The Coast News Group

Exclusivity of golf club in discussion

RANCHO SANTA FE — Should the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club offer nonresident, associate memberships to Covenant members who supported the club for years, but who have been forced by circumstance to sell their property and move away?
That is the question debated at the Jan. 20 meeting of the Association. The audience was filled with people both for and against the proposal, and all were given a chance to voice their opinion, looking to the Association for a decision. In the end, the Association decided to leave the decision up to the homeowners.
“We decided to notify the entire membership of the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant, because it is a community asset and we wanted them to have the opportunity for input,“ Director Roxanna Foxx said.
The controversy centers around a proposal by the Golf Club which would allow people who have moved away from Rancho Santa Fe to maintain a membership in the club as an associate member after they had lived in the Covenant for at least 10 years.
These nonresident associate members would have the same privileges as regular members to use the golf club facilities, but would not be able to vote, hold office or use any other Rancho Santa Fe facility.
Jim Boyce, membership chairman, told the Association that each year club members are forced to cancel their memberships after selling their Covenant property.
“Generally, they leave the Covenant because of physical, economic or personal reasons that require they move to another area,” Boyce said. “Many wish to continue their long association with the golf club they have enjoyed and supported for many years. With the establishment of the nonresident association, they would be able to do that. It is somewhat selfish, but we want to bring our friends back and maintain their status in membership in the club and the friendships.”
He said the offering, which would probably amount to fewer than 20 people, would be a “one-time,” event.
“The memberships would be from year-to-year,” he said.
Boyce said it would financially help the golf club because play is down about 12 percent, not only in Rancho Santa Fe, but nationwide.
Steve Nordstrom, general manager, said at least 100 members have been lost in the past five years and that fewer members are signing up.
“There are less than 20 new members a year. It once was 40,” he said.
Ken Bien, spoke against the proposal, telling the Association that because the club is owned by the entire community, the entire community should be notified before any changes are made. Many people who are not members of the golf club may not learn about the proposal and be able to make a decision about its use.
“It‘s an asset to the entire community,” he said, adding the Association is on a “slippery slope“ to diluting the value of regular memberships.
“This is a major thing I think you need to think through,” he said. “This has a long tail on it.”
Greg Hildren, former golf club president who had a hand in the club’s remodeling, also spoke against the proposal.
“I would urge you to strike this down and send it back for more study,” he said.
At the very least, he said he wishes the associate members should have lived in the Covenant for at least 15 years and that it should have a sunset clause of, say, three years.
Speaking in favor of the proposal was Mark McClure, who has been a golf professional for 40 years at many different golf courses.
“Just about every course or country club has a nonresident membership and they pay less because they won’t be using it as much,” he said.
He said offering the associate nonresident membership could be a help to the golf club.
”It has a lot of value on a lot of levels,” McClure said.
Susan Bien countered with the fact that the golf course is owned by the entire Covenant, not just by the golfers or an outside company.
“That is a very big difference,” she said.