Jack Sauers was hired in January to stem declines in membership and revenues that the 105-year-old club has seen in recent years. With a new golf pro also on board, the staff is now focused on programs designed to bring in new families, while at the same time upgrading facilities and promoting a new fitness center.
Jack Sauers, a 61-year-old who worked in the golf and club development industry for more than 30 years before striking out on his own 16 years ago to specialize in revitalization efforts for private clubs, was featured recently in The Anniston (Ala.) Star as part of a report on his latest project, as the new General Manager of the Anniston Country Club.
“The light-pink dress shirt Jack Sauers wore contrasted starkly with his dark and drab surroundings,” the Star reported in describing current conditions at the club’s “19th hole” lounge. “With outdated wallpaper and faded and stained carpet, the room had seen better days,” the Star said.
But Sauers told the Star that “We’re getting ready to redo everything [in the room]; we’re going to modernize it and make it more for young, working professionals and have more casual dining.”
That’s just part of the turnaround plan that Sauers presented to the Anniston CC board and led to his hiring in January as the new General Manager of the nearly 105-year-old club, which has faced declines in membership and revenue in recent years, the Star reported.
Sauers told the Star that he has helped five other clubs across the Southeast, and most recently Tupelo (Miss.) Country Club, move back into the black after setting himself up as a turnaround expert.
The key in all cases, he said, has been to become “more family-oriented and give more activities for families.”
Anniston CC has also hired a new head golf professional, Jake Spott, previously the head pro at Glenrochie Country Club in Abingdon, Va. and an assistant before that at Wynlakes G&CC in Montgomery, Ala.
Spott came on board in March and immediately set out to “do everything he can to bring in more families,” the Star reported.
“We’re starting more ladies golf programs and junior programs,” Spott told the Star.
While it used to be easier to entice parents to bring their children in to learn golf, clubs now have to compete more with sports such as soccer, Spott noted. “So you have to make it a fun environment … if they want to hit the ball as far as they can, you let them,” he said.
The turnaround effort at Anniston CC will be focused on much more than golf, Sauers told the Star. In addition to cosmetic improvements throughout the facility that will include resurfacing the tennis courts in addition to repainting walls and replacing carpets in the “19th hole” lounge and other parts of the clubhouse, Sauers wants to promote the club’s fitness center, which was upgraded a few years ago.
“This is pretty nice and part of the club that is more modern,” Sauers said as he stood in front of shiny exercise machines, the Star reported. “People are getting more into fitness these days.”
A single-member initiation fee at Anniston CC is currently $2,500, the Star reported, and monthly dues range from $150 to $315, depending on a member’s age and choice of service packages.
With competition continuing to grow for recreation dollars, Sauers said, Anniston CC will focus on improving service through training and employee hires in the coming months, to further increase the value of membership.
“The objective is to improve everything we do, so when members come here to eat, they think the food is good, they get good service from the pro shop, and it’s a place they are proud to take friends as guests,” Sauers said. “I want people to talk about the Anniston Country Club and say it’s a great experience when they come here.”
The Star’s report also included comments from Justin Flaherty, the current General Manager at Tupelo Country Club. Flaherty said that Tupelo CC has seen growth in revenue and membership in recent years, due in part to improvements in services.
“It’s attention to detail, from the service staff and the kitchen — to show value in the product,” Flaherty said. “You drive home the value of that membership.”
Flaherty added that competition has increased in recent years, which has required clubs like his to focus on its services to stand out.
“Clubs are competing more than they have in the past,” Flaherty told the Star. “They used to just compete with other clubs and restaurants, but now it’s also with things like travel baseball and soccer.”