond “members only.”
I recently learned that the venerable Farmington club, whose first holes were laid out in the Connecticut village in the 1890s and whose 18 holes designed by Devereux Emmett opened for play in 1924, had agreed to make some tee times available to Boxgroove.com, an online service
Farmington’s club itself is unpretentious, with a roster of amenities that includes only a couple of lighted platform tennis courts and the aged, but comfortable, clubhouse, and no pool. If you want to warm up on the practice range before your round, show up early; the range is as far from the clubhouse as you can get, near the 9th green and 10th tee (but the great little snack shop at the 10th tee, along the Farmington River, serves an outstanding lobster roll). I hope the club permits the Boxgroove players to linger after their round on the deck between the clubhouse and first tee; nowhere will you find diners and golfers in closer proximity, just a few feet from each other. It makes for a pressure filled opening tee shot and the occasional catcalls from one member to the next.
Although the Boxgroove arrangement removes the “strictly” designation from “strictly private,” Farmington still requires two members to vouch for an applicant for membership. Some traditions die hard.
The Members Club at Grande Dunes, next door to the more established Grande Dunes Resort Course (by Roger Rulewich), hardly had time to establish any traditions before the recession hit and put the brakes on membership applications for the new club and its golf course, designed by Nick Price and Craig Shreiner. On my first visit to the private Grande
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the desperate measure in the world of private golf clubs is to change the very definition of “private golf club.”