New York Cityarea golfers frustrated by the inaccessibility of private clubs might consider a new program from Tour GCX Partners (tourgcx.com). For $6,250 per year, members can enjoy ten unescorted tee times for their foursomes at an expanding list of private clubs within hailing distance of Manhattan, as well as at clubs in Las Vegas and south Florida. Members can book tee times two weeks in advance or within as little as twenty-four hours and use their cards for merchandise, food and lessons. Tour GCX will also facilitate introductions to members at participating clubs that cardholders might be interested in joining, and can even arrange for them to play in events at non-participating clubs. The program will soon expand to the Chicago area.
Melrose Country Club, located just north of Philadelphia with a course designed by Alister MacKenzie's protégé, Perry Maxwell, was a storied private club in financial jeopardy because of a declining membership—it was, that is, until some of the members devised a plan to save it. Brothers James and Eddie Lee recently purchased Melrose (sources put the undisclosed sales price at around $5.5 million), and in doing so introduced a new economic model for private clubs. Gone are initiation fees, assessment charges and minimums: The lone expense to most members is an annual fee of $3,500. "The only way to save the club was with outside income," Eddie Lee explains. "We had to stop scaring away members with rising fees." To generate revenue, the Lees are constructing a new facility that will house three or four restaurants, a health and fitness club and a banquet hall—all open to the public. The $20 million project will be funded by a group of proprietary members who, at $50,000 each, will become shareholders in the club. The Maxwell course will also undergo a renovation.
The fight over Druid Hills Golf Club's policies of refusing benefits and golf privileges to partners of gay members continues. This winter the city of Atlanta found the club in violation of a nondiscrimination ordinance and threatened to fine the club $500 a day or up to $90,000 until it complied. Druid Hills, in turn, has filed a lawsuit against the city. The mayor's office has decided not to proceed with the fines until there is a decision made in the case. Meanwhile, a bill introduced in the Georgia senate in January proposes to prohibit local governments from penalizing organizations that treat married and unmarried couples differently. ... When Sam Snead was once asked to name his favorite course, he answered, "You've probably never heard of it—Sonoma Golf Course." Now named the Sonoma Golf Club, the California wine-country course has gone through $1.5 million in renovations that Slammin' Sam would be proud of—a new practice facility and extensive irrigation system have been added, the course's bunkers have been restored and a new clubhouse will debut this fall. The course will also host a Champions Tour event, rather fitting since the Slammer was a founder of the PGA Senior Tour. ... The most popular items sold in the pro shop at Trump National in Briarcliff Manor, New York?Hats with the phrase YOU'RE FIRED.
Black Diamond Ranch (Tom Fazio, 1988), Lecanto, FL; 800-328-8099; $70,000 equity membership.
Shadow Isle (Jerry Pate, 2004), Colts Neck, NJ; 732-625-9211; $150,000 initiation fee.