Club owners tee up big vision

While many businesses have scaled back in response to the current economic downturn, owners of the La Cañada Flintridge Country Club are moving ahead on a set of ambitious plans to expand operations there.

Nearing completion of a three-year, multimillion-dollar clubhouse remodeling effort, the club also plans to expand its golf course to include an outdoor practice park and will spend $2 million increasing course irrigation efficiency.

Long-range plans also call for construction of a new fitness center adjacent to the clubhouse and as many as 50 rental housing units on the hillside in lieu of the club's current parking lots, which would be moved to a below-grade structure below existing tennis courts. Both of those plans are still far from submission for city approval, however.

Why expand while also weathering the effects of a recession?

"We're taking a long view," said Randy Dreyfuss, who in November took over the role of club president from father, Gilbert Dreyfuss. "Golf courses very expensive to maintain, and that's why you need other sources of income to support them."

While member-owned clubs are restricted from making profits by hosting non-member events, Dreyfuss, until now the club's vice president, hopes remodeling efforts at privately held La Cañada Flintridge Country Club will increase event-based revenue.

Other planned improvements are meant to attract new members.

An outdoor practice park, complete with computerized monitors to help users adjust their swings, is expected to host a golf academy that would allow potential new members to learn the game before having to pay full club-membership dues.

La Cañada Flintridge Country Club offers already offers different levels of membership for those who choose only to use certain features of the club — just the tennis courts and not the golf course, for example.

"Golf is an expensive and difficult sport, so I wanted to have a golf academy where we could teach people to play," said Gilbert Dreyfuss, who explained that plans for the practice park, fitness center and apartments (where club membership would be a prerequisite for occupancy) are intended to attract new members and keep current ones happy for an even larger purpose: ensuring the club's fiscal viability.

"I want this club to be self-sustaining. Because the management of this business is very demanding, I wanted to get it into younger hands," said the elder Dreyfuss, now 84, who continues to pursue other development projects.

Randy, 54, was born the very day his father closed a deal for developer Bill Godbey to purchase the land upon which the club now sits from then-owner Matt Flynn.

Dreyfuss took control of the club in 1977 after a member-owned venture failed to sustain itself. In addition to running the club, he focused throughout the 1980s on residential development of hillsides near the golf course, including the Greenridge subdivision that overlooks it.

In 1982, the Valley Sun published an article detailing efforts by Dreyfuss at that time to grow club membership despite a sluggish economy and real estate slump.

"Sounds familiar, doesn't it?" Randy Dreyfuss remarked.

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