Elitist. Pretentious. Snobby. Entitled.
These words, and probably others less polite, most likely come to mind when you hear the phrase “private country club.” There was a time when I believed these ideas, and succumbed to the common stereotypes. Over the past month of being a new member, however, I have come to experience quite the opposite.
Most people are familiar with the show “Cheers”, and remember with fondness the character Norm, who was greeted with enthusiastic exclamations whenever he would walk into the bar. There was a feeling of the familiar; a warm, safe, and welcoming environment that encouraged people to stay, and be part of the family. This is the very feeling one gets when they are a member of Spring Valley Lake Country Club. There is a sense of the familiar. You feel like you are truly a member of an extended family, and you feel safe and happy there.
I was embraced right away, and welcomed into the family by several long-time members. They had every reason to reject me, but they enthusiastically brought me into their world, and went out of their way to ensure that I was happy and comfortable. This meant a lot to me, as I had just moved to an area where I knew nobody. There is nothing more satisfying than to feel like you belong to a group, and that you are truly welcomed. I have spent my fair share of time in pubs, bars, and clubs, and there is virtually always a disconnect. You may be there with a group, but outside that, you’re on your own. My experience so far at Spring Valley Lake Country Club has been the opposite of that. The staff know you and use your name, the members all know, or at least recognize and acknowledge one another, and when you frequent the lounge and restaurant, you feel like you’re at a friends house. Other than being involved with theatre, I have never been embraced and accepted so quickly than by my fellow club members.
“But surely you’re a phenomenal golfer, or an important, prominent member of the community!”
Far from it.
I do not golf well. I am a high handicapper, and most likely will never hit a 300 yard drive or know what its like to par the majority of holes. That is the beauty of the club. There are many members who have been golfing for years, and make it look easy. There are also those, like me, who struggle to put together a respectable score. Regardless of how small your score is, or how large your wallet is, everyone meets and interacts on the same level. I won’t delve into the game of golf, as I expect to cover that later, but the game transcends all social and economical levels. Members all meet, play, and socialize without all the complications that the material world injects. You have CEO’s of companies, retired vets, and blue-collar workers all there because they enjoy the same familiarity and bond through similar interests, namely golf. I have played with golfers who swing like PGA players, and I have also played with beginners who struggle to make contact with the ball. No matter the level though, people come to the club to relax, unwind, and enjoy the company of people who share similar interests.
I am proud to say I am a member of a country club. It’s not about status or any other pretentious ideal. It’s about belonging to something, and truly feeling like an important part of that fraternity. I use fraternity here in the truest sense of the word. Whether I’m enjoying a cup of coffee and a few eggs in the morning, or taking my girl to dinner, or teeing up a ball, I feel like I’m accepted and welcomed as part of my community. Everyone should have the opportunity to feel this in their lives. It’s no surprise there are so many vets at my club. They understand that sense of fraternity, family, and brotherhood. They realize that there are few places left in society when one can feel that way. The club is one of them.
I’m glad that I have found a home.