In today’s world, there is often too much to do for the time allotted in our busy days. If we are not working, we are involved with our children and grandchildren. We are involved in charities, in hobbies, in traveling, and in numerous home activities. So with so much competition for our time, where and how do we find time to use a club—be it a city, golf, tennis, or country club? The answer has to be in making the club experience so worthwhile that club usage becomes a top priority in our lives and for those of our family members and friends. This way, club usage becomes one of the things we enjoy most, so we try to do it the most.
In other words, if club offerings—both in facilities and programs—are provided at such exceptional levels, we will use them more and more. This means golf clubs had better provide an exceptional golf experience. Tennis clubs, squash clubs, swimming clubs and dining clubs must do the same for their primary club offerings.
One of the most important club offerings for attracting more member use is the dining program; if it’s truly outstanding, it will attract members. Even the great Winged Foot Golf Club, with all of its golf excellence, has found great success in attracting more member usage because of its outstanding dining offerings.
The other club dynamic being played out is the broadening of offerings at many seasonal country clubs. By adding non-summer activities like paddle tennis, year-round fitness facilities, babysitting, pickleball programs, or clubs-within-a-club for hunting, fishing, boating, travel, investing, wine, etc., or even seasonal memberships for member segments never served before, clubs are now getting significant year-round use by members.
Clubs that welcome families, relax dress and cell phone codes, embrace younger members and have good casual food are also gaining members.
One of the biggest challenges in the club world is that “marketing” is often perceived as a bad word, resulting in a loss of club prestige. However, unless a club markets itself properly to its own members, it’s missing out on the fruits of its labor. Therefore, internal communication to members and their families is crucial. Targeted email blasts, well-done newsletters, good member-to-member connections, effective staff-to-member communications and more are all important in getting the word out. Several clubs that communicate well and achieve positive usage results are The Briar Club in Houston, the Denver Country Club and the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania. So, if a club has numerous attractive offerings, it shouldn’t hide them under a hat. It must promote these features well and spread the word.
A club’s management team must also not be afraid of change. Try new things, like redecorating dining areas—which has shown to increase dining usage by 30% on average—adding pickleball or hiring new golf and tennis professionals with different ideas and energy. Wake up sleepy memberships with new activities. We would all be surprised at how much latent activity is in our memberships if we can just tap into it.
William P. McMahon, Sr., AIA, OAA - Chairman
Mr. McMahon is an operational, financial and architectural planning consultant to clubs throughout North America. He established McMahon Group in 1983 as an affiliate of the family architectural firm his grandfather founded in 1906. Over the ensuing years, the firm has expanded its club consulting services beyond clubhouse improvement planning to a full range of services for all aspects of private club challenges. To date, the firm has assisted more than 1,500 private clubs across the United States, Canada, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean.