Deeds and WeedsFebruary 19, 2009

Ohio Club Allows Public Play: Sign of the Times?

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Like a lot of private golf clubs these days, Wildwood GC in Middletown, Ohio, was having a problem with declining membership. The exodus since the end of the 2008 golf season had created such serious financial issues that the club, founded in 1922, has taken the extraordinary step -- for a private club, anyway -- of allowing public play.

Starting April 1, non-members will be permitted to play Wildwood after 12:00 noon on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and after 2 p.m. on the weekend. Greens fees will be $24 during the week and $27 on the weekends. Details here.

The move serves two purposes, according to Jerry Horn, Wildwood's board president. First, the revenues it raises will help offset the "financial stress" caused by the loss of members. Second, it will introduce the facility to a group of people who have never played Wildwood -- and at least some of whom, the club hopes, might then consider joining.

A similar situation is going on in Connecticut. The Connecticut State Golf Association (CSGA), concerned about declining membership at facilities across the state, has contacted private clubs to see how many would consider allowing outside play at their course -- either to anyone, or just to golfers who happen to be members at other private clubs. A CSGA representative told me two weeks ago that the organization was still in the process of compiling responses from facilities and wasn't ready to announce the details of the plan.

"In this era of falling revenues, [outside play] is an idea that makes sense for a lot of private golf clubs," he told me. "I think you'll see some kind of program this year in Connecticut -- and maybe in other states as well."

-- G.R.