From the Ashes Comes a Fun New Age Club – The Story of LuLu Country Club
Shortly after the Rusk family and partners acquired LuLu Country Club in 2015, the clubhouse burned to the ground. After a rebuilding process that was lengthened by an extraordinary Township permitting process, the new clubhouse opened – you guessed it – at the start of 2020 and the COVID pandemic. Like the old saying, it seemed if it wasn’t for bad luck, the team wasn’t haven’t any luck at all.
Due to the turn in fortunes from COVID and the great new clubhouse and fun environment under the direction of Jon Rusk and staff, LuLu is prospering as never before. It affirms that young people want to belong to private clubs, if they are relevant and fun. The new clubhouse is all of that, and more.
LuLu takes its name from LuLu Shriners Temple, the group that founded the club back in 1912. The original golf course was only 9-holes, when in 1919, the members asked legendary Golden Age architect Donald Ross to expand it to 18-holes. The club had its ups and downs over the years, but eventually it could no longer keep up in what became the oversupplied club market in the suburbs northeast of Philadelphia. That’s when the Rusk’s and partners stepped in. Jon was the head golf professional at the time and Ron had a long history of club leadership and entrepreneurship in the region. They saw an opportunity.
The fire was the impetus to reimagine the clubhouse. The original Tudor style building had been undercapitalized for years. It has an old infrastructure and a layout suited for a prior time. While the Philadelphia area is one of the country’s strongest areas for golf and clubs, shifting population and other factors had created a battle for market share among local clubs.
Research into the marketplace made it clear that there wasn’t room for another traditional country club. The strategy was to create a fun casual club that was different from anything else in the area. This led to design thinking where a quality sports bar leading to an expansive outdoor terrace with golf course views anchored the upper floor. The space includes golf simulators and a game room and serves as a central gathering place for what has become a very young and active membership. Along with the fun features, the clubhouse also offers spaces for quieter dining and events, and on the lower level, locker rooms and a fitness center.
The story of LuLu shows how important it is to develop clarity about how to position your club in your market area and to design the facilities to support that vision. The club now has the enviable combination of a classic golf course and a clubhouse that promotes fun and engagement.
About Frank Vain
Mr. Vain provides consulting and planning services to private clubs throughout North America. Through use of specialized services including membership surveys, strategic planning, operational analysis and facility long range planning, Frank assists club in developing individualized strategies for their unique situations.
Mr. Vain joined McMahon Group in 1988 and has more than forty years of experience in the management and development of hospitality properties including country clubs, city athletic and dining clubs and residential communities. Frank is Past President of The Country Club of St. Albans, a 36-hole country club located in Missouri, and he is a former partner in Concord Sports Club, a 1,700 member family athletic club in St. Louis. Frank was elected to the Board of the National Club Association in 2011 and served as Chairman in 2019-20.
Mr. Vain is a native of Philadelphia and graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is a featured speaker at the annual Club Managers Association of America World Conference, National Club Association National and Regional Conferences, Major Golf Associations and a regional chapter meeting of club managers and leaders.
Frank is a regular contributor to industry leading publications like Club Management, Club Director and BoardRoom. He was named the Gary Player Club Educator of the Year for 2012 and 2015 and received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021 by BoardRoom. He is also a co-author of McMahon’s Club Trends, a recognized industry benchmark on the trends and issues affecting private clubs.