By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(June 21, 2018) Members of the Ocean Pines golf community weighed in on the planned renovations of the second floor of the Ocean Pines Golf and Country Club at a special board of directors meeting last Thursday.
Apparently, it was the first time golfers have had a say in the project, at least publicly.
Ocean Pines Golf Council President Larry Perrone brought a small team of experts he said had experience in construction and administration.
Perrone praised Golf Director John Malinowski and said golf made about a $5,000 profit this year – all without the use of the country club’s second floor.
“We believe that by doing the upstairs [renovation] and doing it properly … the revenue for the golf operation [and food and beverage] would be substantially increased,” he said.
Among Perrone’s concerns were parking, whether the cart barn should be included in the renovations, and what kind of temporarily facilities would be needed during the estimated six-month construction period, reportedly October to March.
“We hope that you will listen and, at some point, bring us into the process,” he said. “We want you to know that we’re very supportive about the work that is to be done and we have some expertise in this group. We would like you to take advantage of it, if you’re willing”
Bob Long, a lifetime golf member and immediate past president of the members’ council, said he read a director’s comment in a local paper about a year that the golf council members “Know nothing about golf or running a golf course.”
“I’m asking tonight that you take the time and make the effort to learn from those most affected by your decision here, before you move forward and once again waste money on a Band-Aid approach to solving problems,” Long said.
He said Ocean Pines demographics included many retired people.
“Some may correctly describe these folks as old,” he said. “A good part of the golf membership that provides money to the support for our golf course fits this description. From my personal experience, old folks often react negatively to change and it’s important for them to see a change as improvement.
“In my 15 years playing golf at Ocean Pines, I’ve seen the board enact several changes that produced negative results, because they were put into place by a board that did not seek the input of the golfing community and membership,” Long added.
He said those negative changes included trail fees for players who walked rather than rented a cart, initiation fees for new members, requiring morning golfers to use carts, the decision not to tear down and build a new country club and, “The decision to eliminate weekend memberships for a community made of weekenders.”
“Many of these decisions were followed by a drop in membership and/or significant loss of revenue,” Long said. “The need to rehab the country club has long been known, but the project will again produce change. Will that change be well received by those who use the facility?
“In the past two years I’ve been critical of the board’s lack of willingness to involve the golf member’s council and the golf community in their decision making. I again urge the board to seek the suggestions and ideas of those who will use and support the new country club more than any other group,” he added.
Long asked if planned renovations would “produce a building attached to a place where people play golf, or will it provide a place that will enhance the golfing experience and the amenities package at Ocean Pines?”
He also wondered if the impact on the golfing community during the planned construction period had been thoroughly examined.
“Spring and fall play is a major source of revenue,” Long said. “I ask that you not expect us to sort out your plans by reading the local papers. Instead, I ask that you approach the golf member’s council and seek the suggestions and ideas of those most effected by your decision.”
Frank Brown, also a lifetime golf member and member since 2005, said he had four decades of experience as a builder, with design work approved in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Hartford, Prince George’s and Queen Anne’s counties.
“I have some concerns about some of the design work on here,” Brown said. “I’m sure you guys paid a lot of money to have those plans drawn — they’re not cheap … Yet, I can’t see why the board or a representative of the board or a representative from the member’s council or somebody wasn’t consulted about the existing problems that are in the golf clubhouse.”
More specifically, he said the basic design of the entire clubhouse was “based on a 1970s idea,” with contrasting roof lines that “produce tremendous leakage problems.”
“I’m sure all of you have seen the tremendous amount of water that comes down … it’s just something that needed to be addressed when you sat down with the design people. Evidently, that wasn’t done,” Brown said. “That’s my main concern. There’s no point in putting another half a million or three quarters of a million or whatever it’s going to cost into the clubhouse and then, two years later, it starts leaking like a sieve.”
Brown said he also is concerned about plans to convert a portion of a porch on the back of the building into a deck. He said the proposed design involved an uneven drop-off from the second floor, while the direction it would face would render it unusable without some modification.
Ocean Pines Men’s Golf Association President Don McMullen wondered about an operational disruption if bathrooms, the pro shop, and Tern Grill were displaced and had to move into portable trailers for six months.
“If you’re looking at six months [of construction] … I think the golfing community and our outside play would love to know where the pro shop’s going to be located. Where will Tern’s Grill be located? Where are the restrooms going to be located?” he said. “How about your fall and spring outside play for the shoulder seasons? How are they going to be delayed or harmed due to this construction?”
McMullen asked how the community and golf-booking companies would be notified about the renovations and how long would the entire project last, including permitting the building.
He said some of the golf carts were just 15 months old, “but there’s nothing mentioned about the cart barn repairs that are needed due to the water leaks and the rotten wood,” and asked if mold and leaks in the pro shop would be addressed before the second-floor renovations started.
McMullen said the leaky roof during the recent heavy rains “looked like Niagara Falls.”
“I’ve never seen water pour off of roofs like that before in my entire life,” he said.
All of this is coming at a time when golf operations appeared headed in a positive direction.
“Our golf course is starting to make money. Tern’s Grill is going to make money this year. And that’s the golf community and the outside play that continues to support it,” McMullen said.
Frank Daly, a candidate for the board this year, said the golf club has been “virtually unusable” since he moved to Ocean Pines in 2013. He said his friends and neighbors had three concerns about the redesign.
For one, he said an elevator is needed.
“It’s been a personal crusade of somebody that I’ve grown to like, Anna Foultz. The time is now. Put in the elevator,” Daly said.
Second, what is the plan for the second-floor bar area?
“I would hope that we would put the concept of ‘build it and they will come’ behind us, and that any food and beverage operation going on the second floor has a business plan with measurable objectives that will assigned to that facility manager … to show that we get an adequate return on any food and beverage investment,” Daly said.
Finally, of the 40 people he talked to, Daly said, “Thirty-nine of them have raved about the new yacht club.”
“I think there’s a real possibility, if that trend continues, that maybe next year the people sitting in your chairs will want to talk with the Ortt Group about maybe running Tern’s Grill and the entire food and beverage operations,” he said. “Let’s consult them and other industry professionals and let’s do it right this time. We don’t need another yacht club where five years afterward we’ve done three renovations.”