Rancho Santa Fe Association to consider proposed membership changes at Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club

By Karen Billing

The Rancho Santa Fe Association is considering proposed membership changes at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club — including a revision of the non-resident associate membership and one which would create a “junior executive” membership category that allows new members under age 48 to spread out their enrollment fees in installments.

For example, if a new member joins at age 40, under this membership category they would have eight years to pay the $50,000 enrollment fee.

“I think as a marketing tool in advance for people moving here, it could be very powerful,” said director Craig McAllister.

Notice of the proposed changes was sent out to Golf Club members two months ago and, according to Golf Club General Manager Al Castro, the feedback has been supportive of the changes.

For the club’s resident associate and former resident associate memberships, the club is looking to reduce the time of residency in the Covenant from 10 years to five years.

The resident associate membership is for people who have been members in the club but moved to a Covenant property that does not qualify them for membership.

The former resident member category passed in 2011, before a mixed crowd of 100 people at the RSF Community Center. It allowed residents who had been members for 10 years but had moved out of the Covenant to remain members — however, they are charged at least 10 percent more than regular members in dues.

The club would like to reduce the criteria of living in the Covenant from 10 years to five in both categories.

The new junior executive member category would be for Association members under age 48. The enrollment fee will be divided equally over the years, remaining until they reach age 48, paid on July 1 each year. As an example, if a member is 35 at the time of application, they will pay one-tenth of the enrollment fee. If a prospective member is 45 at the time of application, they will pay one-third of the enrollment fee.

The Golf Club board will be able to set a maximum number of members in the group.

“This is a market we’d like to go after,” Castro said of younger families moving into the Ranch who are just starting to play golf but might not be willing to pay $50,000 up front. “This would enable them to join the club sooner rather than later.”

The RSF Association board members complimented the Golf Club for coming up with creative solutions to its challenges, although Director Eamon Callahan did share some concerns.

“It seems kind of discriminatory,” said Callahan of the 48-year-old limit, noting that there are many retirees ages 55 to 60 who might now have more time for golf but also don’t want to put up $50,000 right away. “Why not leave it open for all new members to have an installment plan?”

Steve Dunn, Golf Club membership committee chair, said they have to draw the line somewhere.

“If time payment is granted to everyone in the club, it will generate a problem cash flow wise,” Dunn said. “This junior executive program is such a departure from what we’ve ever offered before, it’s an age group we’re not capturing.”

Dunn said the membership group is a response to the significant golf club competition in the area that offer similar programs. He said it’s a way to target younger people moving into the area—they can be drawn in by the great school system as well as the golf club opportunity. They are really looking to boost new memberships—the club used to see 30 percent of new home buyers signing up and now that number is down to 17 percent.

Dunn said they are now being proactive about going after new homeowners in the area and he says he has three people who would be ready to sign up should the new category be approved.

“We’ve worked our butts off this year to get new members and generate new activity,” Dunn said.

Castro said the changes would be a way to “stop the bleeding” as they are losing members faster than they are gaining them; Dunn said membership is already down 21 people this year

“That problem isn’t going to go away soon and we’re running as hard as we can to keep up,” Dunn said.

The board heard the proposed changes only as informational items at the Jan. 3 meeting.