Rye Golf Club has made the turn and is poised for a record back nine.
By Bob Marrow
Rye Golf Club has made the turn and is poised for a record back nine. The City-owned membership club provides enjoyment to close to 20 percent of Rye residents and many others from neighboring towns, while adding to all of our property values. Significant strides have been made recently, some of which may have been overlooked because of the high-profile scandal resulting in the arrest of the former manager.
The Golf Course
The course is in the best shape in its 48-year history due to the efforts of Superintendent Chip Lafferty and his crew. This past season, the fairways were lush and healthy while the greens were rolling fast and true. The No. 3 green was completely renovated and factors that contributed to the green’s decline were addressed to avoid problems in the future. The Junior Golf Program was expanded and head pro Mike Rapisarda implemented a hugely popular ‘glow-in-the dark’ night golf experience.
The Swimming Pool
As expected, there were some challenges during a significant transition year. The pool management structure will need to be adjusted in 2014, likely bringing the Certified Pool Operator and Pool Director positions back in-house, and options for outsourcing versus self-managing lifeguard services are being considered.
Nevertheless, the championship level swim and dive team, led by Cathleen Ferguson, continues to be one of the larger and most successful local programs with over 150 youth training for Division 1 County competitions.
The food service operation was restarted from scratch in March with a new chef, banquet manager, and kitchen staff, all hired by interim manager Jim Lopolito. Unfortunately, the nearly six-month leadership void impacted catering sales at Whitby Castle significantly.
As consensus built in late summer, the Strategic Committee was asked to complete the RFP (Request for Proposal) process and to evaluate food service alternatives for 2014. Multiple bids from experienced restaurant and catering professionals were submitted by the December 27 deadline and are being reviewed.
The Strategic Committee evaluated several alternate organizational structures from complete outsourcing, to outsourcing only the food service operation, to maintaining the status quo. They kept coming back to the fact that the Club has been self-sustaining since 1965, consistent with the original strategy, but that the recent dwindling of reserve balances and escalation of fees coincided with taking over the restaurant. Food service is clearly not the golf club’s core competency from either a marketing or business management perspective.
As a result, the Committee’s recommended changes include improved governance and internal controls along with an RFP for the foodservice operation. More extreme measures could be pursued if these initial initiatives are not successful. Proposals will be vetted by a team comprised of members of the City Council, the Rye Golf Club (RGC) Commission, and the Strategic Committee, in open meetings scheduled this month. Ideally, public hearings and decisions will be concluded by February. The new club manager will be selected after finalizing the scope of work.
The Strategic Committee, City Council, and RGC Commission worked closely together over the summer and fall to improve the charter, work that is still in process for the newly elected teams. Also, of significant note, an energized member base contributed to the bond refinancing that reduced interest costs. Peter Marshall, a local resident with CFO experience, volunteered significant time to assist with the turnaround. He chairs the Strategic Committee.
The Commission welcomed new members to the Finance Committee, with a deeper level of involvement than ever. The City Finance Department now distributes a detailed monthly financial reporting package to the RGC Commission, utilizes biometric scanners for payroll, and has implemented purchasing checks/balances at the department level.
Better information allows the leadership teams to work closely together on business matters including staffing, expense controls, and capital investments. As a result of the collaboration, the club is on pace to deliver a net surplus of over $300,000, the first addition to the reserve balance since 2008.
And the Club is not stopping there. The City is actively pursuing collection of employee dishonesty insurance as well as potential restitution.
The Commission is attracting new resident and non-resident members by reducing first-year fees for 2014. The membership drive runs through March 15. While the club is closed in January and February, catered events are being held. For information, visit the Rye City website, ryeny.gov.
Once financial health is restored, decisions regarding amenity improvements and membership rates can be evaluated.
The author has been a member of Rye Golf Club since he moved to Rye in 1976, and is a member of the Club’s Greens Committee.