Perhaps the thought entered your mind while driving to Clementon Amusement Park down the road. Or while standing atop a green at Pine Hill Golf Club, pondering the forbiddingly exclusive Pine Valley Golf Club over yonder.

One day, I, too, will mingle with the millionaires at Pine Valley. I, too, will land my helicopter for 18 holes at the nation's most exclusive course. But until then, thank God they let me in at lovely Pine Hill.

Well, dreamer, as of 12:01 a.m. yesterday, consider yourself in need of a Plan C.

Golf fanatic Donald Trump bought Pine Hill, the semipublic South Jersey club, yesterday and converted it, immediately, into an all-private playground.

A goal is to make it as alluring as its peerless Pine Valley neighbor, which is one of the world's most coveted courses for its challenging terrain and cocoonlike isolation.

Weekday public access at Pine Hill: out. Existing members: grandfathered in. New members: welcome.

Trump's plan, against a recessionary backdrop that has seen courses vanish with the fortunes of their once-spendthrift corporate patrons, is to craft the 10-year-old course into a jewel for the high-status set. But entrée would come at a less pocket-burning price than the competition in its class.

Its new name: Trump National Golf Club - Philadelphia. The 365-acre course becomes the 11th in the Trump portfolio, along with another Trump acquisition also announced yesterday, that of Branton Woods Golf Club in New York.

"All of Donald's clubs across the country, they're all private clubs, ultraexclusive, beautiful golf clubs," said Trump golf division executive Dan Scavino, who got his start as Trump's caddie years ago. "When Donald goes in there and puts his touches on everything, they're the best of the best around."

Trump bought Pine Hill for an undisclosed price from Empire Golf Management, the Pomona, N.Y., firm that built and designed the course a decade ago in Camden County. It had been a ramshackle, bankrupt ski resort before Empire came along.

The deal had been in the works for the better part of a year, said Rudy Virga, Empire Golf's director of operations and a South Philadelphia native. Both clubs scooped up by Trump had been Empire assets.

Virga said both courses were among Empire's least profitable courses. The entire industry, he said, is suffering after a boom period during which developers across the country built more golf courses than, ultimately, were needed.

"Everywhere you turned there was just another golf course being built," said Virga, who described Empire as happy with the sale to Trump. "A lot of them, over the last three, five years have completely gone under. We thought it was the right time to get out and make a move." Empire still owns its four most profitable golf courses, he said.

One reason for Trump's high-marketing ambitions at Pine Hill is that its terrain is similar to that of its illustrious neighbor, Pine Valley, whose undulating greens and breathtaking views are the rage of the upper-crust golfing set.

Camden County Freeholder Jeffrey Nash, who described himself as a "terrible golfer," has never teed off at Pine Valley but has many friends who would "give up an awful lot" to play there.

"You'd have to ask a golfer what makes it so amazing to play," Nash said. "But everyone I have talked to who has played it says the same thing: It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

While Pine Hill is no Pine Valley, it is near the fabled course.

"Pine Valley is rated the No. 1 course by virtually everybody," Trump said in a phone interview. "And this is the same land, same trees, same soil conditions, same grass and, quite frankly, we have many Pine Valley people playing the course all the time."

Pine Hill's views are roundly described as magnificent. Pine Hill Mayor Fred Costantino would often take his wife to the course for lunch or dinner, just to take in the sights - something only members will be able to do now.

"The golf club sits atop a hill that's about 280 feet above sea level," said Costantino, who had been told about the sale in advance. In winter snow, he said, "you're overlooking the trees and everything is so white and pristine. In the fall time, you're overlooking the trees and you see all the changing colors."

Using these selling points, Trump will try to boost the club's cachet - but with a twist.

The club will charge lower prices, to attract a more cost-conscious golf tycoon, so to speak. The Pine Hill course will be among the more affordable of the 11 clubs owned and managed by the golfing division of The Trump Organization, Scavino said.

For example, Trump's course in Westchester, N.Y., charges $300,000 to join and $37,500 a year in dues. That will not be the case in Pine Hill, Scavino said.

Given that Pine Valley is so difficult to join - one must be invited to play there - the Trump marketing team says Pine Hill will attract the region's attorneys, physicians, dealmakers, and others in search of a similar experience.

Trump has not yet set new rates, Scavino said, but officials were looking into building a heliport to accommodate Trump's helicopter and those of prospective members in the deal-making or moneyed set.

"They will have the opportunity to fly off their rooftop in Philadelphia," Scavino said, "and land on our golf course in Pine Hill."

Contact staff writer Maria Panaritis at 215-854-2431 or mpanaritis@phillynews.com.