Hastings Country Club is back in the black
Ten years ago, life was great at the Hastings Country Club. The golf business was booming, outpaced only by the exceptional growth in the economy. The clubhouse was freshly renovated and members were everywhere.
By 2008-09, though, all that changed. Golf courses that popped up in the boom were suddenly closing their doors, or really struggling. The economy took a dive and an untold number of golfers saved their greens fees to pay their mortgages.
That slowdown hit hard in Hastings, and the country club was not spared.
What made matters especially challenging for the club was that several positions on the club’s board of directors turned over every year. That meant there were always people coming and going on the board, and that turnover brought with it different ideas and different directions. Many times that can be an asset. Sometimes, though, a consistent direction and a black-and-white business approach is needed. The club’s members recognized the need for such a business approach, and five years ago they elected a steering committee made up of business people whose job it was to make the hard decisions in order to get the club back to profitability. That committee is still hard at work and was happy to report that the club is now breaking even and/or profitable depending on the month.“The perception was that the club was going to fail,” said Jim Reissner, who serves on the steering committee. “That’s the first thing we encountered when we set up the committee. I said, ‘The club is going to make it. It’s going to take longer than most people think,’ but it takes a while to turn a business around, and the economy has been no help the past few years.“The perception is that the club is still struggling. A lot of people in Hastings still have that perception — that we’re not going to make it. We’re here to tell you that it is going to make it. It’s going to be as successful as it was in the past. It’s taken some reworking and some restructuring, but we’ve got the right people on the bus, and they’re on the right seats.”Reissner serves on the steering committee with Joe Petrich, Leon Endres, Bill Sieben, Jay Johnson and the president of the club, Keith Anderson.Many of those steering committee members have been longtime members of the club. Reissner is no different.“It’s a labor of love for all of us,” Reissner said. “We couldn’t see the club go out of business. It’s too valuable of an asset for the city of Hastings.”
Business approachWhen the steering committee got to work, there were no monthly statements at the club. That changed immediately. Petrich works with Reissner at Activar as a CFO, and he got to work putting statements together.A big step behind the scenes came when the club was able to restructure its debt. The club’s previous lender was out-of-state and didn’t have an interest in working with the club.Three years ago, the club was able to refinance with a local bank, and that made a big difference right away.“That helped us significantly,” Reissner said.One of the other challenges was the dues structure.“There were 27 member categories when we got involved,” Reissner said. “It was like buying an airplane ticket — you knew the person sitting next to you paid a different price than you did.”Categories for members were simplified.The club’s well-regarded restaurant, now known as 3 Rivers Grille, also opened to the public and it remains open to the public today.There are now 286 golf members and 82 social members.“That 286 is a little light yet,” Reissner said. “Twenty-five to 30 more would help. We’re continuing to try to raise the golf membership.”
ChangesA number of big changes hit the club as this transformation began, and some of the most visible ones had to do with staff members. Longtime and well-respected faces left as expenses were reduced.“You’ve got to make tough decisions,” Petrich said. “Those decisions aren’t always popular. That’s where the steering committee came in. There were no politics. It was, ‘What is going to turn the club around?’”New faces have popped up at the club. The new pro, Mike Callahan, was featured recently. He’s a Hastings graduate who played collegiately at St. Cloud State before getting involved in coaching the game.Kari Jo Hurst is the catering director. She’s busy booking the club for private events and weddings. She also manages 3 Rivers Grille, the public restaurant at the club.Jessalynn Schurhammer is the club’s chef. For two years in a row, her food has won top honors at Hastings Tastings.Anna Bauer manages the office and James Kassera is the grounds superintendent.“They’re the ones who have done it,” Reissner said. “They’ve stuck with it under limited budgets. They’ve had to be quite resourceful. Anything we’ve been able to do is attributed to the good people who we’ve got working there.”Anderson is assisted on the board of directors by vice president Craig Bilgrien.“Craig, Keith and the board have worked closely with the steering committee to improve operations in a sluggish economy,” Reissner said.