Are They Not Entertained?

Joe Barks, Editor, Club & Resort Business

The lists of “expert tips” I’ve found on making a facility “Millennial ready” sound a lot like what I find at just about every club I go to now.

There’s been a lot of commentary lately about Millennials as they relate to the club industry, and whether or not it’s worth it to make special efforts to get them to join clubs or play more golf.

Much of what’s been written, it seems to me, really ends up boiling down to generation-gap disagreements about what exactly a club is these days, or what constitutes “playing” golf.

The older participants in the debate generally scoff at the new types of social clubs that are being created to offer younger prospects alternatives to joining traditional country or city clubs. These aren’t “real” clubs, the detractors say, they’re just glorified bars or music halls that happen to have a flimsy membership requirement.

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And don’t get the old-timers started on the subject of Topgolf and other similar venues that are sprouting like spring onion grass throughout the country. This is where you’ll get treated to some great “get off my lawn” tirades. Here’s a sampling:

“Topgolf is not golf. It’s a business no different than a bowling alley. It’s a driving range where you can play games. It builds driving-range hitters of golf balls. Golf takes patience, and Millennials were not taught patience and they don’t know how to get it.”

As the father of three Millennials myself, I get that figuring out what will and will not capture their attention—and their commitment for regular expenditures—can often be a challenge. But I also know that on the whole, those in that age demographic are much more socially oriented and open to exploring new opportunities for entertainment and leisure activities than I was at their age. And that would certainly qualify them, I would think, as good candidates to become regular and loyal customers—dare I say members?—for anything and any place that can effectively command and hold their interest.

And judging from a host of other articles I’ve seen recently about what it takes to make a facility “Millennial ready,” delivering what this segment “demands” really doesn’t seem like it would require a lot of extra or special effort, anyway. The lists of “expert tips” I’ve found all seem to come down primarily to having good WiFi service, relaxed policies about dress and devices, and a creative approach to events. Which sounds an a lot like what I find at just about every club I go to now.

One of the earliest anthems of the Millennial generation, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” set forth the challenge of, “Here we are now, entertain us.” For club managers who have devoted their profession to responding to similar demands from many other member segments, why should answering this latest request be any more difficult, or be seen as one to ignore or dismiss?