How to fix my Golf Club

Detailed information, by region, of restaurants and their wine/corkage policies
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Will Lewis
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How to fix my Golf Club

#1 Post by Will Lewis » August 27th, 2017, 6:21 am

So, this is definitely a first world problem, but I belong to a golf club without a wine/beverage manager. For reasons that are unclear, a self-professed oenophile/member has been put in charge of the wine list at our club for years. His view is that wine should be 300% of cost - just like many restaurants - even though we are a private club (less for more expensive wines). He also favors wines that most people have not heard of, and/or are just OK. While he knows his wine, he is inflexible as to pricing and inventory, though he will "consider" a wine if someone really wants it.

I live in IL, so the wine trade here is layer upon layer, meaning that by the time my club buys a wine, it's often a lot of money (and much more than if I get it on a list) - Kosta Browne being a perfect example.

I've been to other clubs in the area, with much better lists, both in terms of pricing and selection, and no one will do anything about it. Any suggestions for how to approach this? I'm not worried about stepping on toes, though I'll do it politely, and I think the real wine drinkers of the club are behind me. They just have seen that they get nowhere with pushing, though they haven't pushed all that hard. My view is I pay too much money to have crap wine (or a corkage fee) as an option.

Will

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#2 Post by Chris Blum » August 27th, 2017, 6:31 am

Build a coalition. Maybe by starting a monthly wine tasting group to identify like-minded folks.
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#3 Post by TGigante » August 27th, 2017, 6:58 am

Do a side by side comparison vs lists of other clubs for both selection and pricing ratios. Do it blind so you don't see name of club. Show it to others and see if your opinion is supported by their conculsions.

Karen & John Troisi of Jean Edwards (Berserker Business Members) do business here in NJ with a number of golf clubs. Distribution system may be different here in NJ so YMMV but Karen may be offer some assistance if you PM her. Of course, adding JE to the wine list would be a winner but I don't think they have a IL distributor.
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#4 Post by Glenn L e v i n e » August 27th, 2017, 8:53 am

If your club is like many you will need to rise thru the committee ranks to get anything substantive accomplished if the self-professed oenophile (or his family) is/are long-standing at your country club.

I am always thankful Bobby at my old club in Florida was just a great wine guy who didn't think members needed to bleed when ordering wine. He also always had interesting old-world stuff on the list and got very white wine focused when the weather turned hot.
"Never lose sight of the fact that it is just fermented grape juice" - a winemaker and negotiant in Napa Valley, CA

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#5 Post by Will Lewis » August 27th, 2017, 9:11 am

Thank you all for the quick replies and ideas.

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#6 Post by Sherri S h a p i r o » August 29th, 2017, 2:23 pm

Will - is your club member owned? If so, then I suggest reaching out to the chair of the House (or similar) committee.

We have been having a similar issue fairly recently at my NJ club (and yes, we are fortunate to have Jean Edwards wines on the list)! The issue at my club is less about cost and more about selection, but I think the way I dealt with it may be helpful.

We never had a great list, but we did have some decent choices. However, we had turnover of the GM twice in the last 2 years, and even worse, we had a new co-chairperson of the House Committee who held herself out as a very knowledgable foodie, including wine. She overhauled the selection and it was laughable (red wines by the glass were supermarket quality malbec, merlot, Aussie shiraz and an Argentinian cab, for example). I am friendly with the other chairperson of the House Committee (I served on it for at least 10 years), and called him and very respectfully told him that I was disappointed in the new selection and asked about the process. He explained about how this woman took over, and I suggested he speak to some other members who are knowledgable about wine and ask their thoughts. Long story short, I got a call about 2 weeks later from the person I had reached out to, asking if I would meet with him and the head bartender/beverage manager to go over the list, that apparently many other members voiced similar concerns as I had, and since it's a member owned club, they wanted to have the kinds of wines that members wanted! Since then, they've added some better choices and as inventory of the crap is depleted, it won't be replaced.

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#7 Post by Karen Troisi » September 3rd, 2017, 6:58 pm

Thanks for the mentions Tony and Sherri. Yes we have a good presence at NJ country clubs - we have our own wholesaler's license in NJ so we can sell direct vs. through a third party. I do not know if that is possible in Illinois as we only sell direct to consumer in IL.

Have seen different structures within NJ clubs - some have a food and beverage buyer while others have wine committees. Sherri made some excellent recommendations - I would also add that you might want to approach the person currently buying the wines and suggest a wine committee be formed (he can be the president). Several clubs we sell to use this approach - the committee actually tastes all the wines and then they make the selections for the GM/Director/F&B Mgr and work with that person to make sure the wines they want to bring in fit with the club's budget. The committees also organize/book wine dinners. PM me if ypu want additional info.

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#8 Post by ERPark » September 4th, 2017, 12:06 am

To the OP, are you an equity member at your club? Is the dumb bass "oenophile" member an equity member? I'm assuming that your club has multiple levels of membership. If you're not on equal footing as the wine guy, then you're gonna need to get a bunch of folks who are to agree with you.

If you are "same same", then a discussion needs to be had with the GM as well as members who currently hold office (in particular, the president and treasurer). Ask what is the club policy/philosophy about how much markup the pro shop charges on clubs/balls/clothing, and how much of a profit the club strives for with member oriented activities like lunch/brunch/dinner service. Outside events like weddings, holiday parties, graduation celebrations, etc, that are booked by non-members shouldn't be a factor in the discussion.

I'd assume, like my golf club and many others, the philosophy is that anything being sold that will predominantly be to club membership should have a nominal profit markup with a service charge added. The idea is that initiation fees, monthly dues and quarterly food & beverage required spend should be enough to keep the club comfortably afloat, with guest charges and events being the icing on the cake. A reasonable corkage fee is fair, but in no way should membership have to pay egregious markups.
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#9 Post by John O' » September 4th, 2017, 3:25 am

Suggest you look into wine lockers. About 10 years ago our Club offered to buy a refrigeration unit if enough members subscribed to pay for it. The deal was/is you get 10 slots and it cost about $125 up front to pay for the unit and $10 per bottle corkage (paid as they go into the unit). It was fully subscribed within 45 minutes of the email going out.
You sell it 2 ways: (1) Your wine loving members will love it and (2) they will eat at the Club several times more often than they do now.
So, now when faced with a dining choice I can go to restaurant A and pay $50 for a mediocre bottle of wine that retails for $20 or the Club where I pay $50 (including corkage) for a great wine that retails for $75 (many of us are deal hunters here). Even if the food is better at restaurant A, the ambiance at the Club (everyone knows your name) and the prospect of really good vino nudges me to the Club.
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#10 Post by Karen Troisi » September 4th, 2017, 3:42 am

John O' wrote:Suggest you look into wine lockers. About 10 years ago our Club offered to buy a refrigeration unit if enough members subscribed to pay for it. The deal was/is you get 10 slots and it cost about $125 up front to pay for the unit and $10 per bottle corkage (paid as they go into the unit). It was fully subscribed within 45 minutes of the email going out.
You sell it 2 ways: (1) Your wine loving members will love it and (2) they will eat at the Club several times more often than they do now.
Locker programs work well - In NJ the club has to hold a different ABC license in order for the club to legally sell wine to their own members who then store the wine in lockers onsite. I think the first step for the OP - find out what type license your club has so you are making auggestions you can actually implement.
ITB - You should only make wines you love to drink.

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How to fix my Golf Club

#11 Post by Will Lewis » September 4th, 2017, 2:06 pm

[quote="Sherri S h a p i r o"]Will - is your club member owned? If so, then I suggest reaching out to the chair of the House (or similar) committee.

Thanks. I've gone so far as to reach out to the Board. The member in question is a long-time member. I am newer - 4 years old. We are a "traditional " club - we complain behind people's backs, not to their faces. So, what I've done is not typical for our environment. FWIW, I went to the member first. He patted me on the head, and essentially told me I didn't know what I was talking about.

Quite a few members (and I mean tens of members) agree with me, but because they are "old school," no one wants to raise their paddle when it comes time to voice an opinion. They're more than happy to let me be the lone bigmouth, which is useful for them if I'm successful as well as if I'm not.

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#12 Post by Will Lewis » September 4th, 2017, 2:13 pm

Karen Troisi wrote:Thanks for the mentions Tony and Sherri. Yes we have a good presence at NJ country clubs - we have our own wholesaler's license in NJ so we can sell direct vs. through a third party. I do not know if that is possible in Illinois as we only sell direct to consumer in IL.

Have seen different structures within NJ clubs - some have a food and beverage buyer while others have wine committees. Sherri made some excellent recommendations - I would also add that you might want to approach the person currently buying the wines and suggest a wine committee be formed (he can be the president). Several clubs we sell to use this approach - the committee actually tastes all the wines and then they make the selections for the GM/Director/F&B Mgr and work with that person to make sure the wines they want to bring in fit with the club's budget. The committees also organize/book wine dinners. PM me if ypu want additional info.

Karen
IL is as corrupt as it comes in regulating wine sales (i.e. making sure no wine gets sold without going through layers of distributors).

I also forgot to mention that while we do not have a beverage manager, we do have a "wine committee." It is headed by the member in question, and the committee was hand chosen by him. It is all his buddies, a few younger folks (friends' kids or acquaintances who like wine, but have little knowledge - self admittedly), and me, who complained so much they put me on when it was forming.

We have meetings quarterly, if that, and he preselects the wines we will be tasting. So, the only input the "committee" has is which of the wines he has already selected will be going on the menu. He has complete control over everything. Even if we do agree on a particular wine, he controls pricing, again believing that 300% markup is standard (lower for higher priced bottles). Is that true for any of your clubs?

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#13 Post by Will Lewis » September 4th, 2017, 2:17 pm

John O' wrote:Suggest you look into wine lockers. About 10 years ago our Club offered to buy a refrigeration unit if enough members subscribed to pay for it. The deal was/is you get 10 slots and it cost about $125 up front to pay for the unit and $10 per bottle corkage (paid as they go into the unit). It was fully subscribed within 45 minutes of the email going out.
You sell it 2 ways: (1) Your wine loving members will love it and (2) they will eat at the Club several times more often than they do now.
So, now when faced with a dining choice I can go to restaurant A and pay $50 for a mediocre bottle of wine that retails for $20 or the Club where I pay $50 (including corkage) for a great wine that retails for $75 (many of us are deal hunters here). Even if the food is better at restaurant A, the ambiance at the Club (everyone knows your name) and the prospect of really good vino nudges me to the Club.

We actually have the room to do this in our cellar now, I think, and that's not a bad idea. Instead of paying for the unit, it would be paying some fee for membership in the "Private wine club." Right now, our corkage fees are $25, which I find outrageous for a private club. I'd pay $50 a year, though, to be able to store 10 bottles at a time, and be billed $10/bottle upfront as I store. Maybe that makes more sense.

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#14 Post by Will Lewis » September 4th, 2017, 2:21 pm

ERPark wrote:To the OP, are you an equity member at your club? Is the dumb bass "oenophile" member an equity member? I'm assuming that your club has multiple levels of membership. If you're not on equal footing as the wine guy, then you're gonna need to get a bunch of folks who are to agree with you.

If you are "same same", then a discussion needs to be had with the GM as well as members who currently hold office (in particular, the president and treasurer). Ask what is the club policy/philosophy about how much markup the pro shop charges on clubs/balls/clothing, and how much of a profit the club strives for with member oriented activities like lunch/brunch/dinner service. Outside events like weddings, holiday parties, graduation celebrations, etc, that are booked by non-members shouldn't be a factor in the discussion.

I'd assume, like my golf club and many others, the philosophy is that anything being sold that will predominantly be to club membership should have a nominal profit markup with a service charge added. The idea is that initiation fees, monthly dues and quarterly food & beverage required spend should be enough to keep the club comfortably afloat, with guest charges and events being the icing on the cake. A reasonable corkage fee is fair, but in no way should membership have to pay egregious markups.
I am the "same same." It's a non-equity club, but he's been there for 100 years. The GM has nothing to gain by getting into this fight because the dumb bass has a contingent of friends who might gun for the GM if he takes my side. Even if they get rid of the dumb bass, someone still needs to buy and price the wine, and we don't have the budget to hire someone. We also make most of our money from alcohol, and they seem to think that charging members a lot is the way to go. I happen to think that bringing in great wine with a reasonable markup will cause people to drink more and thus eat there more, but maybe that's just me (though others say the same).

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#15 Post by Glenn L e v i n e » September 4th, 2017, 2:31 pm

The private wine locker idea is a great one I have seen be successful elsewhere.
"Never lose sight of the fact that it is just fermented grape juice" - a winemaker and negotiant in Napa Valley, CA

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#16 Post by ERPark » September 5th, 2017, 5:12 pm

Will Lewis wrote:
ERPark wrote:To the OP, are you an equity member at your club? Is the dumb bass "oenophile" member an equity member? I'm assuming that your club has multiple levels of membership. If you're not on equal footing as the wine guy, then you're gonna need to get a bunch of folks who are to agree with you.

If you are "same same", then a discussion needs to be had with the GM as well as members who currently hold office (in particular, the president and treasurer). Ask what is the club policy/philosophy about how much markup the pro shop charges on clubs/balls/clothing, and how much of a profit the club strives for with member oriented activities like lunch/brunch/dinner service. Outside events like weddings, holiday parties, graduation celebrations, etc, that are booked by non-members shouldn't be a factor in the discussion.

I'd assume, like my golf club and many others, the philosophy is that anything being sold that will predominantly be to club membership should have a nominal profit markup with a service charge added. The idea is that initiation fees, monthly dues and quarterly food & beverage required spend should be enough to keep the club comfortably afloat, with guest charges and events being the icing on the cake. A reasonable corkage fee is fair, but in no way should membership have to pay egregious markups.
I am the "same same." It's a non-equity club, but he's been there for 100 years. The GM has nothing to gain by getting into this fight because the dumb bass has a contingent of friends who might gun for the GM if he takes my side. Even if they get rid of the dumb bass, someone still needs to buy and price the wine, and we don't have the budget to hire someone. We also make most of our money from alcohol, and they seem to think that charging members a lot is the way to go. I happen to think that bringing in great wine with a reasonable markup will cause people to drink more and thus eat there more, but maybe that's just me (though others say the same).
My club charges $20 for corkage. Stems are lousy. But our wine list markups aren't horrible. Definitely south of 100% markups. I'd say 50% is the highest on the low end. That being said, the list is skewed to the typical labels you'd find at most any steakhouse or chain restaurant. Our F&B Director is actually fairly knowledgeable about wine, but the membership isn't as savvy.

Since you've made repeated attempts to communicate with the dumb bass, the suggestion that you get wine lists from other clubs in the area has a lot of merit. Nothing wrong with formally expressing some interest in joining other clubs to gain access to those clubs' wine lists. Least you'll get a comped round of golf there as a prospective member (well, that's what we do when we're hosting posting members).
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#17 Post by John Glas » November 11th, 2017, 6:38 pm

$25 corkage for a private club is a bit steep but I would pay that anyway.

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#18 Post by Victor Hong » November 14th, 2017, 11:02 am

Join a yacht club, and drink on your boat. Corkage is free, and personal choice is too. [cheers.gif]
Chicago Yacht Club---which is in Illinois too---charges only $15, if you open your own wine in the dining areas.
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#19 Post by Chris Freemott » November 28th, 2017, 5:06 am

Will,
My brother works here: http://www.kempersports.com/about-us/executive-team

Let me know if you want an introduction. He may have some ideas. Especially if his firm helps manage your place. And he’s local to us, Lake Zurich, so May be able to drop in and give you some ideas.

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#20 Post by Adam Z A K K A » December 5th, 2017, 9:33 am

It is my understanding that clubs are not-for-profit and thus should not by marking up wine at the rate of your typical restaurant. Clubs should be more/less passthrough for the wine as small markups for related costs.

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#21 Post by wdabrowski » December 11th, 2017, 3:47 am

To remove a steel shaft from a metal wood or iron, place the shaft in a super lock tight shaft holder. Tighten the STSL in a vise. If there is a plastic ferrule in place, wrap a wet paper towel around it to prevent burning. While wearing protective leather gloves, aim the flame of a torch at the hosel.
William.d

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#22 Post by Mont Stern » January 1st, 2018, 12:18 pm

Get them to sell wine lockers to members that can hold wine that members can drink with meals.

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#23 Post by Howard Cooper » January 2nd, 2018, 12:30 pm

Will Lewis wrote:So, this is definitely a first world problem, but I belong to a golf club without a wine/beverage manager. For reasons that are unclear, a self-professed oenophile/member has been put in charge of the wine list at our club for years. His view is that wine should be 300% of cost - just like many restaurants - even though we are a private club (less for more expensive wines). He also favors wines that most people have not heard of, and/or are just OK. While he knows his wine, he is inflexible as to pricing and inventory, though he will "consider" a wine if someone really wants it.

I live in IL, so the wine trade here is layer upon layer, meaning that by the time my club buys a wine, it's often a lot of money (and much more than if I get it on a list) - Kosta Browne being a perfect example.

I've been to other clubs in the area, with much better lists, both in terms of pricing and selection, and no one will do anything about it. Any suggestions for how to approach this? I'm not worried about stepping on toes, though I'll do it politely, and I think the real wine drinkers of the club are behind me. They just have seen that they get nowhere with pushing, though they haven't pushed all that hard. My view is I pay too much money to have crap wine (or a corkage fee) as an option.

Will
My country club has a wine club. We pay $235 a year to be members of the club. For that, I get to go to a wine tasting free every month. The guy who runs the wine club is an outsider who does this part-time and works at a wine and beer store nearby. We get to buy wines from the tastings at 20% above wholesale and can keep them at the club (we can put them in a wine locker (maximum of around 24 bottles or so) and use them for dinner at the club. The club's wine list generally is what it is, but wine club members get a 20% discount on prices off the wine club list. Also, I can bring my own wines and pay $10 corkage (corkage is $15 for club members who are not wine club members.

The club gets a good bit out of this wine club and so do we. It has become pretty popular, so it helps with member retention, always a problem at clubs these days. Also, a bunch of us eat dinner at the Club most months after the tasting, so the club also gets more diners on a weeknight that it likely would not otherwise get. And, the Wine Club also has periodic wine dinners that we pay extra for. Again, the club makes money.

It helps that the current President of the club is a wine club member who enjoys going to the monthly tastings.
Howard

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