In this excerpt from C+RB’s special report on management companies, read why David Pillsbury, CEO of ClubCorp, believes there are still signs that golf, and the club business, will be able to capitalize on the renewed interest that was seen while the sport was able to continue as other entertainment options were curtailed. Also, when COVID hit, many of the firm’s properties gained added publicity by opening unused banquet space for American Red Cross blood drives.
While providing resources and expertise so their portfolios’ properties could navigate the pandemic, multi-club operators also made moves to prepare for the “new normal” and lent muscle to the country’s larger recovery effort. This special report provides updates on how the year unfolded for several of the leading U.S.-based management companies, focusing on how they marshalled their collective resources to not only support the needs of their properties, but also the larger recovery efforts for the club industry, the regions they operate in, and the country as a whole. The report can be found in its entirety in the latest Club + Resort Business digital issue (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/category/digital-issue/).
Here is the portion of the report dedicated to ClubCorp:
In an interview with Forbes, David Pillsbury, CEO of ClubCorp, acknowledged the growth in golf that was seen in 2020 is unlikely to continue at the same pace in 2021, but he remains bullish on the sport, and the club business.
“I think there will definitely be a pullback, there is no question,” Pillsbury told Forbes. “We are not going to see the levels of growth in 2021 that we saw in 2020. I do, however, think we will hold on as an industry to at least half of this new demand.”
Coupled with the surge in numbers of players joining clubs, Pillsbury told Forbes that he sees metrics showing domestic retail equipment sales topping $1 billion for the months of July, August and September to set an all-time third-quarter high, as indicative of a high level of commitment of golf’s newest entrants, increasingly the likelihood they stick with the game.
“Membership sales are up 20% over the prior year,” he noted. “People aren’t just dabbling, they are buying membership at a club and paying dues. When you join a private club, you’ve made a pretty significant investment, and it’s not something you are easily going to walk away from.”
Dallas, Texas-based ClubCorp, which owns and operates more than 200 private golf and country clubs, city and stadium clubs in markets throughout the U.S., has been known throughout its over 60 years of existence for impressive charitable initiatives, including the annual, firm-wide Charity Classic golf and dining event that opens its properties to the public and has raised nearly $30 million for a variety of causes since 2007.
When the pandemic took hold and set off a spate of cancellations of scheduled events at ClubCorp properties, the firm drew on its philanthropic heritage to quickly devise a way to make the most of the situation. A partnership was arranged with the American Red Cross to have ClubCorp properties make now-unused banquet space available to host events that helped to fill the urgent need for blood and platelet donations.
“When COVID hit, we lost a lot of our private business events,” Pillsbury explained. “We can’t have big gatherings, but we have big banquet spaces, [so] we’re using it to spread [people] out to have these blood drives. It’s kind of the perfect marriage.”
“We know our members have a huge heart for their local communities and they’re always asking for ways they can make a difference,” Pillsbury added. “[So] we talked to the Red Cross and mobilized drives across the country.”
ClubCorp set up a page on its website, which also detailed the safety measures that were being followed, to publicize the blood-drive events at its clubs as they were added to the schedule. And each drive also often included local publicity for the clubs; the drive held in July at Oakmont Country Club in Corinth, Texas, for example, received advance notice in the Denton (Texas) Record-Chronicle.
ClubCorp also cranked up its communications and publicity machine to help fill job openings at its clubs as golf, tennis and other activities picked up following the initial disruption caused by the outbreak. The management firm was featured on the “Now Hiring” segment of the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s CBS television affiliate, with April Scopa, ClubCorp’s Chief People Officer, promoting working at clubs as “an opportunity to work in a really fun environment.”
The two-minute feature highlighted ClubCorp’s need to fill over 100 jobs at 17 of its properties in the North Texas region. “With golf being at an all-time high, our country clubs are very active; we are like the perfect social-distancing activity,” said Scopa. “We are looking for all sorts of positions; whether it’s golf, tennis or fitness, we need hospitality [workers]. We also have sales positions that we offer and then with our headquarters [in Dallas there are opportunities] for a corporate position.”
Scopa also touted the “competitive pay” and “long list of benefits” that ClubCorp could offer full-time employees. She noted that the firm would provide onboarding and training programs for those looking to pivot their skills and careers, and that the company was in the process of developing a leadership program for those who aspire to work in management positions. The report also included a link showing specific jobs available at ClubCorp properties.
City clubs encountered special challenges related to the pandemic’s dramatic effect on office arrangements, and The Dayton (Ohio) Club, a 49-year-old ClubCorp property, did fall victim to the new predominance of remote meetings and working from home. ClubCorp announced its closing in November, stating that its “business model was no longer sustainable.”
The year also brought another extension of a promising new trend that ClubCorp has been spearheading, however, with the announcement of the firm’s partnership with the University of Arizona’s Athletics Department to open the Arizona Sands Club in Tucson, Ariz.The club, which opened on October 1st, overlooks the Arizona Stadium football field and the Santa Catalina Mountains and joined facilities on the campuses of Texas Tech University (Lubbock), The University of Texas (Austin), Baylor University (Waco) and Florida State University (Tallahassee). as the newest “private dining and lifestyle” stadium club in the firm’s portfolio.
ClubCorp also saw continued growth of its ClubLife Management division, earning a management engagement with The Golf Club at South River in Edgewater, Md. and an extension of its arrangement with the Santa Rosa Golf & Beach Club in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.
“The partnership with ClubLife Management has been a win on all fronts for Santa Rosa Golf & Beach Club,” said the club’s President, Bob Baird, in announcing the extension to 2023. “We’ve seen steady, continued growth since our partnership began in 2015, and their support and guidance through the COVID-19 pandemic has been truly invaluable.”
The extension would also ensure continuity, Baird noted, as Santa Rosa prepares to break ground in the first quarter of 2021 for a multimillion-dollar golf course renovation that will include a complete overhaul of current greens and bunker complexes, new grassing of fairways, and improvements to the irrigation and drainage systems.