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Shelter Island club plans changes to reverse financial losses

Shelter Island Country Club officials said revenue losses caused them to implement financial changes on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. (Credit: Newsday / Rachelle Blidner)

Shelter Island Country Club officials have promised to lease the clubhouse bar and restaurant, review finances monthly and implement other measures to keep the 115-year-old public golf course afloat.

Club officials told town board members on Tuesday that they will also balance the club’s checkbook, host a membership drive and execute purchase orders to help reverse a 34 percent decline in revenue between 2015 and 2016.

Members will lease the bar and restaurant for three years to save $117,000 in operating expenses and assure the club has guaranteed income.

“We’re going to run this like a business,” said Gordon Gooding, chairman of the club’s newly formed financial committee. “We’re going to watch this money like a hawk.”

Last year, board members had to slash expenses by 36 percent to make up for the stark decline in revenue and take out a $10,000 loan from the town to cover equipment. Sales at the club-operated bar dropped 40 percent. Fewer members meant a 25 percent drop in membership revenue, and fewer played rounds reduced greens fees. The restaurant has changed operators every year since 2013.

Ron Lucas, the club’s president, said that the club “had no funds” for its vendors or paid employees last year, but that those debts — save for the town loan — have been repaid in time to open on April 1.

“We want to ensure the club stays in the black,” Lucas said before he presented the town board with its first loan payment check at a work session Tuesday.

The town purchased the club — which is on the National Register of Historic Places — for $275,000 in 1978. The 9-hole golf course, also known as “Goat Hill,” is run by a nonprofit board of directors.

In the winter, the course is run on an “honor system,” with players asked to put $10 per round in a box on the clubhouse porch, according to two signs posted at the club Tuesday.

Belle Lareau, chairwoman of the club’s development committee, said membership fees will not increase this year, although members will be responsible for paying sales tax for the first time.

Other planned improvements include opening a Courtesy Pro Shop, making three golf tournaments open to the public and using volunteers to help with maintenance, Lareau said. The board, which has three new members, is also considering creating a foundation for donations toward improving the golf course.

“We really have a jewel here,” Lareau said.

The club’s finances will continue to be audited yearly, said Town Supervisor James Dougherty, who noted the financial plan gave him a “high comfort level” and asked club officials to present a mid-year financial review.

Gooding said the plan is “long range,” so it “may not be perfect” this year.

“We need to learn from the past, and we’re moving forward,” Gooding said.


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