Woodcrest Country Club invites back former members

Workers at Woodcrest Country Club in Cherry Hill prepare the entrance for Friday's reopening.
Workers at Woodcrest Country Club in Cherry Hill prepare the entrance for Friday's reopening. (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 08, 2013

One day before the Woodcrest Country Club is set to open to the public under new ownership, former members were invited back Thursday for a private day on the course.

About 300 invitations were sent out this week to former members and about 50 showed up to play golf and tour the 155-acre Cherry Hill grounds, said Matthew Haydinger of First Montgomery Group, one of the new owners.

"We felt it would be best to welcome them back and introduce ourselves to them and have them be the first ones to play," Haydinger said, adding that it was the group's first event as owner of the club.

Haydinger said it initially tried to open the course last week, but called that "overambitious."

The 84-year-old course, auctioned off to Cherry Hill Land Associates - a subsidiary of First Montgomery - less than three weeks ago in a closed-door bankruptcy auction, will operate as a "semiprivate" club.

Memberships would not be offered during its first season under new management, but the club will offer daily greens fees. Membership packages would be rolled out in November, Haydinger said. He said it would be "premature" to announce them now. The group is discussing rates and additional amenities, said Jamie Berman, director of marketing.

First Montgomery also plans to add tennis, swimming lessons, and fitness classes, according to a pamphlet distributed Thursday to former members. Haydinger said he expected to be able to use and expand on existing facilities for the additional programs.

The club filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year and did not open earlier this year. Cherry Hill Land Associates bid $10.1 million on the property last month, nearly $4 million more than its appraised value. It outbid three others.

While the group had not previously made its plans clear, Haydinger said Thursday that First Montgomery would keep the club as a golf course.

"This is a great destination, it's a beautiful golf course, it has great history behind it, it has great meaning and a great legacy," Haydinger said, adding that he grew up in Cherry Hill.

Cherry Hill Township spokeswoman Bridget Palmer said township officials have made it clear that if the space is not kept as a golf course, it should be kept as green space.

Stan Lerner of Cherry Hill, who was a member of Woodcrest for 45 years, said he and other members have joined other clubs because of the late start to the season and the absence of membership packages for this season. Lerner is now a member of Laurel Creek Country Club in Mount Laurel.

"This year's a lost cause," Lerner said, adding that he might rejoin Woodcrest next year depending on the packages offered by the club.

Others like Hallee LoGrasso of Voorhees, who has been a member for 25 years at Woodcrest and is now at Medford Village Country Club in Medford, said the new owner has the club moving in the "right direction" through its care to the course.

"This is the most prestigious course in the area," she said. "To see it preserved, I'm ecstatic."

LoGrasso added that she was happy to see the course open to the public, but said it depends on what packages are offered whether she would come back.

Arlene Silvers of Cherry Hill, who had been a member at Woodcrest for 40 years, said she deliberately did not join another club, holding out hope that Woodcrest would stay open. She said she cried when it closed.

The club is scheduled to open 8 a.m. Friday for public use.

Contact Sean Carlin at 856-779-3237, scarlin@philly.com, or follow on Twitter @SeanCarlin84.

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