For years, the sign on the brick wall at the entrance welcomed members and visitors to the Greenacres Country Club on Route 206, across from the Lawrence Township municipal building.
While the view into the country club has changed in the last few months – piles of earth pushed around by bulldozers – the walls are still there, and so is the country club now known as Cobblestone Creek Country Club.
The name change is part of a broader strategy to adapt to changes in the country club industry, said Howard Deutsch, president of the Cobblestone Creek Country Club and a 20-year member of its predecessor, the Greenacres Country Club.
In essence, the new name represents a re-branding of the landmark Greenacres Country Club, which was organized 80 years ago, said Deutsch. He also served as the club president for the Greenacres Country Club.
“There was a sea change after 2008 or 2009 in the country club industry,” Deutsch said, referring to the years of the Great Recession.
Many country clubs failed, he said. Those that survived needed to rethink their business model and adapt to meet the changing lifestyles of their members and prospective members, he said.
“Priorities have changed and country clubs have to adapt,” he said.
There are more demands on people’s time, and the traditional concept of the country club, a place where one spent the whole day or an entire weekend, has gone out of style, Deutsch added.
“There has to be something to meet every member’s individual needs,” he said. “Cobblestone Creek Country Club is completely casual. People come and enjoy themselves on their own schedule.”
Along with meeting members’ changing needs, the club, which is run by its members, made the decision to remodel the clubhouse and its amenities for the first time since the 1990s, Deutsch said.
There is a new 18-hole golf course designed by golf course architect Bobby Weed. The course is smaller and more “walkable,” reducing the need for a golf cart and encouraging golfers to walk from hole to hole.
Deutsch said while most country clubs charge an assessment or a fee to members to pay for periodic upgrades and remodeling projects, the former Greenacres Country Club never asked for money from its members in addition to the dues.
So, to pay for the new golf course and clubhouse remodeling project, the country club sold off part of the original golf course that borders Route 206 to a developer – and that is what accounts for the mounds of dirt.
Lennar Homes is the developer, Deutsch said, adding there are plans for a 97-unit “high end” active adult community. The money from the sale of the land has been reinvested into the country club.
“Our mission is to provide an exceptional level of services and facilities to our members,” he said, adding that families join a country club because it represents a “good allocation of recreation dollars.”
At the new Cobblestone Creek Country Club, members can visit the club and enjoy themselves for an hour or two, and then go home, he said. They can use it every day or on the weekend to play golf or to dine in the dining room.
“Members have said it’s like our summer camp for adults. It’s like being able to take a vacation for part of the day,” Deutsch said.
But the Cobblestone Creek Country Club is more than its physical components, Deutsch said. It offers something new in the “Town Center” concept. A typical country club offers golf, tennis, a swimming pool, a fitness center and a dining room, “but we want to offer more” through the Town Center concept, he said.
The Town Center concept offers layers of programming that is not found at a typical country club, such as educational and cultural events, he said. There will be cooking classes and photography classes, and authors will be invited to speak.
“There are a lot of members with a lot of diverse interests. To the extent we are providing an experience to enrich them, they will feel a stronger connection to the club,” Deutsch said.