Children’s letters, family sponsors help bring Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club Halloween party back to life


By Karen Billing

After a cancellation scare, the Halloween party at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club is back on, thanks to the efforts of several community members and persuasive children. The Friday, Oct. 31, event will run from 7-11 p.m. for adults and children, and will feature a DJ, trick or treating, costume contest, adult and children’s buffets, ghoulish games and freakish fun.

Guests are asked to RSVP by Monday, Oct. 27.

The RSF Golf Club had recently sent a message to families that the party was going to be canceled, and disappointment grew among children and parents who had grown to see the event as a fun family tradition.

“We just wanted to have the kids feel like they’re in a community,” said resident Elizabeth Fried, one of several Rancho Santa Fe families that have stepped up to sponsor the event.

The club did have to raise its prices for the party from $15 to $30 for children and $30 to $50 for adults.

RSF Golf Club General Manager Al Castro said the Halloween party has been held the last two years. While 2012 was “very lightly attended,” the 2013 event was better attended (an estimated 140 people), although both events had financial losses that had to be absorbed by the RSF Golf Club’s Board of Governors.

“It’s been a problem the last few years that some activities that the club has put on have had to be subsidized by the Board of Governors,” Castro said. “That subsidy has grown every year, and what we were asked to do was make sure whatever event we planned would be self-sufficient.”

The Halloween party was canceled because the RSF Golf Club organizers didn’t feel the event would get enough attendees at the right price for it to be sufficient.

“There are so many ways to do it differently if it was not a money maker,” Fried said. “All I wanted was for something to make sense and it just never did.”

As disappointed as Fried was that the party was canceled, her 9-year-old daughter Samantha was more so.

As Samantha is learning about persuasive writing in school, Fried discovered Samantha and her friend, Ava Burnett, sitting down on their play date to write letters to “Al,” pleading for the party to go on.

“Halloween is a tradition there and Halloween wouldn’t be the same without it. It’s the best part of the day for me and all of my friends in the neighborhood have such a good time,” read Samantha’s note. “It’s OK if you can’t do it but I hope you will say yes.”

Samantha even fretted to her mom about her letter’s request, “Do you think he’ll get mad?” she asked.

“I was so proud of her, it was pretty dang cute,” Fried said. “They took the time to stop playing and write letters because it meant something to them.”

The Wohlford kids also followed suit and wrote to Castro, who said he saved all those sweet letters. Were they successfully persuasive?

“They didn’t need to be,” Castro said. “We were definitely willing and ready and able, we just needed to make sure we found a mutually agreeable situation that was a win-win for everybody and we think we have.”

Fried and a group of other families have agreed to be responsible for any financial shortfall to ensure the party returned.

“We think it’s a great partnership because it’s important for the club to be a social hub for the community,” Castro said. “We want to continue being that hub and that is the focus, but we have to balance that with being fiscally responsible and not putting on events that don’t pay for themselves.”

Castro said what struck him as the most interesting about the party discussions was that a lot of families were under the impression that Association fees and dues subsidize the operations of the RSF Golf Club but they do not.

“The RSF Golf Club operates on its own budget, completely driven by member dues,” Castro said.

While Halloween has been saved, some residents fear that the party’s initial cancellation is a symptom of a bigger issue at the RSF Golf Club involving a resistance toward families.

Fried said the atmosphere at the club seems to have shifted in the last few months, particularly after a RSF Golf Club meeting about the proposed pool and fitness center. Fried said that her husband said people at the meeting seemed very angry and that they wanted to keep the club private. Fried said it seems like RSF Golf Club members don’t like the social events for people who aren’t members.

“The RSF Golf Club is an awesome facility for adults, but I think they don’t try at all for kids and that’s really too bad,” said golf club member Adam Aarons.

Aarons said they do have some special events but on a regular basis, kids aren’t made to feel welcome.

Fried said families have experienced “extreme rudeness” when dining out on the patio with their children. Aarons agreed that families get a lot of grief when kids are being kids, not overly acting up or being wild, just playing on the grass or throwing a ball around.

“This is the future of the RSF Golf Club, all of these kids are the next golfers,” Aarons said, noting that as a population they should not be disregarded.

He said his children love climbing into the golf cart and going to the club to play golf or eat dinner about once a week. For the most part, he said that the RSF Golf Club staff is great and good with the kids but they really feel the most unwelcome on the events and dining side.

“It’s such a phenomenal place otherwise,” Aarons said. “It’s a bummer because they could really use the money.”

Fried said a perception is growing that the club is anti-kids.

“I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth,” Castro said, noting that in the past few years they have aimed to add more child-friendly events such as Easter egg hunts, a tree lighting ceremony with hot chocolate and Santa visits attended by over 250 people last year. “There is a balance. We want families to enjoy dining on the patio and others to enjoy a beautiful evening on the patio. We’re certainly not anti-family and we’re not old and stuffy. It’s a fine balance but we want to be accessible to members of all ages.”

The proposed pool and fitness center between the golf clubhouse and the RSF Tennis Club could be a great opportunity to make the club more accessible to all, Aarons said. Ballots will be mailed Oct. 20 for community members to weigh in on whether the RSF Association should spend $350,000 on a professional planning phase for the facility.

“It seems like there’s more of a push to keep the club private than to change and develop the club into a more family-friendly atmosphere,” Aarons said, but noted that there is a way to make it work if the RSF Golf Club members want to keep the exclusivity.

He said the casual dining side proposed at the pool and fitness center could provide that kid-friendly area and the clubhouse could be kept more adult-oriented.

Aarons said not only young families would benefit from the health club but so would grandparents, who could spend a day at the club while grandkids enjoyed the pool.

“It could make it better for everybody,” Aarons said. “It’s a great opportunity to do something good for this town.”

Castro said he cannot take an official position on the proposed pool and fitness center but did state, “Anything that brings activity to the community at any level is a plus.”

To RSVP for the Halloween party, call 858-756-1182.