While many private clubs in
the area languish in the down economy, at Trump
National - Philadelphia everything
is coming up aces.
During a recent interview on
XM Sirius radio’s PGA Tour Network, Donald Trump
said that since he acquired
the 10-year-old Pine Hill GC
in Camden County on Christmas Eve last year and rebranded it as the fully-private
Trump National - Philadelphia, the club has added 101 new members.
Could that be right,
especially at a time when all but a few private clubs in the region are holding
on for dear life?
"It’s a little higher than
that now, actually," said Eric J. Quinn,
general manager of Trump National -Philadelphia. "It is
just incredible. We always knew
this club was great but what Mr. Trump
is doing is taking it to another level."
What is attracting new members,
said Quinn, is the Trump name, of course, plus the
flamboyant billionaire’s promise to see that the club reaches its full
Toward that end, a complete
makeover is underway on the $6 million
clubhouse, transforming it from what Quinn
described as "Adirondack pine cones"
to "white wainscoting and crystal
chandeliers." As for the golf
course, Trump has brought back his
pal Tom Fazio, who is the original
designer, to make changes to a number of holes. (Below is a member’s
description of the specific changes.)
"The work on the course is
about 60 to 70 percent complete; the work on the clubhouse is about 50 percent
complete," said Quinn.
Where are the number members
coming from? All over.
Of the 101-plus newbies,
said Quinn, it is a mix of
corporate, individual and families.
Some are former t Pine Hill GC
members; others are non-golf social members who are joining primarily for the dining
and entertaining facilities. The balance are refugees from other foundering
clubs in the area, especially a few in South Jersey.
"It is a blend," Quinn of the new members. "There are
people who have not been on the Pine Hill
roster in two, two, four years.
They left because it never turned private; when they heard we were
turning private, they came knocking on our doors.
As for the influx of members
from other clubs, Quinn said, "You
know what is happening in our market.
There are clubs that have been forced to close, and clubs that have bee
forced to turn public. Those are
the members we have picked up."
Trump National – Philadelphia opened as Pine Hill GC
in late 2000, during the Great Golf
Course Boom, to much fanfare, replete with the 43,000 square-foot clubhouse Fazio
golf course, reportedly at a cost of $20
million. (Trump later put the
figure at $45 million). Developed by Eric Bergstol and Empire
Golf Management, the plan at the
time was to operate it as an upscale country-club-for-a-day, and indeed Pine Hill was promoted as the "public Pine Valley."
By 2003, however, with the market for upscale daily
fee courses cooling, Pine Hill announced it was going to begin accepting
memberships, with $15,000 initiation fees, plus $5,500 annual dues. Once
they reached 300 members, it would go from semi-private to fully-private.
To entice members, anyone joining Pine Hill would automatically also be
a member of the ClubMax, giving them access to six "core
courses" owned or run by Empire.
Pine Hill never did reach 300
memberships and, thus, never went completely private. By the time it
caught Trump’s eye, the club reportedly
had just under 200 members and green fees were $95.
At the same time he bought Pine Hill, Trump also acquired Branton
Woods GC in Hopewell Junction, N.Y., making them the 10th and 11th
properties in the Trump
What about Pine
Hill attracted Trump?
The proximity to Pine
Valley GC, the No. 1
ranked course in the country. Not only was Pine
Hill minutes only away, it was built on very similar topography –
sandy soil, rolling terrain amid a wealth of pine trees.
Currently, said Quinn, Trump
National – Philadelphia has between 300-325 members, of which just over 250 are full golf members.
For now, the initiation remains $10,000,
with annual dues of $6,250.
By the fall, Quinn
said, dues will remain the same but that the initiation fees will jump to the "somewhere in the mid-20s."
They have not yet decided on a cap for the number
of members. "We are still
evaluating the membership and their playing habits," said Quinn. "You want to
have enough members so that it is a viable club, but you don’t want to have so
many they can’t get out and play."
So far, Trump National –
Philadelphia has done no advertising, relying only on the Trump brand and word of mouth. "We’re still in the process of
renovating," said Quinn. "Any pictures we put out there would be
what we were rather than what we are becoming."
Following is a description of the recent changes to
the golf course, written by Trump National –
Philadelphia member Jason
Walker and posted on the website GolfClubAtlas.com. Quinn said Walker’s posting is a fair and accurate
New tee box on 1, added approx 50 yards to back
tees. This is a good thing, Number 1 was a Par 4-4.5 for most long
hitters due to the nature of the fairway.
waste bunker has been dug out and replaced with a small lake. When I
first heard the idea I thought it was ridiculous. Has turned out to be
the biggest positive surprise of all the changes. Looks fantastic, and
with all of the closely mowed areas to the front and right of the green that
were added over the last several years, plays great too. No question it's
more penal, but that waste bunker was a maintenance disaster.
tee box, not yet opened. Will make the hole play approx 230-240 from the
back tees. Talk of clearing more trees and eventually turning this into a
short par 4 in the 300 yard range....something many of us who have played there
for years have been pushing for.
a par 5 with approx 120 yards added straight back from the original tee
boxes. This just opened. I will say I'm not really a fan of this
change, but I've only played it as a Par 5 once.
tee box across the back cart path. Back tees play approx 190 now.
Great move. Adds a ton more tee options to this hole.
tee box, adds approx 30 yards to the back tees. Again, similar to Number
1, this hole needed more distance from the back tees. This tee box adds
an entirely new dimension to the hole for the long hitter. Still
potentially reachable in two, but there's a real decision to be made as the
second will be played with a fairway wood--and the layup is no picnic with lots
tee box, adds approx 20 yards to the back tees. New angle to the
hole. In the past, long hitters could cut the corner and this new tee box
removes that option.
tee box, across the cart path. Back tees play approx 210 yards.
of the clubhouse and practice areas are underway. All in all, I've been
really impressed with the changes to the golf course--with the exception of the
conversion of Number 9 to a par-5. In addition, the conditions have
improved significantly and in the usual Trump style the aesthetics and
off-course areas have also improved.