Making Sense of the Private Club Market Analysis


A Tale of Two Communities

Unlike the Charles Dickens novel, this tale is about the private club and the two distinctly different communities it serves. Both are infinitely definable and should be a part of private club market analysis. Let’s start with the first community, the club’s existing members.

Where do they come from? Depending on the club type, they can be from a variety of places. A yacht club’s members may come from 30 minutes drive time or more. A city club may draw from companies less than six blocks away. A second home community may attract members from all over the country. For this tale, let’s stick to the urban country club whose member community usually lives within roughly a 15- to 20-minute drive time.

What’s the population in that radius? How many households can afford membership? What’s the family make-up of those households? Unfortunately for most clubs, these are questions with purely estimated answers. Yet, devoid of these rudimentary market realities prices, categories of membership, programs and events are all seemingly working at your club. How does that happen? It happens in part because you develop a sense for what your members want and what they are willing to pay. Some clubs that do surveys actually have the quantitative means of determining exactly what members want and need. You can view more information here about business laws for you to know.

That brings us to the second community served by the club, the next generation of potential members. Where do they come from? The same place as the existing members. Why aren’t they already members? The answers are varied. They may be young families without time because of commitments to the children’s activities, maybe growing into salaries capable of affording membership, or maybe just moving into the area. Again, this second community is infinitely definable.

As a side note, both communities are markets for what your club is selling, memberships and services. Both communities are within the same drive time radius. Most importantly both communities are essential to your survival. Therefore, private club market analysis relies on understanding both communities. And here’s where it gets interesting…..

Everything you do to serve your first community sends a message to your second community about who you are and any relevance you might have to them. It’s called brand relevance. Let’s take for example the club with an advanced membership age that programs itself specifically to this age group. If your fifteen-minute drive time is mostly senior citizens you may not have a problem, but if it’s made up of mostly younger families you have a major issue. The second community sees and hears that you are mostly old people with nothing for the younger family and you have no brand relevance. So, in this case, while the first community is well served, the second community is not. It’s an unsustainable model.

How Communities Effect Private Club Market Analysis

There are several relevancies that need to be considered by all clubs. Age and the cultural diversity within generations is only the tip of the iceberg. Females today are making 85% of discretionary decisions and women over 50 control 75% of the nation’s wealth. Roughly translated, this means that even if you have the most incredible golf course in the city, without something for her and her kids, there’s a good likelihood that this family will continue shopping for a club that meets more than the husband’s needs.

Time is the new commodity. Nobody has enough. What does this mean for how we program activities and events, or even dining opportunities? Young families have sports practices and events that would make an inexpensive “after practice” buffet an attractive way for the family to have the time together and relieve mom of the chore of cooking.  Golf could plan shorter, less competitive events and even promote golf to the non-golfing members of the family. I’m talking fun stuff, not just lessons. It’s growing the game from within your own four walls.

The thing I hear most from member survey’s and interviews of new members is the need for more fun social events, whether in golf, dining, special events or activities. If you consider your total environment to be 360 degrees, you need to consider where best to apply and allocate your resources to embrace the broadest cross-section of your fifteen-minute drive. Consider this. Less than 5-10% of your market is likely capable of affording membership and only approximately 15% of those that can afford membership actually play golf. Now, look at the market for social, fitness or aquatics. 100% of the market that can afford membership.

The real benefit of looking at your two communities during private club market analysis is the ability to form fit your offerings to serve both. As young families grow into income and time, get them into another category of membership. If they’re not golfers, get your pro shop aligned with offering programs to get them to eventually upgrade.

Here’s the bottom line. There is nothing in any club today that cannot be fixed if you understand your two communities and serve them both well. It’s sustainable!