A trend is only a general direction in which something tends to move. Jeans in the clubhouse are OK at this club, but not at that one.
Someone could make a lot of money these days selling crystal balls to club managers and their Boards of Directors—the hope that the thing might work could be enough of an incentive to close the sale.
Following a number of challenging years and disturbing uncertainty, the relative calm of the golf and club market in the past two years belies the churn now taking place to define what the club of the future will look, feel and act like.
This reality was the genesis of the five-part “21st Century Club” series running in Club & Resort Business this year. Our intent with this series is to take an in-depth look at how the recession and changing member/guest demographics have reshaped the club business, and to outline paths that clubs of all sorts must be prepared to take to ensure future success. The first two installments, “Rethinking Club Governance” (January) and “Growing Golf ” (April), were well-received, and future installments covering Membership, Grounds & Facilities, and Management will be equally compelling.
We are hardly alone in this effort, as numerous industry associations, consultants, suppliers and other “deep thinkers” are conducting research and focus groups of their own, to help define the ubiquitous club of the future.
The problem is, it doesn’t exist—at least not in a tightly defined way.
Ask anyone with even a primitive understanding of the market, and odds are the following trends will pop up in the conversation: recruiting young members; governance; family-friendly; fitness and spa facilities; first-rate food-and-beverage services; technology; eco-friendly; and enhanced use of club facilities…just to name a few.
Next month we will publish our 7th Annual Ideas issue, and it will be chock-full of practical, actionable concepts that clubs from all around the country have already implemented with great success—more great information to add to the mix.
Knowledge about industry trends is the first step in defining the future for your club. In the end, however, the answers for how your club will look in the future are sitting right in front of you, and they have always been there. As you would expect, I am speaking about your members.
A club is a community. Traditionally, club communities have distinguished themselves based on type: golf clubs, country clubs, city clubs, etc. For a long time, clubs in every category were pretty much the same, with the caveat that their prestige was largely defined by the size of the initiation fees.
Over time, distinction among clubs evolved by way of expanded membership classifications, fitness and recreation programs, enhanced dining options and even mergers with neighboring clubs.
Clubs will continue to find their own niche and establish their own brand, so we can expect further specialization within the industry. Remember, though, a trend is only a general direction in which something tends to move. Being techsavvy with full use of mobile devices throughout the facilities works for Club A, but not for Club B. Jeans in the clubhouse are OK here, not there. Why the difference? In all cases, it comes down to member preference (trust me—if they want something, they will find a way to pay for it).
The club of your future has a lot of variables to contend with. Personally, I am not too trendy, but I do have two cardinal rules that should be applied for shaping the future of any club:
First, speak with and listen to your members on a regular basis. Then figure out how to meet and exceed their expectations. It may be their club, but it’s your job.
Second, pay attention to the price/value relationship of your community—and for how your members perceive it. Club members may be “1%- ers,” but they didn’t get there by being dumb with their money. They will pay for value, and they will walk if it diminishes.
So don’t buy that crystal ball. The future is in your midst.
Dan Ramella, President
Quote of the Month
“It’s good sportsmanship to not pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling.”