Editor’s Note: Green Brook Country Club in North Caldwell has undergone a transformation in recent years, thanks to innovative management and creative programming. This profile is the first in a series which will showcase NJSGA member clubs and their approach to success. If you would like the NJSGA to consider your club’s unique story, please contact us.
If you visit Green Brook Country Club’s website, you might blink to make sure you can believe your own eyes. All membership categories, dues and fees are posted for all to see. It is also difficult to miss that there are no initiation fees, no assessment fees and no food/beverage minimums.
In a nutshell, Green Brook has reinvented the wheel when it comes to attracting new members. Their new club model, instituted prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, has brought new life to the North Caldwell club.
“Last year, the new owners, Eric Witmondt and Bruce Schonbraun, challenged Andrew Bostrom, (head pro) and myself to think outside the box to make Green Brook a successful club,” said general manager Steve Wolsky. “We put our heads together, observed how our members used the club, and listened to what prospective members were asking about. Two things became clear—golf was the priority and dinner was not.”
Bostrom, who has served as head PGA professional at the club since 2015, was immediately promoted by Wolsky to Director of Golf and Assistant General Manager, overseeing both the golf operation and membership.
“Our new club model is unique to the greater metropolitan area. We offer a high-end golf experience in a low-key, friendly environment at a price point that full-service country clubs can’t touch.” Bostrom said. “We wanted to start with a message of transparency to our new members, and we’ve accomplished that by posting all pricing on our website. There are no games here.”
Wolsky worked as the general manager at nearby Mountain Ridge Country Club from 1997-2015. He got started in the industry by working as a life guard there as a teenager. He’s known Witmondt and Schonbraun, both members at Mountain Ridge, for decades.
“There is no cloak of secrecy here. Often this intimidates people before they even come to a club to inquire about membership,” Wolsky said. “While most clubs need to keep dues high because they are losing money in their food and beverage operation, we’re focused on the services that members primarily use—lunch and weekend happy hours. After golf, drinks and apps, our members already have many great options for dinner nearby.”
Green Brook was designed by Scotsman Robert White, the first president of the PGA of America, who incorporated many classic features of legendary golf architects Seth Raynor and Charles Banks. White completed the first six holes at Green Brook by the end of 1922 and all 18 holes were ready for play in 1923.
“Now we are becoming more and more of your local neighborhood club. For years Green Brook was a primarily Jewish club that would draw members from much further away,” Wolsky said. “As we opened the doors to everyone with our new model, local residents discovered Green Brook for the first time.
“Now, we’re seeing more new members come from the surrounding towns—the Caldwells, Verona, Fairfield, Roseland and Livingston,” Bostrom added.
Bostrom feels that by serving in various capacities as assistant GM/membership director and head golf professional, he can seamlessly stay connected with the membership and help new members integrate into the club immediately.
“We’re offering something unique -- high-end golf in a low-key environment,” he stated. “We’re attracting many long-time golfers, some past club members and many from the public side, who have just never seen the value or comfort level to join a club,” he continued.
“We emphasize that we are not compromising anything in our golf program. We prioritize excellent course conditions, fast pace of play, live-scoring for all tournaments and active instructional and player development programs for all levels of play on our large grass driving range and short-game area.”
In 2020 alone, Green Brook has added 110 new members. Yearly memberships top out at $13,500 for a premier family membership that includes golf, tennis, pool and social events to a single membership ($11,500), to weekday ($9,000), to senior memberships (under $10,000) and even young executive memberships under 36, ranging from $3,500 to $9,000. In 2021, Green Brook will even offer a “Golf Lite” membership, for beginning golfers who can take advantage of the club’s outstanding practice facilities.
“We’ve gotten incredible feedback. People like what we’re doing. They are immediately put at ease by our transparency,” said Bostrom, a native of the State of Washington who came to Green Brook from New York’s Quaker Ridge Golf Club.
“When our owners purchased Green Brook three years ago, they immediately invested in the club to set us up for future success. They continued to improve the golf course and renovated the entire clubhouse, including a brand new member grill that overlooks the first tee and the 18th green,” Wolsky said. “The updated ballrooms have also been a welcome addition as we partner with Encore Catering and Crystal Plaza for all our special events.”
Green Brook also instituted the user-friendly ForeTees software system and app for all reservations and communications for golf, tennis, pool and dining. Members have embraced the food and drink ordering feature. At the touch of a fingertip, food and drinks can be ordered and served or delivered to a variety of locations around the club, including the golf course to poolside or on any one of the patios and terraces surrounding the expansive clubhouse.
Wolsky summarized, “We see this model as the future of the club industry. There will always be the Quaker Ridges and Mountain Ridges of the world, but we feel we are ahead of the curve. We expect many clubs to attempt to transition to a similar model in the future.”