Bassett Country Club is looking to the past to ensure its future.
A “Revive Our Club” plan being implemented with help from consultants is designed to eventually take the club back to being strictly private.
The club has operated consistently since 1926. In recent years, though, it has been “very close” to shutting its doors due to revenue losses stemming from a decline in membership, said board President Len Dillon.
To improve its finances, the club became “semi-private,” meaning anyone who is not a dues-paying member has been able to use its facilities, including the golf course and restaurant, according to Dillon.
Some restrictions will be placed on nonmembers beginning April 1, he said. For instance, a members-only refreshment area is planned.
With nonmembers able to enjoy “the very same things” as members, there has been “no value to being a member,” said Dan Breneman of Signet Golf Construction and Management, the firm involved in executing the recovery plan. He added that view was based on member comments.
“Our whole goal is to create member value,” said Breneman, who basically is managing the club’s indoor operations.
That, along with improvements to the golf course and other amenities, plus reductions in dues, should entice people to join, club officials said.
Signet Golf owner Peter Dejak will oversee improvements to the club’s nine-hole golf course. The improvements, club officials said, will include landscape changes and additional tees enabling golfers — upon completing Hole 9 — to turn around and play the course again, having a completely different golfing experience in the process.
About 40 pine trees near the course will be removed, Dillon said. Some of the trees were damaged during storms, including a tornado that struck the Bassett area in 2004, he recalled.
Removing the trees will make the course look “more pleasing,” he said, and “the ease of play will be improved, which will speed up play.”
Clubhouse renovations will include a remodeled “pro shop,” locker room and dining area. Board member Jim Franklin said the club aims to create a more informal dining experience overall, but formal dining still will be available.
Also, the club plans to eventually reinstate tennis and open a fitness center, Breneman said.
Club officials did not release cost figures for the improvements, but they said members have agreed to share in paying the costs.
An article in the club’s January newsletter states that members received “a special investment opportunity” enabling them to “recoup their investment in a 12-month period.”
Members were consulted in developing the plans, which have been endorsed by the board and the bank financing them, the newsletter shows.
“We feel very positive” that the club will recover and prosper again, Franklin said.
As soon as 150 more members can be obtained, the club will go private again, Dillon said.
Bassett Country Club now has about 80 members. That is down from a high of 226 more than a decade ago, according to Franklin.
Club membership declined amid economic troubles, including shutdowns of furniture manufacturing plants in Bassett and Stanleytown in the past 10 to 15 years, Franklin said.
Most members through the years have been employees of those companies and their families, he added.
When people lose their jobs, they have less disposable income so they cut nonessential spending, and country clubs are “not immune,” Dillon said.
Now that the local economy seems to be improving, the club wants to lure back former members as well as attract new ones, including younger people, officials said.
The club has different dues for different types of memberships, including individual, family, out-of-towners and people 35 years and younger who qualify for “junior memberships,” according to its website.
How much dues will drop has not yet been determined. However, the club wants dues to be “affordable to all demographics,” especially young adults, Breneman said.
Current members are a mix of older people, including ones who have been members for many years, and younger ones, Franklin said.
Yet there is “not a large contingent of junior members,” he said.
The highest dues, the website shows, are for a regular membership. The $1,300 annual fee, payable in monthly installments of $108.34, includes full privileges for everyone in a household, including unmarried children younger than 21 and full-time students younger than 23.
Breneman said he wants to see a full membership drop to less than $100 a month.
Some country clubs cater to the wealthy, Dillon acknowledged, but not all. Bassett Country Club wants to appeal to families, he said, by offering a variety of social and athletic activities, including swimming as well as golf.
“A big part of our resurgence will be the social aspect of the club,” Franklin said.
“We want it to be a place where friends want to come and spend time with friends,” Dillon added.