By Joyce Miles
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
In advance of its 100th year, Lockport Town & Country Club is being made over in body and spirit.
While the finishing touches are being put on a five-year clubhouse restoration project, club manager Rowland V. O’Malley recently announced an expanded list of club membership categories.
The East Avenue clubhouse, opened in 1913, has undergone significant renovation to make it “lighter and brighter,” O’Malley said recently.
It and the new membership categories reflect club directors’ determination to appeal to a wider cross-section of local residents. The country club business generally is affected by the lingering national economic slump; and smaller clubs, particularly, face extinction if they don’t somehow reinvent themselves, according to O’Malley.
LTCC members want their club to survive and thrive, hence their willingness to embrace inclusion-minded changes. Rather than a “country club,” with all of the exclusivity that phrase implies, O’Malley said the new LTCC aims to be a “community club.”
“We are trying to work with a changed Lockport demographic. The GM executives are not here any more,” he said. Prior membership categories “are not conducive to today’s market, to today’s fast-paced family lives. We’re trying to make golf more fun and affordable ... . We’re trying to be a club that suits Lockport, suits Niagara County.”
Club membership opportunities are now extended to people who want to take in some, but not all, of the club experience. There are “social” memberships conveying access to all food and beverage facilities, the locker room and swimming pool, and the chance to play golf once a month for an extra fee. There are dining-only and pool-only memberships. Monthly non-resident or “snowbird” memberships are no longer limited to past full members.
The premium golf membership is still offered, on a monthly and annual basis, for individuals and families. This highest-level membership conveys unlimited access to all LTCC facilities, including the celebrated golf course for individual, league and tournament play,
Clubhouse renovations — which included new fixtures, furnishings and energy-efficiency upgrades — were done mostly by local contractors and suppliers, O’Malley said.
O’Malley also hired a new chef in early January. Dan Drees, formerly the chef at Niagara Falls Country Club, succeeds longtime chef John Brennan, who retired. From the outset, O’Malley said, 30-year-old Drees’ work has gotten rave reviews from LTCC members.
“The menu has a larger variety now. (Drees) went outside the box and got away from the basics. Change is always difficult ... and yet I’ve had so many people tell me, ‘what a wonderful find he is!’” O’Malley said.
Lockport Country Club, a social and athletic club, was organized in 1896. Its first clubhouse was a log cabin on Hamm Road. From 1902 to 1912, the club operated from the Horace Flagler house, 471 Locust St.
To accommodate growing membership, the East Avenue clubhouse and grounds were developed in 1912-13. The Lockport Daily Journal described the property, then on what was called Chestnut Ridge Heights, as overlooking “the heart of Niagara’s fruit region and ... the blue waters of the lake.” At its opening, the Buffalo Courier described the 9-hole golf course as “the finest golf links in the world.” The course was expanded to 18 holes in the 1990s.