Many country clubs update their golf courses, renovate their clubhouses, and sink funds into other worthwhile capital improvements to satisfy current members and attract new ones. Mount Kisco CC, founded in 1928, has taken the next step by “renovating” its staff. The process began five years ago with a new head golf professional, and they’ve recently brought in additional fresh management in four other key positions.
“It’s not just about attracting new members. It’s also about increasing participation and satisfaction with current members,” says the latest addition, Tanya Barshell, who joined as general manager this year. The South African native came to MKCC from Cold Spring Country Club on Long Island, where she also worked at Old Westbury Country Club.
Barshell manages a staff of about 20 year-round employees that balloons to 100 during the peak season. “The most challenging thing a general manager does is managing people,” she points out. “You have to treat people with respect—both the staff and the members.”
That’s no easy job, considering the diverse membership at a club like MKCC, where the 315 member families have interests in everything from bridge and golf to fine dining and barbeque. “It’s a mix of older members and young families,” Barshell explains. “We do summer camps for kids as well as bridge on Thursday for the ladies. It’s all about finding out what people are looking for. That’s how a club stays relevant.”
Then there is the often-perceived stuffy nature of private clubs—a perception that’s all too often based in reality. “You have to find the balance between the traditions of the club and the 21st century,” she says. “For example, some of the younger members may want to allow jeans every night, but you still have members who have been here 40 years and believe in the traditional dress code.”
Other new management members include Jack Lynch, a tennis pro who came from Greenwich Country Club, and Raphael Padilla, the new food and beverage director, who is revamping menus and staff. This rounds out a team that also includes head pro and New Mexico State grad Chris Case, who was hired in 2011 and has shown club members what a positive, energetic leader could do for staff morale and member enthusiasm.
In addition, Andrew Agnew, who came aboard as golf-course superintendent three years ago, built on existing course renovations, tree removal, and stonework by improving turf and playing conditions. Of late, he has been upgrading some of the more decorative landscaping. Some other changes under consideration are shifting the 17th fairway to the right to open optional playing lines off the tee, and possibly softening the treacherous fifth green.
“The club membership has evolved over the last 10 or 15 years,” Agnew observes. “That’s what brought about the staff changes. It’s important to stay current and keep up with the climate of the golf and club business. The members have a lot to be excited about. I can’t wait for what it will be like in three to five years.”
That feeling permeates Mount Kisco CC these days. As Barshell says, “The team is now in place, and we’re looking to improve the club in all aspects, both inside and outside.”