Renovations at Pelham Country Club designed to draw new, younger members

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The Pelham Country Club has undertaken massive renovations in three major sectors of its facilities in order to attract a new membership demographic and set itself apart from the surrounding clubs, in what is considered to be a suffering industry. 

The demand for country clubs is shrinking as younger people lose interest in what were once the most attractive features of these clubs: golf and a sense of refined living. They instead are looking for alternative activities that forego the laborious initiation process, extensive membership expenses and a history of exclusivity and racial discrimination that is proving difficult to leave behind. 

There has been a gradual decline in interest in the clubs of Westchester, which itself has a noticeable concentration of country and yacht clubs as compared to other regions of the country. A legislative proposal was introduced in March that would allow municipalities to assess the value of golf courses based on the highest and best use instead of current use, effectively threatening nearly one third of the private club industry in the state. 

The PCC is actively trying to expand its attractions and abandon any notion of pretension, instead promoting family-based activities and growing modernity. General Manager and Chief Operating Officer Tim Cole said, “I think what’s most appealing about this club is that it is a very family friendly club. It’s not a pretentious club. People feel comfortable here. We look to create an atmosphere that reminds them of home.”

The PCC’s major efforts to increase membership and bring in a younger audience can be observed in the completed renovations as well as extensive plans for the upcoming years. The three major projects involve the three largest features of the club: tennis, the pool complex and the golf course that spreads throughout Pelham Manor and neighboring New Rochelle. 

The tennis project was completed in January of 2018, as a dome was installed over two of the upper tennis courts, allowing members to play throughout the winter rather than traveling to indoor tennis clubs. Cole said, “The tennis bubble has been a home run for the place and had a dramatic impact on the performance of the rackets department, with all the new interest flowing through that area.” 

The second is the two-phase plan to reconstruct the pool complex and dining terrace. The first part of the project was completed shortly before Memorial Day weekend, which involved installing a pool heater, a splash pad in the playground area for the younger pool-goers and constructing a sundeck and bar that sits atop the pool house for guests ages 21 and older. 

Cole described the new sundeck and lounge areas as a “smash hit,” saying, “It is just a spectacular new venue that the members absolutely love here. They can sit up there. It’s very breezy up there, very comfortable, and it was important for us to create an adults-only area because pretty much everything else here is family oriented.” 

The second phase of pool reconstruction is set to begin in September and entails putting in a whole new pool deck, a zero-entry kiddie pool, a series of pergola shade structures over the pool deck that will replace a lot of the canopies that currently exist and constructing a new check-in building and entrance area. 

The final stage of renovation pertains to the expansive 18-hole golf course for which the club is well known. Five holes will be taken out of service beginning in August, and the aim will be to alter the topography of the course in an effort to improve the drainage systems of each hole and create a second irrigation pond, effectively eliminating the need to purchase irrigation water. 

The overarching theme of the renovation process is investing in projects that will draw new membership to the club, both within Pelham and increasingly from NYC.

“There are a lot of young people coming up here, join from the city and some of them have families, young children, and ultimately a number of them will likely move out of the city at some point and come up into the suburbs,” said Cole. 

The accessibility and increased range of activities for members have put the PCC on a path that could well appeal to a younger audience and avoids the “aging” phenomenon to which country clubs across the nation are falling victim.

“You have to keep your facilities fresh and current, your programming exciting and continue to adapt to the changing needs and wants of the membership,” Cole said. “People want a lot more out of a country club than golf.” 

Renovations are set to continue throughout the next several years.