Economy Hurting the Country Club Set

Things are tough all over

The market's in the tank, the GDP is shrinking and unemployment is on the rise. It was only a matter of time before the financial crisis was felt at your local country club.

Even with the drop in business at the Farms Country Club in Wallingford, general manager Howard Murphy considers himself lucky.

"We've been moderately affected; we’re down about 4 percent from a year ago,"  Murphy told the New Haven Register. "But in this economy, I consider us to be very fortunate. Guys that I’ve talked to say they’re down 10 to 15 percent."

It's not just the ailing economy that's driving members away. Many folks are dropping out as other priorities dominate their time.

"The old, traditional golf club, whose membership focus was on men, is becoming a dinosaur," said William McMahon Sr., founder of the St. Louis-based consulting firm McMahon Group Inc. that counts about 1,200 private country clubs among its clients.

And so Richter Elser, general manager of the Quinnipiack Club in New Haven, has launched a makeover of his facility.

"Clubs have to keep reinventing themselves," he said.

Elser is in the midst of engineering one such makeover at the Quinnipiack Club.

“New Haven has evolved into a strong nonprofit business base,” Elser said. “The days of the corporate titans, like (longtime SNET executive) Alfred Van Sinderen, with their causes are gone, but the nonprofits that they supported remain... We are giving the nonprofit an event, but they are bringing people into the club and exposing them to what we have to offer,” he said.

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