Ritzy Washington country club with $150K initiation fee torn apart over plans to upgrade no-gals-allowed ‘Men’s Club’

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Boldface names at a ritzy DC-area country club are revolting against the organization’s plan to upgrade its men-only lounge as part of a major renovation project.

More than 100 members of the Washington Golf and Country Club in Arlington, Virginia — which reportedly has initiation fees of up to $150,000 and a years-long waiting list — demanded that the club’s board reconsider its $5 million renovation project that preserves the outdated gender segregation at the Men’s Grill.

“Dozens among us have shared our objection to perpetuating a gender-restricted Men’s Grill at WGCC,” the members state in the letter, obtained by Politico Influence.


More than 100 members have demanded that the Washington Golf and Country Club reconsider its plans to maintain gender-segregated dining spaces. Washington Golf & Country Club

Signatories include former North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan; Susan Brophy, a top lobbyist at PR firm FGS Global and a former Clinton White House staffer; and US Travel Association CEO Geoff Freeman.

The mad members blame club president John Burlingame, a partner at white-shoe law firm Squire Patton Boggs, for the plan, according to Politico.

One club source told the outlet that he was pursuing a “grossly misogynistic and outdated agenda” for the storied, 130-year-old country club.

The members say the plan to keep the Men’s Grill at the club — members of which have included Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson — puts them in a difficult position.

“I share the embarrassment of these members when trying to explain to my mother, sister, wife, daughters, colleagues and friends why a modern-day gathering place holds on to this vestige of the past,” Freeman wrote in an individual letter to the board, obtained by Politico.

Under the plan to upgrade the facilities at the Washington Golf and Country Club, the co-ed Tap Room Bar and Lounge will be expanded and the Men’s Grill will be moved and upgraded.


Illustration of the Men's Grill.
The Men’s Grill is much larger and has better amenities than the Ladies’ Lounge, the members argued. Washington Gold Country Club

The women-only Ladies’ Lounge, however, would only get additional seats and no makeover.

“Now is the time for the Board to maximize co-ed socializing spaces and create more parity in the Men’s and Women’s lounge areas,” the members griped.

The club leadership has pushed back, answering a flat “No” when asked whether it planned to scrap gendered lounges, according to an email it sent the community in the wake of the letter.

“One of the things about a bubble of privilege is that people sometimes get away with things that would never be tolerated in their professional lives,” one member, who was granted anonymity to avoid losing their club membership, told Politico.

“John Burlingame is a respected man in his profession, and it’s hard to square that with this grossly misogynistic and outdated agenda he is leading in his personal life.”

Another member defended Burlingame, saying he is in an “unenviable position,” but is “missing the opportunity to lead our club in a critical discussion about this anachronistic tradition.”

Neither Burlingame nor the club returned The Post’s requests for comment.

The club issued a statement to Politico that the $5 million renovation proposals have been in development for years and were based on member feedback. No formal proposals have been presented to members, who will have the opportunity to vote on the plan’s financing.

“With respect to these proposals, members have the opportunity through the club’s governance structure, including standing committees, to propose changes to the club’s facilities and operations,” WGCC said. “The board also sought feedback on the plans from members which generated a variety of viewpoints.”

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