The pandemic, as well as the changing demographics of members, have prompted club leaders to re-examine, reassess and revise the programs and activities they offer.
I love the movie “Apollo 13.” I could watch it again and again. My favorite aspect of the 1995 Tom Hanks/Ron Howard film is its celebration of human ingenuity in the face of an extraordinary challenge.
I think the best quote in the movie is from actor Ed Harris, who portrays NASA Chief Flight Director Gene Kranz. In one scene, NASA engineers argue about the safest way to bring the astronauts home. After an engineer notes the lunar module was specifically designed to land on the moon, Harris says: “I don’t care what anything was designed to do. I care about what it can do.”
The film then shows how the brilliant minds at NASA craft new procedures to conserve power on the Odyssey and work with the crew to bring them home safely. It was a heroic effort that was kickstarted by a leader who challenged his employees to think differently about the resources they had at their disposal.
Human ingenuity and creativity have been on display at country clubs, too, as leaders have figured out ways to innovate during the last few years. Club leaders had to recalibrate in response to both the COVID-19 pandemic and new trends in their industry.
For this month’s Annual Ideas Issue, I spoke with several club leaders about new events and programs they’ve implemented due to rapidly changing circumstances. I was impressed with both their ideas and how they executed them.
At Salisbury Country Club in Midlothian, Va., Reindeer Run was created in 2020 as a safe, outdoor activity during the pandemic, but was so well-liked by members that it now has become an annual event. A couple days before Christmas, members of all ages go for an easy run on the cart path through a 9-hole section of Salisbury’s 27-hole golf course. Employees dressed as holiday characters appeared on the fairways and interacted with the runners. The event ended with a snowball fight using cotton balls, followed by a post-run party, complete with hot chocolate, gingerbread waffles, a DJ playing tunes and beverages for all.
Dan Jordan, Clubhouse Operations Manager at Salisbury Country Club, tells me a large number of young families have joined his club in the last five years and Reindeer Run is one of many events that cater to that demographic.
When the pandemic was restricting attendance numbers at events in 2020, Philadelphia Country Club in Gladwyne, Pa. hosted five separate activities shortly after the 4th of July. Members could choose from events such as partying at the pool, having drinks in a golf cart on the fairway, or enjoying a formal dinner on the club’s patio. Attendees at each event capped off their evening watching a fireworks show.
Just like their counterparts in Virginia, Philadelphia Country Club leaders tried to offer something for every member of the family.
Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville, Va. launched Adventure Camp in 2021 to offer summer activities for 11 to 15-year-olds, a group that is sometimes overlooked.
“That age group is so difficult to program for,” Farmington’s Youth Programs Manager, Paul Shockley, tells me. “I wanted to try to get something for that … group and have them feel involved.”
Shockley’s program was well-received, and will continue this summer.
The pandemic, as well as the changing demographics of members, have prompted club leaders to re-examine, reassess and revise the programs and activities they offer. Just as the Apollo 13 engineers had to think of new ways to use their spacecraft’s equipment, club leaders are reshaping their organizations with hefty doses of both imagination and hard work.
This month’s issue will show the positive outcomes of these new ideas. I hope you enjoy reading the stories and perhaps find some inspiration. In the meantime, please continue to let me know about your innovations at [email protected].