No business has had to change faster with recent times than golf. And no golf establishments were more vulnerable during the Great Recession than private country clubs, which lost high-level players amid the stock market and real-estate collapse.
Linwood Country Club met the dilemma head on. The 95-year-old establishment actively recruits members, provides innovative programs for them and offers a compelling place to play. Applicants must be approved, of course, but they receive incentives once unheard-of in the industry.
A business known for its character often sports one.
A member making a commitment for 2017 and 2018 receives golf privileges now. This is a prolonged “test drive,” fitting a consumer environment that demands value. The promo has attracted about 150 members in the past few years according to Jeff LeFevre, the director of golf at Linwood.
“What we have found from talking to our members is the need to address their time concerns,” LeFevre says. “The money is not an issue for people these days, but they would like to get around faster. There are a number of ways to do that, especially here. As a member, you can come out when you’d like, sometimes have the place to yourself, skip around to different holes ...”
As for the course, it is charming and deceptive. Designed in 1920, it features a premium on accuracy. Although the yardage isn’t punitive — 6,349 from the back set of four tee boxes and 6,019 from the mid tees most people use — the small greens are not easily hit in regulation. Swirling wind, strategically-placed bunkers, small sloping greens and special design elements enhance course character.
The 11th is a perfect example of design and character. Water widening from left to right adds intrigue to the drive. A solid shot that starts right, for instance, can catch the edge of the water. Pin placements are a significant consideration here.
Harry Bittner is one of the area's top innovators.
The 418-yard, par-4 seventh is considered the most difficult on the course. A forced carry of 150-185 yards marks the tee shot. The approach requires a tough decision because a creek runs across 20 yards in front of the green. A conservative play results in a layup shot and a pitch over the water. A gamble means trying to clear the water on the second shot. But the green may not hold the shot and a pin placement behind the left-side bunker makes the shot more difficult.
Eight, like hole 11, offers an excellent view of the Atlantic City skyline.Golf will return in the spring.