Rough times for private golf clubs

From The DesMoines Register (US)


The Fort Dodge Country Club was a thriving place when David Sergeant's family joined in the 1950s.

"Membership flourished," said Sergeant, now a Fort Dodge attorney. "Things were cooking."

The good old days are gone. A significant drop in membership has forced the club, celebrating its 100th anniversary this summer, to think creatively to make sure the doors to the original clubhouse stay open.

According to the National Golf Foundation, the number of private clubs in the United States dropped from 4,898 in 1988 to 4,415 just 20 years later, and 10 to 15 percent of the existing clubs are "seriously challenged, financially and otherwise, which projects to at least 500 or so clubs nationwide."

This fall at the Fort Dodge Country Club, $30,000 worth of aronia berry bushes will be planted in a three-acre organic plat west of the No. 3 tee. The club sold members $1,000 investment subscriptions to buy the plants. The berries, used for things like wines, pharmaceuticals and jellies, won't produce a crop for at least three years.

"If we can just keep things going here for the next three years, this will be the equivalent of 40 to 50 memberships," said Sergeant, who serves on the club's long-range planning committee. "We all realize it's a high-risk thing. But it's worth a shot."


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