The Long Game

By | June 16th, 2017

Manasquan River GC offered its Topgolf-inspired Junior Tri-Olympics for members under 40 as part of an effort to appeal to the millennial demographic. The event included three games set up in a bracket system, so attendees were “always playing something,” says Ryan Brennan, CCM, General Manager of Clubhouse Operations.

Manasquan River GC’s “Junior Tri-Olympics” transformed the driving range into party central for the 40-and-under crowd.

Topgolf, the entertainment complexes featuring high-tech driving ranges and other games, along with food, alcohol, and a party atmosphere, has exploded in popularity over the past few years, with locations all over the world.

While some in the club and golf industries fear that Topgolf may have negative effects on the game, such as leeching players away from standard clubs and courses, Manasquan River Golf Club in Brielle, N.J., decided to embrace the trend with its latest new member and retention initiative.

“The idea stemmed from the popularity of Topgolf, but we don’t have the technology or ability to reproduce that—not that our members would want it anyway,” says General Manager of Clubhouse Operations Ryan Brennan, CCM. “But we did want a fun night on the driving range for those under 40 but over 21.”

THE GOAL: Entice existing members of Manasquan River GC who are 40 and under—whether junior members or children of members—to use the facility, while also laying the groundwork with prospective members by inviting guests who may want to join a club later in life.

THE PLAN: Create a summer event modeled after the festive party atmosphere at Topgolf by setting up targets on the driving range and offering a cornhole tournament and “beer pong” (played with water) while supplying libations and a buffet.
THE PAYOFF: Closer relationships among junior members and children of members who now have their own reasons to visit the club.

Beer-pong tables using water added to the party
atmosphere at the Junior Tri-Olympics.

Further, Brennan adds, the event was a reaction to the club industry-wide conundrum of how to appeal to the millennial demographic. “We want to be at the forefront of that,” Brennan says.

Held last July 23, Manasquan River’s “Junior Tri-Olympics” transformed the club’s driving range into party central for the 40-and-under crowd. Staff pushed the mats 40 yards forward from where they usually are and set up different targets for attendees to take aim at, along with a beer-pong table (with water, not beer) as well as cornhole.

The club even drew up brackets, so attendees were “always playing something,” says Brennan, and champions were announced in each game.

To cultivate the party atmosphere, a DJ was stationed on the driving range, where an open-air wine and craft beer bar was set up, along with a separate seating area for a buffet.

“It’s not easy to close the driving range at 4 p.m. in the middle of July, but sometimes you need to think outside the box and be creative,” says Brennan.

The event was intended to appeal to two groups: those who are adult children of current members who only go to the club with their parents and have little reason to go on their own; and prospective junior members who, in 10 years or so, may start to consider joining a club.

The three activities offered to the under-40 crowd at the Junior Tri-Olympics included a shortened driving range set up with targets, beer-pong tables (using water), and cornhole boards.

“We wanted to focus on our junior members to get more participation at the club away from their parents, as well as educating 20 guests on what a private club is,” Brennan says.

Held from 6 to 10 p.m., the event cost $25 per person. While Brennan can’t be sure if Manasquan River will gain any new members from its first Tri-Olympics, the club feels it has laid the groundwork for what could be an annual gathering.

“We had 40 to 45 under-40-year-olds at the club, which is [something usually seen] few and far between,” says Brennan. “They didn’t know what to expect when they arrived, but as the night went on, they started having more fun, and by the end, people who didn’t know each other before [they came] had their arms around each other for the group picture.

“A lot of the under-40s always see each other at the club, but never really had an opportunity to engage with each other,” Brennan says. “But they gained some everlasting friends from that evening and a friendly face at the club, and have started using the clubhouse more by themselves, rather than just with their parents.”

 

INSTANT IDEA

The fitness staff at The Country Club of Virginia, Richmond, Va., built events around unusual holidays—such as a “daylight savings time outdoor spin” and a “tax day protect your bottom line and assets”—to break members out of their usual routines.

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