'Multi member club' catching on in Chicago

When a slumping economy causes membership rolls at private golf clubs to drop, is there a solution besides shutting down? How about offering modified memberships without full benefits?

That's the idea behind MM (for "multi-member") Players Club in Chicago, which is profiled in this story in Sunday's Chicago Tribune. For $1,000 (or $700 apiece if you join as part of a foursome), golfers get access to 17 private clubs in the Chicago area -- and the number of facilities participating in the venture (like the golfers themselves) is growing.

MM Players Club is the brainchild of Mike Munro, who owns and operates White Pines Golf Dome in Bensenville. Let him explain how he came up with the idea:

"A lot of guys talked [during the winter] about having to cut back on business hours and staff," Munro told the Tribune. "I thought there must be a way for clubs to add revenue while maintaining their private club image. Why not make some of their slow times available to the public?"

There are some restrictions to the program. Access to the most of the clubs is limited to weekdays and weekend afternoons, and members have to pay a guest fee (typically between $70 and $100). But it seems to be catching on. According to the story, when Munro first hatched the idea, 48 of the first 50 clubs he contacted turned him down. But now?

"We're getting calls from clubs asking to participate," he says.

-- G.R.