But the association says the outlook may be improving. Last year, the group reported that 47 percent of clubs nationwide delayed facility improvements; that has declined to about 20 percent.
Smeyne, who now belongs to the Suburban Club in Pikesville, remembers taking his son-in-law, a corporate attorney, to play golf at Chestnut Ridge.
"Three hours on the golf course, he was on the phone," he said. "Young people are like that. ... It's a different world today. And country clubs are part of a slower world."
Smeyne, a retired entrepreneur who once owned arcades, Benetton sweater shops and a distribution company that sold jukeboxes, pinball machines and other items, also said that premier public courses offer an alternative for golf enthusiasts.
He grew up in a middle-class family, and joined a country club in the late 1970s, once he could afford the cost.
Since then, Smeyne has seen attitudes change.
"It used to be if you were a member of a country club, you have arrived," he said. "I don't think my friends think that anymore."
Some clubs that have closed in recent years:
•Chestnut Ridge Country Club, Lutherville
•Bonnie View Country Club, Mount Washington area
•Worthington Valley Country Club, Owings Mills