Advertising, eliminating food minimums, and securing annual guest golf-round commitments have helped Plum Hollow CC add 100 members and improve its long-term outlook.
The efforts of Plum Hollow Country Club, an 80-year-old private club in Southfield, Mich. to reverse declining membership and improve its long-term outlook were highlighted in a September 18 article in the Detroit Free-Press about the special challenges posed by the recession to golf and country clubs in Southeastern Michigan.
Plum Hollow, which hosted a PGA Championship in 1947 and a Western Open in 1957, had long maintained solid membership levels through its history and reputation, the article noted. But after the economic upheaval that hit the Detroit area especially hard caused membership to plummet from 500 in 2008 to 300 a year later, the club had to levy special assessments to make ends meet as a “temporary patch,” and held town-hall meetings with remaining members to “[lay out] the grim reality of where we were,” the club’s CEO, Tony Callis, told the Free Press.
“In the old days, private clubs didn’t need a business model,” Callis added. “Initiation fees and company-supported memberships provided whatever was needed.”
In addition, added the club’s President, Steve Feeny, “Golf has been overbuilt in Michigan; supply is overwhelmingly ahead of demand.”
To address these new realities, Plum Hollow started a three-year strategic planning process to improve its value proposition while also launching aggressive new marketing efforts that would stress the quality of its course to a new generation of prospective members.
As part of the marketing plan, Dave Sarris, a club member who is a partner in a local marketing agency, donated services from his firm and arranged barter deals for cable TV ads that highlight the benefits of “The Plum Life.” Radio and print ads were also prepared to support the campaign, which in its first wave has targeted avid golfers. Subsequent advertising messages tout other amenities at the club, including swimming, tennis and dining.
Internally, the club also decided to eliminate its monthly food-and-beverage minimum-spending requirement, and require golfing members to commit to buying at least 15 guest rounds per year, at $50 each, not only to boost revenues but also help ensure that more membership prospects will be on site to experience all that Plum Hollow has to offer.
Initiation fees for new members, which had been whittled to $1,000, have now been raised back up to $2,000.
Membership at Plum Hollow has jumped back from its low of around 300 in early 2010 to more than 400 eighteen months later, the Free Press reported. In addition, the average age of members has dropped by four years.
The article also cited changes that Great Oaks Country Club in Rochester, Mich. has been making to add value for its 450 members.
“We provide child care, especially for club events,” said Great Oaks’ General Manager, Tom Conroy. “Our valets do car washes and the locker room staff takes in clothes for dry cleaning. We do all the little things we can to keep the membership valuable, no matter how the economy is doing.”
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