Nearly 300 members purchased the Chapin, S.C. club and agreed to perform administrative duties and manual labor to keep it in shape.
About 300 members of Timberlake Country Club made an unusual agreement when they bought the Chapin, S.C. property: they would do much of the work to operate and maintain the club, the New York Times reported.
Michael Kletter, 68, is one of the 300 who pledged to maintain the course.
“No, I didn’t dream of manual labor,” Kletter said. “But the recession changed everything. The golf course was in danger of closing. It’s not a golf community without a golf course. We had to do something.”
It became clear to club members that action was necessary to preserve some of the lifestyle they came to enjoy.
“I know the old golf-community culture was a life of leisure,” said Jon Pierce, a retired professor. “But a lot of those golf courses are going bankrupt. Being leisurely has left people with a backyard of knee-high weeds instead of a beautiful golf course. The economic reality is that we had to protect our lifestyle and investment.”
When the club needed a new fitness center, grill and card room in the clubhouse, one member donated the wallboard, which others installed. Two members also built rolling bar stations for outdoor parties. Club President Julie Nelson logged nearly 3,000 hours of members’ labor, under the supervision of the course superintendent.
“The members’ sweat equity cuts our maintenance budget in half,” said Timberlake’s General Manager, David Madden, whose maintenance budget is about $250,000, or about one-sixth of annual revenue.
That sort of hands-on maintenance of the club is not a recent development for Timberlake, as it is common for couples to adopt a hole on the golf course and maintain the grounds surrounding it.
“I hope the economy improves and the members might not have to do all this extra work,” Madden said. “But, right now, it’s letting us survive and prosper.”
Timberlake isn’t the only club with members buying and contributing to the maintenance of the property. The WildeWood and Woodcreek clubs in Columbia, S.C. saw 574 members contribute an average of $4,700 to purchase thosee clubs, then take on administrative duties.
“Only the top 5 percent of clubs —the very most high-end clubs—will be able to run things as they did five or 10 years ago,” Bill McDougall, a retired airline pilot who spearheaded the purchase, said. “The members now want to be involved, they want to help set priorities and they want things streamlined.”
At Timberlake, members are finding that maintaining the land they’ve enjoyed for so long has its benefits.
“When it’s your golf course, it doesn’t feel like work,” Linda Hamel, 68, said. “You know, late in life, we’ll sit on the porch in our rockers, look out at the fairways and say: ‘We did that. And it was worth it.’ “