Making Your Private Club Relevant


One endeavor all private clubs embark on is the continuous goal of making the private club relevant to their members. By definition, relevancy means pertinent, germane, appropriate, significant and/or important and having social significance.  We continue to hear the word more today as clubs begin to relate relevance to the programming we offer to our members.

Clubs exist as a result of three basic outcomes, membership growth, membership retention and member usage or engagement.  If a club is not successful in these basic principals, their survival is certainly at risk.

As we continue to recognize the product life cycle nature of golf and country club’s evolutionary process, we are discovering that new value propositions and relevancies must evolve in what our clubs offer to members and potential members.  With a focus on growth, retention and usage, this means we must similarly gauge changes in member’s needs and patterns of usage.

The first step in the process is the awareness and acceptance of market realities both in their global and local impact to our clubs.  For too long, at too many clubs, we have allowed a few outspoken members to drive strategy and direction based on the premise “we’ve always done it that way”.  Outside of the club walls, reality speaks a different tune. Consumers will not change their lifestyle simply to become a private club member.

As an industry, golf’s decline, whether short or long term, is problematic. Quite simply, golf has been the most widely leveraged factor in driving membership sales and satisfaction. While some might argue that the downturn is temporary, most product life cycle experts would disagree. Perhaps as importantly, trends in usage and membership at most clubs today point clearly in a direction of lifestyle diversity in terms of wants, needs and satisfaction. These desires are driven as a by-product of age, family make-up, and economy. Time availability has also emerged as a key factor in both membership growth, retention and relevancy.

As an example, most clubs with adequate fitness facilities are finding that fitness usage is outpacing golf rounds. Why? Because fitness addresses the key issues that today’s consumers are concerned with, time and health.  Surveys results also suggest similar participation in family events, children’s activities and other “targeted” events meeting the needs of a club’s demographic diversity.  The point is that today’s successful club has recognized that understanding market trends as a means of gauging member’s needs is more important today than ever before.

Fundamentally, clubs by nature, offer diversity of facilities and activities. As culture changes, as needs become more diverse and as time continues to be a driver of sales and activity, clubs must evolve into a more dynamic presence in member’s and potential member’s lives.

A club’s market is finite and definable.  Likewise, member’s needs and the needs of potential members are as easily definable.  As simple as it may sound, the most important first step clubs can take is to build their programs and offerings on the premise of being relevant to potential new members, to the one’s we already have and to increasing usage and satisfaction.

As in all industries, there are challenges.  As in all products, there is a life cycle.  While the private club may be different than what we equate with normal business, change is a constant and interests wane.  Every person on staff can influence both offerings and the way we make our members feel.  By putting ourselves more into the lives of our members and potential members we are better able to understand and respond to the relevancy they want and need.

May it be ever so simple, there’s nothing like member relevance.