Letter: Rye Golf Club poised for a bounce-back year

The following is an open letter to current and prospective Rye Golf Club members and residents,

The Rye Golf Commission wanted to update its members and the public on some of the work accomplished over the last year.

After the turmoil surrounding the former manager of Rye Golf Club and an unprofitable 2012, the Golf Commission took a number of steps to reduce expenditures and streamline operations. As a result, the club recorded a profit of approximately $400,000 in 2013, which was added to the reserve fund for capital expenditures.

Whitby Castle was not profitable on a stand alone basis in 2013, but the issue of operating losses should be addressed for 2014 and the future by the Lessings arrangements described below.

There were no increases in dues during 2013 or 2014. Rye Golf Club has maintained stable golf and pool member dues for the last three years, including the 2014 season.

There was an elimination of the $300 and $100 food minimum.

Rye Golf Club has eliminated the food and drink minimums. It was an important consideration in the selection of Lessings and Powell Catering that they did not require us to retain the minimums, and as a result the minimums have been removed.

After an extensive recruiting effort, Rye Golf Club hired Jim Buonaiuto, who has strong industry experience, as the club’s new general manager. Buonaiuto is already working closely with the golf, pool and Whitby teams to deliver an exceptional experience for members this year.

The club also hired Steve Newman as the new pool manager who comes with extensive pool and swim team experience. He is well on the way to revamping the lifeguard program and pool operations, which we expect will provide a superior experience.

During the last year, the staff at Rye Golf Club has worked closely with each other and the commission to provide quality service to the members during the search for a new general manager.

Powell Catering was hired for the snack bar and golf course. Powell Catering is already on premises providing service at the snack bar and a roving beverage cart for the golf course.

After a multi-month process and a review of six detailed expressions of interest, Lessings was selected to operate the restaurant and catering operations at Whitby Castle. Lessings has been in business for more than 100 years and has extensive experience with catering and restaurant facilities operated both for private clubs and municipalities like Rye Golf Club.

With this arrangement, Rye Golf Club will share in 7 to 13 percent of the top-line revenue generated from restaurant and catering operations, so Whitby is expected to be profitable on an operating basis. There is a guaranteed minimum payment from Lessings to Rye Golf Club each year of $150,000 in 2015 and $200,000 thereafter, assuming operation of the snack bar, and regardless of overall revenue. The agreement is for a 10-year term, ensuring the club has a long-term, stable partner.

The arrangement also highlights restaurant operations for members and the public throughout the Rye Golf Club season and permanent access for members and the public to the outdoor patio. Lessings will coordinate with Rye Golf Club to develop a member-friendly menu as to selection and price. Lastly, Lessings and the club will share responsibility for maintenance and repair of Whitby throughout the term.

Rye Golf Club meetings are widely announced. They are now taped for broadcast and member interaction and attendance at meetings continues to be high. Emails are typically sent out with reminders of important events and dates.

The website has been improved to enhance communication with members, including a private, individualized report of expenditures, which each member can access on the website.

It has been a long process to address the host of issues, which have faced Rye Golf Club over the last two years. Hard work by many Rye Golf Club members, the commission and Rye City officials have resulted in the club being poised for a successful and positive year in all areas—golf, pool and food services.

We look forward to continuing to work to make Rye Golf Club the best it can be for all of our members and the City of Rye.

The Rye Golf Club Commission