Unless you have a plan that is followed up with a budget, you don’t have a plan—you have a prayer, and it is one that is rarely answered.
As many clubs look forward to opening their doors to members in a few weeks, consider these departmental notes as we approach the new season:
• Membership Marketing: This is probably the biggest issue facing the club market today, and while it has eased somewhat since 2008, it is still an issue, and for most of us, the challenge can be boiled down to one word: families. Today’s families have too many alternatives and less and less free time, so your club has to be welcoming to families, including children. This issue should be addressed at all levels of club activities, including tennis, swimming, and especially golf. I have written about what Birchwood Farms Golf & Country Club in Harbor Springs, Mich., is doing to encourage children to play golf (“A Brilliant Solution,” C&RB, August 2015) and while it is the best, there are other routes to take, and they should be implemented.
But above all other considerations, unless you have a plan that is followed up with a budget, you don’t have a plan—you have a prayer, and it is one that is rarely answered.
• Dining: The last 10 to 15 years have brought a sea-change in club dining. Today, club F&B departments offer fine dining, casual and fast-casual venues, with children’s menus, farm-to-table, wine pairings, and a host of other creative dining events and trends becoming the norm. If your chef attended our 2016 Chef to Chef Conference in San Diego last month, make sure to get a full report from him or her about all that was covered there (and also see “Bright Ideas”). Attendees at the Conference received a host of new ideas that can be applied to any club to bring a new, exciting dynamic to your dining offerings.
• Water Management: Though fuel is getting a bit cheaper, water isn’t, and it will only increase in cost due to retreating aquifers and ever-more-restrictive water-usage laws. Fortunately for our market, the technology of water management has never been more useful and advanced. Today, a superintendent can manage water down to the inch on a green or fairway, with the benefit of not only conserving a precious resource and demonstrating environmental stewardship, but also presenting an aesthetically superior golf course.
• Staffing: As an industry, we are in an odd place when it comes to staffing, especially for seasonal workers. We have created a disincentive to work, where many unskilled workers see no benefit to getting a few dollars more than their welfare check. Ironically, instead of people clamoring for a job, we have to seek out workers, even in a soft labor market. I don’t have any answers here, but somewhere, someone does. Seek their input.
Our market is in a distinctly better place than it was in 2008. Rounds look to be up this year, clubs have vastly improved their dining, and an awareness of the importance of family is taking hold. As the season opens up for 2016, I like where we are.