May 30, 2018

Springdale Golf Club Looks to Future, Affiliates With Nassau Swim Club

By Anne Levin

There is significant history on the grounds of Springdale Golf Club. Right around the fairway of the fifth hole, George Washington’s troops are said to have camped prior to the historic Battle of Princeton in 1777.

But the current focus at Springdale is on the future — specifically, appealing to a broader base of the community.
Central to that mission is a new agreement with Nassau Swim Club, which is nestled in woods within walking distance of the golf club.

As part of this new arrangement, swim club members can use Springdale’s dining facilities and play golf, and Springdale members have a place to cool off in the pool. Dues at both locations will remain the same (golfers will play green fees).

“We are adapting to demographics that are negative for golf,” said Kevin Tylus, chairman of Springdale’s board of governors and president of Bryn Mawr Trust. “There has been a big shift — baby boomers are aging. New members will still have to be invited to join, but it won’t be as exclusive.”

Membership at Springdale suffered three years ago when Princeton University, which owns the land on which the 123-year-old course is situated, came out with information many interpreted as threatening to the club’s future. In its Campus Plan, the school indicated that “the Springdale land would be reserved for long-term use in support of the University’s educational mission,” according to Daniel Day, assistant vice president in the University’s Office of Communications. While the plan makes no recommendations for specific uses, it does note that any future development would not occur for at least 10 years.

“Also, any development would be sensitive to any potential impact on the adjacent neighborhood, would enhance the stream corridor and recognize the historic attributes of the property, and would seek to improve public access to open space on the site, including pedestrian and cycling pathways,” according to the plan.

Springdale’s licensing agreement with the University expires in 2037. That, and the club’s longstanding, cordial relationship with the school, make Tylus feel secure about the club’s location. Membership has grown by 10 percent in the past year.

“The news, three years ago, was very conceptual,” he said. “Now, with the announcement of the Lake Campus they are developing, we believe the club can be maintained as a green space for a long time. The University is an outstanding partner. We’re one of 14 affiliates they have. They’ve helped us with things like dealing with the emerald ash borer infestation. They hold events here. We’re the home of their men’s and women’s golf teams.”

Springdale was, in fact, created by Princeton University. In 1895, the Princeton Golf Club was formed by alumni, faculty, and undergraduates. According to the Springdale website, “Moses Taylor Pyne, Stephen Palmer, and Cornelius C. Cuyler formed the Springdale Association and raised $25,000 to buy the old Stockton Farm of 240 acres, the site of the present Graduate College and Springdale Golf Club. Work started on a new nine-hole course that opened for play in March of 1902. The property was turned over to the University in 1909.”

The course was enlarged to 18 holes in 1915. Famed golf course architect William Flynn is responsible for a significant redesign in 1927. The original design is attributed to Willie Dunn Jr. and Gerald Lambert. “The golf course architects are as famous as the architects who built the campus,” said Tylus. “So the culture of Springdale fits Princeton University. This course has been large un-reconstructed since Flynn redesigned it. From a golf standpoint, this is a major piece of land.”

For Nassau Swim Club, the agreement with Springdale is “a no-brainer,” said Kristina Hill, president of the board. “It’s all about building a community in this neighborhood, where I think we’ve lost some of that. We have this beautiful pool in the woods. They have a beautiful golf course. This is a good way to go.”

The swim club, which opened for the season last weekend, was created in the 1960s as a cooperative. “Everybody puts in time,” said Hill. “And that was a very important part of what we needed to have in the agreement. If you register, we ask you to give a couple of hours, whether it be scooping ice cream, teaching a yoga class, or whatever — just bring your talents and skills. We felt this was important to maintain. And it’s a way for people to meet new friends and get to know each other.”

Swim club members will have access to Springdale’s golf course after 2 p.m. “We can play there and bring a guest, which is great because a lot of people will want to bring their son or daughter to play. We’ll have access to meals there and be invited to some of their events,” Hill said.

Springdale’s new arrangement with Nassau Swim Club is one of several efforts to broaden its base and appeal to a wider community. Last October, the club partnered with Special Olympics on an event for the youth development organization The First Tee. A First Responders Day is planned for emergency workers and their families. Women Golfers Give Back, a fundraiser to include a clinic for junior girls, will take place in October.

The future of the club “is not something that’s causing stress for Springdale members,” said Tylus. “If anything, it has created a better dialogue with the University. We are a University affiliate, in the top 10 of university-affiliated golf clubs in the country. Maybe the news was actually a wake-up call about how this cherished land is in the everyone’s best interest to keep in play. The swim club is one step in that process.”