A recruit-and-reward program at Rancho Murieta (Calif.) yielded “extraordinary” results, according to GM Arnold Billingsley. Del Paso CC and Granite Bay GC also reported gains from lowered initiation fees and other “proactive tactics” needed to help pull their properties out of five-year slides.
A report in the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee highlighted the success of several private clubs in the area in attracting new members through lowered initiation fees and reduced dues structures.
Del Paso Country Club, which will host the 2015 U.S. Senior Open, dropped its initiation fee from $45,000 to $25,000 in the past month, the Bee reported, and the price adjustment sparked nine new proprietary memberships, more than in any of the past four years, with a dozen more in the pipeline.
Rancho Murieta (Calif.) Country Club, meanwhile, used a recruit-and-reward program over the past nine months to generate 123 new golf memberships, the Bee reported. Under the program, new and sponsoring members get their monthly dues reduced by $125.
Granite Bay (Calif.) Golf Club dropped its upfront initiation fee to $24,000 in March 2012, a reduction of about $9,000, and the influx of new golf members has the club within 14 of its 475-member cap, the Bee reported.
Representatives at the three clubs told the Bee that the “proactive tactics” were needed to pull their properties out of a five-year slide.
“In the past, it was build it and they will come,” Arnold Billingsley, General Manager at Rancho Murieta CC, told the Bee. “Well, they stopped coming.”
An inquiry pace that only saw one or two people come in every other day to the membership office wasn’t getting the job done, Billingsley said, so he got his members involved with an incentive that was hard to ignore: Find a new member, and pay about 30 percent less every month.
Rancho Murieta now has 600 golf members for its 36 holes, an increase of 90 from this time last year, the Bee reported.
“I wanted to get members talking up the club,” Billingsley said. “But 123 new members since April? That’s extraordinary.”
Del Paso CC dropped its initiation fee from $75,000 to $45,000 in December 2009, three years after a course renovation had swelled member rolls to 485, and in the midst of an economic downturn, the Bee reported. It was the first reduction at the member-owned club in at least 60 years.
The club now has 393 proprietary members, the Bee reported, and in a contracting industry, Del Paso’s General Manager, Bob Kunz, said his club has had to identify new targets and approaches. In addition to the fee reduction, that’s also meant creating a non-proprietary category for people 65 and older. At a cost of $10,000 ($15,000 for a couple) and 70 percent of proprietary dues, the club has used that program to add 12 over-65 members, the Bee reported.
“There are many longtime residents in our older, surrounding neighborhoods that, for whatever reason, passed on club membership,” Kunz said. “Coming into a proprietary membership at 65 is a tough decision. This gives them a chance to come into a club environment.”
Every private club has what Kunz refers to as a “microclimate”—a tight radius where the bulk of its members reside, the Bee reported. That’s true at Rancho Murieta, where Billingsley said about 85 percent live in the community that surrounds the course. At Granite Bay, two-thirds live within a 5-mile radius, said Membership Director Angela Hamilton.
Hamilton said Granite Bay’s 2012 price reduction, a rebounding economy and a high volume of people moving into the surrounding, upscale neighborhoods equated to membership gains. For the past two years, the club has also offered a $200 monthly credit for new members, the Bee reported.
“I’d like to think it’s me,” said Hamilton, “but it’s a combination of a lot of things.”
Catta Verdera Country Club in Lincoln, Calif. cost $20,000 to join to start 2010 and is now $5,000, according to its website, the Bee noted. The club remains semi-private, with public play every day except Saturday.
North Ridge Country Club in Fair Oaks, Calif. cost $9,500 to join to start 2010 and recently offered a limited number of memberships at $6,500, according to its website, with $100 in monthly account credit for one year, the Bee reported.
The future direction of private club membership costs is anybody’s guess, the Bee said in its report. Said Kunz of Del Paso: “An increase is far more likely than staying static through the [U.S. Senior Open] championship.
“Our culture has not changed, and our admission process has not changed,” Kunz added. “[Our recent reduction] is not a fire sale by any stretch of the imagination. Only time will tell if it’s the right number as it relates to our microclimate.”