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Fueling Membership Growth and Diversity at Your Club

The economy is booming and consumers have discretionary income they are looking to spend on the social and recreational lifestyle.

Private clubs of all types (including golf, country clubs, city clubs, tennis clubs, ski clubs, etc...) are seeing robust membership growth. However, successful consumers are not joining private clubs without a great deal of thought and consideration.

Private club members have very specific expectations of what private club life should be for them. If those expectations are not met they will not join the club initially or will resign from their club without any regret.

So, private clubs in 2019 should continue to focus on the 21st century needs and demands of their current and potential members. And, without question, private clubs evolving with their recreational amenities, recognition of attitudes/beliefs of Millennial's, ever changing social structures and forward-thinking strategic planning are enjoying vibrant memberships and strong financial performance.


However, golf is no longer the only important amenity, although golf will always play a prominent role as the recreational cornerstone for private golf and country clubs. However, new prospective members are also looking for a much more diverse and expansive private club offering for their social and recreational enjoyment. Non-golfers are also attracted to the lifestyle with others of similar ages, interests, and activities (think family and young children).

Private club consumers are demanding strategies that connect them to the club and are an extension of their current lifestyles. They desire programming that coordinates to how they live and enjoy life (fantasy golf, casual dress, music on the driving range, USP ports on golf carts, comfort food, high speed internet, kids' club, etc...) so that they do not feel the need to compromise their lifestyle beliefs because they joined a private club.

Private clubs need to focus on unique capital expenditures and long-term strategic planning. Again, not simply concentrating on 'non-sexy' 'deferred maintenance' but rather cutting-edge strategic planning and capital expenditures focused on 'non-golf offerings,' including bocce, paddle tennis, health and fitness, al fresco dining and technology to name a few.


We all know when clubs think about new membership growth, they merely are seeking those with the top line revenue generated by a full privilege membership. For those on the finance committee the term 'full time equivalents' tends to be their main focus. This is usually the only definition for the success of new member growth each year. However, private clubs today are enjoying enormous success in memberships being purchased by 'non-golfing members.' These Social/Sports members are people who were viewed with disdain or completely ignored by the private club industry just a few years ago.

Private clubs are now realizing the multiple merits of this 'non-golfing' member. Clubs are now thrilled to see these consumers using a Social/Sports membership as a new "gateway" to a higher dues/initiation fee relationship with the club.

There's no question, golfers are very passionate about their sport and play a key financial role in the success of a private golf and country club, yet a growing number of new members are no long only interested in a 'full golfing' membership. Consumers today are choosing the membership classification that best fits their desired relationship.

Private clubs are now embracing the financial support of their Social/Sport members who may be "dipping their toe in the water," rather than simply a net to catch downgrading older members.

We challenge private clubs to look at social members not simply as a fraction of full-time equivalents, but as an opportunity to potentially cultivate and nurture that member into a full privilege membership down the road. When a club has impressed this member thoroughly with its social programming and the wonderful, welcoming environment around the club, it provides these members with the opportunity to envision a long-term experience and lifestyle.


It's also important to note that Millennial's are unlike any generation the private club industry (or any industry for that matter) has ever seen. Theses younger individuals have been raised in an era of smartphones and social media tools that emphasize the endless possibilities the world has to offer and the ability to think outside the box to achieve it.

Believe it or not, Millennial's place enormous value on exclusivity and social relationships they can experience as a private club member.

We are seeing Millennial's joining private clubs in droves. Private clubs that are forward-thinking and offering lifestyle experiences that coincide with their beliefs and lifestyle desires are enjoying considerable membership growth success.

However, long-term loyalty is not a dominant characteristic of Millennials, which presents a signification challenge to anyone who hopes to capture this invaluable consumer and keep their attention, engaged and involved. 

Ignoring this consumer today may potentially cost your club dearly in the future by not adapting to an ever-changing societal environment.

While it always comes down to providing a unique and fulfilling lifestyle experience, nationwide, private clubs will need to get even better at providing a private club experience to a demanding group of consumers that represent the future of the industry.

Private clubs that are adapting and evolving are flourishing in this 'speed of light' world for which private clubs find themselves today.

This article appeared in the November/December issue of The BoardRoom Magazine.


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