Pool programming that suits members’ changing needs is the best way to ensure that the most family-friendly amenity lives up to expectations.
According to the McMahon Group, a private-club consulting firm, a super-majority of those now joining country clubs are between the ages of 36 and 45, with “average new members” profiling as a 42-year-old couple with two children. Those two children are often the key consideration when people fitting this profile look to join a property—and pool facilities are almost always the most attention-drawing amenity for kids.
|SUMMING IT UP
• By opening pool access to non-members, clubs can introduce prospective new member-families to the benefits of membership.
• Aquatics programming should offer something for all ages and demographics, from kids to new moms to seniors.
• In addition to emphasizing safety during swim lessons, classes that focus on CPR, AED use and best practices should be offered to members and staff. Clubs should also regularly assess pool facilities for potential safety hazards.
At Seville Golf & Country Club in Gilbert, Ariz., a robust swim team program called the Seville Sharks, which sees the involvement of more than 100 kids in the summer months, has served as a pathway to new members.
“A majority of the team are club members, but some come from the local community as well,” says Brett Draper, CCM, the former General Manager of the property who recently moved to another ClubCorp facility, Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. “They enjoy the program so much that they often become members.”
It’s no surprise that the Seville property might appeal to youth—the club’s aquatics complex features a 25-meter lap pool, smaller terrace pool where kids are taught how to swim in a controlled environment, water slides, and splash pad. But still, Draper believes, the work of Sports Club Director Phil Harris, who started out as a swim coach and has helped drive the program’s growth, has been an equally important contributor to the success and appeal of Seville’s aquatics amenity.
“Harris does all the swim lessons for youngsters, and his involvement there has helped build the program—children are connected to him,” Draper says. “He really got involved in building the community, and his personality and commitment has been the catalyst to creating that.”
While Seville G&CC has what Draper refers to as “unique demographics, with a lot of young families,” the property also offers pool programs that the older population can enjoy. The club has a senior swim team through its Masters Swim Program, as well as Aqua Tone, a water-based aerobics class offered three to four times a week. Making the class complimentary for members “creates an environment toward participation,” Draper says.
For slightly younger members, appealing primarily to the parents of the Seville Sharks, the club also offers Paddleboard Yoga from May through September. The program was originally offered with a fee when introduced last year, but is now also complimentary, to help build interest.
“Paddleboard yoga tests muscles that you didn’t even know were available,” Draper laughs.
When it comes to developing new programming, Draper says Harris has been a constant source of new and innovative ideas. “All of the athletics classes, group fitness and equipment [at Seville] are geared toward trends, so [the club] offers a diverse programming schedule,” he says. Typically, he adds, the development process starts with Harris coming up with a suggestion and the club’s Sports Club Committee helping to drive the programs’ execution.
Beyond ongoing weekly and monthly pool programs, Seville G&CC also offers luaus each year and holiday-focused events, with last year’s Memorial Day party bringing 600 members to the property. Resort-style food-and-beverage service is offered, along with cabanas that members can rent out for birthday and graduation parties. Every Saturday, the club hosts a live-music event to generate and promote further use of the space.
All Hands on Deck
Having a daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance routine and checklist for aquatic facilities is a good way to keep abreast of any potential safety hazards. Mandated items such as safety drains, anti-entrapment guards, first-aid kits, lifeguard stands and safety signage requirements must be in place. And these safety products, according to an industry expert, will further assist in ensuring safe, uninterrupted operations:
“A lot of [Seville’s] club programming is focused around use of the pool, because it’s a really cool place,” Draper says. “Having a water slide at a country club is a pretty unique offering, so the slides are opened at night for kids to come use the club with family and friends.”
Last year, he adds, the club shifted its focus to new moms, by hosting an event that invited women with children who were pre-school age and younger to meet one another and “utilize the club in a way they wouldn’t typically be able to.”
An Eye on Safety
Ensuring that members and guests are safe while either relaxing poolside or taking a dip is one of the first things frequently taught in swim training and clinics.
A recent drowning at a club close to Brookside Golf & Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, put the club and members on high alert. Immediately after the incident, Brookside canceled a dive-in movie night to allay members’ anxieties.
“We already had good policies and procedures in place, but it was a wake-up call for clubs in this area,” says General Manager Matt Ruehling, PGA. Aquatics Director Jim Callahan, who is also an American Red Cross teacher, offers classes to certify lifeguards and recently taught a class to both staff and members about CPR and the use of defibrillators.
Last spring, Brookside addressed a safety concern by transforming its exposed aggregate deck, which was installed in 1999 and was sharp and hard on feet, into a deck lined with playground rubber material, to ensure that if kids took a fall, they wouldn’t hurt themselves.
For programming, Brookside’s summer camp offers a different focus each week, so kids don’t have to make a commitment to the whole summer and can choose whether or not to participate on a weekly basis. Focus areas have included Legos, clothing and design, and science, Ruehling says.
Every morning, a group of swimmers does laps in Brookside’s Z-shaped pool, which is attached to the property’s athletic center. But most programs offered through the aquatics program, Ruehling notes, are one-time events, rather than ongoing classes. Still, he makes a point of encouraging staff and department heads to constantly develop new ideas for programming.
“I tell my staff that if you have an idea to try something new at the club, give it a shot,” Ruehling says. “If it fails, so be it. You can’t be afraid to fail.”
Bringing in Outside Expertise
For swimming lessons and clinics as well as leagues, camps, and classes, Pine Lake Country Club in Mint Hill, N.C., works with Carolina Pool Management, a company that also provides lifeguards and direction for the club’s overall aquatics program.
“Everything pretty much goes through [Carolina Pool Management], including billing and registration,” says Sandy Barnett, Pine Lake’s Marketing Director. “It’s an opportunity for us to offer those additional amenities to members with guaranteed certified lifeguards. It’s a smart and productive partnership—they focus entirely on the swim program, to maximize benefits for our members.”
Pine Lake also plays host to a water-aerobics class that is taught by and for members. The class is offered twice a week for a nominal fee, incorporating water belts and pool noodles. Guests of members are welcome at the pool for a $5 fee.
On its own, Pine Lake still organizes social events surrounding its junior Olympic pool, mini-water slide, diving boards and wading area. A party is hosted poolside for Memorial Day, and for the 4th of July, those from the community gather on the outskirts of the club to watch the only fireworks display in town.
“The 4th of July is a weekend celebration, and the pool is integral in that,” Barnett says.
The Homestead in Glen Arbor, Mich., also works with an outside company to ensure that members and guests get the most out of its aquatics amenity. The resort features one mile of Lake Michigan frontage and beach access, in addition to an outdoor heated pool at The Beach Club, the property’s private club. To offer guided kayak tours on the lake, The Homestead works with All About Water, which also operates a shop in the resort’s pedestrian village.
The Homestead also offers the use of single and double kayaks, aqua cycles, tubes, stand-up paddleboards, and “zayaks,” a snorkeling alternative that features a transparent window along the bottom of a flotation device for underwater viewing.
Of course, the property also has the benefit of being surrounded by the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore—a detail that drives its programming efforts. “We are finding that guests and members just want to be outside, enjoying the region,” says Jamie Jewell, Vice President, Sales & Marketing.