Florida, Day 4

Remember in the movie Fletch when he busts into the club under the pretense of solving a crime (chasing a hot woman) and orders a bunch of expensive food and claims “Charge it to the Underhills?”

 This week, we’ve had the fun of charging it to the Arnesons. Most clubs have a minimum amount you have to spend annually on food and drink and if you don’t spend it, you get charged anyway. With my parents not being here the last couple years, it’s up to us to wine and dine, like a sacred duty.

 Country Clubs are a culture all of their own. I’m talking old-school country clubs, the kind with golf and tennis memberships, member-guest tournaments, Pro-Ams, over-priced branded merch in the pro shop, and antiquated Men and Ladies Days. Back in the olden days (not that long ago) golf courses belonged to the masters of the universe (men) and the ladies were granted one day per week where they could have the morning on the course to themselves. Men were NOT allowed to make tee-times on this morning, so the ladies could golf with their girlfriends unfettered by male critique or commentary. ONE DAY. Not even a day, really, it was just for the morning. The men could get on the course later in the afternoon, after the ladies had all wrapped up.

 There’s still ladies days and men’s days but most clubs now are more egalitarian and women can get on the course whenever they damn please, unless there’s a tournament or something. I will say, though, that it’s still a man’s world in many of these places that were built for my parents’ generation.

 The club here, and the one we belonged to back in Minnesota, are not high end places. The super wealthy don’t live here, and there’s not a lot of snobbery or elitism. That sounds funny, because let’s be honest, country clubs are elitist by their very nature. It costs a lot to join and maintain a membership . . . but some are far more bougie than others.

 In the grand tradition of country clubs, the food and beverage experience is not on any sort of fancy or foodie level. There are no James Beard chefs vying for top positions at country clubs. Why? Because the members, especially of an older generation, do not want fancy food. Steaks, chops, seafood, basic pastas, chef’s salad, chicken salad scooped into a tomato half, the diet plate, a decent hamburger, club sandwich, etc. You might get a blue cheese compound butter on your ribeye or a drizzle of raspberry coulis on your key lime pie plate, but in general, it’s basic and approachable food.

 The décor? Hehehe. Most clubs that are newly remodeled and redecorated look to be at about 1997 in design, and resemble a very nice assisted living lobby and community space. Pastels abound, soothing blonde or very dark wood tones, and swirls on the carpet. The fancier the club, the younger the members, the higher the initiation fees and dues, the more progressive and current the décor.

 On this trip, we had poolside lunch and drinks one day (white wine and the triple salad plate of chicken, tuna and egg salad scoops), lunch with the sweet older couple that watches the house here (cobb salad, as in ritual cobb salad lunch), and a nice dinner for the two of us. We really wanted to splurge and spend that minimum, but the most expensive steak was $26 and the most expensive wine was $50, so we dined deeply and left a very generous tip. Go us!

 All my wry and sarcastic comments aside, it’s really a lovely place and the members and staff are wonderful people. Again, I count myself privileged to have this be part of my life experience. Call me Mrs. Underhill.

Jill Holter