By Howard Husock
What approaches might be best to make possible a lower pool fee at Rye Golf Club without requiring a major infusion of taxpayer money?
There are a number of practical approaches that the Rye Golf Club Commission might consider. For instance, it’s well worth considering whether pool fees could be lowered by raising the cost of golf.
The two fees currently bring in roughly the same amount of revenue for the Club, which the City currently requires to be a self-supporting enterprise. A resident daily golf membership costs $3,100, according to the most recent fee schedule posted on the City website. That’s relatively costly compared with other municipal golf courses in the Eastern U.S. For instance, The Griff in Greenwich charges resident members $165 per year, East Falmouth, Massachusetts charges $2,250 per person, North Palm Beach, Florida $2,244, and Rockville, Maryland, $145 per month.
Rye Golf is, however, strikingly inexpensive compared to private golf clubs in and around Westchester. The Journal-News has reported that the average initiation fee for new members at one of the 47 private golf courses in Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam counties is $51,000; the fee for Trump National in Briarcliff Manor is at the other end of the spectrum — $200,000. In contrast, Rye Golf advertises that, “it prides itself on affordable annual membership dues.” and on initiation fee.”
Does the City of Rye really want to be in the business of offering low golf club rates? Perhaps low rates, compared to private golf courses, could be justified if there were no other public golf courses in and around Rye. There are, however, no fewer than 20 other public courses in the three-county area — including six courses owned and operated by Westchester County, among them Maple Moor in White Plains.
It’s important to note that all County recreational activities — indeed, all Westchester County operations of any kind — are disproportionately supported by property taxpayers in Rye, where the increase in home values compared to those elsewhere in the County have long been driving up our share of County taxes. In other words, it makes sense for Rye golf enthusiasts to use the County courses —because they’re already paying for them. Those who nonetheless prefer a club should not expect “an affordable annual membership” fee.
There are other approaches to lowering the pool fees, however. Sometimes lowering a price can actually increase revenue. So it might well be that a lower price for half the summer — perhaps August only, or even the last two weeks of that month — could induce many potentially new members put off by the current high annual fee. Other special rates — for grandparents and grandchildren, daily guest passes — should be considered. In Great Neck, a community not dissimilar to Rye, not only do annual swim passes cost but $260 per family but five-day passes are sold as well, for $75. Similarly, the option of paying a daily fee for a round of golf — rather than requiring membership — is common at virtually all of the municipal courses.
Finally, it’s well worth the City considering getting out of the restaurant business, the third component of Rye Golf Club. Proceeds from the pool and golf must go, in part, to upkeep and operations of Whitby Castle restaurant, an historic building
The ideas above may not be the best, nor the only approaches to making the Rye Golf Club pool more appropriately priced for the full range of City of Rye household incomes, but they may help the City and the Club recognize that it’s time to rethink the business model of the Post Road facility.