BRATTLEBORO -- Membership is down at Brattleboro Country Club as of late, and that concerns Jason Kelley, since he and many others who enjoy the course and its facilities, see it as a community asset.
Kelley serves on the club’s board of directors, and heads up communications and marketing. A recent decision by the board was made to produce an assessment to review a shortfall pertaining to the club’s operational budget this year due to declining membership.
After the review, the board took another vote where it was decided to apply an additional $400 fee to each club member to make up for the deficit.
Dave Henry, club treasurer and member for over 25 years, said most patrons were okay with the price hike considering membership rates have fallen from $1995 last year to $1495 this year, but others are understandably frustrated.
"It’s a balancing act when you’ve got to please everyone," said Henry. "Member dues pay for course and club operations so we can fulfill our obligations as the board. If we’re looking at half a million dollars to operate for the year, and we’ve only got a few hundred members ... well, you can do the math."
Henry stated the club this year lowered its budget by about $16,000.
The board also lists one of its reasons for the assessment is the loss this year of 28 shareholder members, most likely the result of the increased dues.
And while Kelley said
"I think there is some misinformation about the club floating around in its relation to the community," said Kelley. "People think the course is totally private, and that it costs and arm and leg to play here."
But the club is semi-private, which means it is open to the public with membership options. Kelley said the club is owned by its members, and because of that there aren’t many courses like it anywhere.
To adjust to changes due to the assessment, this year the club came up with a playing pass system, which allows access to the course either Monday-Thursday, or Friday-Sunday for about $800 for the year for non-members, with few limitations. The idea is to give newer players access to an almost-member type experience at a reduced cost. Players who sign up now get the rest of this year included.
The board members said they’d also like the club to appeal more to families and children. "For a couple hundred bucks, any child up to 18 years of age can play the course almost anytime," said Kelley.
Kelley and Henry said they did their research and compared pricing at other courses. Their conclusion was that Brattleboro is just as competitive, if not less expensive, than other popular area courses.
Henry said the board has listened to its patrons and are making other policy changes to better suit them. One major change is that the club will most likely do away with its "15-mile rule" which states that people who live within 15 miles of the club, who aren’t members, have restricted access to the course for June, July, and August.
In addition, the course has implemented new rates for the rest of the season, including a 9-hole game for $20, and a 18 hole game for $30.
"We just don’t want to see people who live in town leave to go play in New Hampshire or Massachusetts," said Henry. "We want to make sure people enjoy coming here."
Brattleboro Country Club hosts close to ten charity tournaments annually, which come at a cost to its volunteers, according to the club’s board members.
Henry said one of biggest challenges in the economic history of the course was the construction of its front 9 that was replaced 12 years ago, a project that cost close to $3 million.
Henry also cites a weak economy, an aging Windham County population, and a shift in town from a product to a service-based industry as additional reasons behind the struggle to maintain the club’s continued operation.
David Aquino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 164.