Even a property that still calls itself a golf club, and sees itself that way, needs to recognize the long-range strategic importance of staying competitive with other amenities.
Just by their names alone, some of the clubs that are featured in the September 2013 issue say a lot about where our industry has come from—and also about how much it has been changing in recent years, and where the path for future success is taking us.
Two of the articles focus on The Philadelphia Cricket Club (PCC), which originally took its name from the group of University of Pennsylvania students of English descent who, upon graduation in 1854, wanted to find a way to still get together regularly to play their favorite game, cricket. Today, PCC retains its original name, even though cricket was disbanded as one of its recreational amenities in 1924 (it was then revived in 1988). Through the years, the club has become well-known for lawn tennis and equestrian activities, and today it also has facilities for squash, swimming, paddle tennis, and even a shooting preserve. As “Staying in First,” describes, PCC is best-known today for its golf legacy and facilities—but as “Cooking with Fire,” shows, it’s become known for food-and-beverage innovation, too.
Elsewhere in the issue, we describe how Manasquan River Golf Club took its food-and-beverage program to significant new levels, (“Stronger After the Storm“), even with its General Manager, Michael Zusack, reiterating that the club still sees itself primarily as a “golf club.” And, we tell the story of how Radley Run Country Club, after a flood wiped out its tennis courts, thought seriously of not rebuilding the courts and repositioning itself as a “golf club” (“Upping Their Game“).
Finally, our cover story on Oak Hill Country Club, the only U.S. club to have hosted all five of the country’s major men’s championships, in addition to the Ryder Cup, details how there’s much more behind that Rochester, N.Y., property’s storied golf reputation—including everything from bowling to snowshoeing to an acclaimed food-and-beverage program led by a Certified Master Chef who’s competed in the Culinary Olympics.
So what’s in a club’s name? As all of these examples illustrate, anything—and everything—its management and members might want it to represent. While good management in today’s club business retains a healthy respect for tradition and reputation and seeks to fully maximize the market advantages they can provide, it also recognizes the dangers of being constrained by those traits.
As Zusack of Manasquan River GC notes, even a property that still calls itself a golf club, and sees itself that way, needs to recognize the long-range strategic importance of staying competitive with other amenities. And as noted by Joseph Mendez, General Manager of Radley Run CC, his club took on the considerable challenge of rebuilding its tennis courts primarily because it believes that except for a select few, the industry’s future is now in full-service clubs.
In recent years, though, I’ve encountered some cases where clubs have decided not to expand their amenity mix and then cited their names as a primary reason why—a Golf Club, for example, deciding that fitness would not be a good match with that identity. But compared with all of the examples in this issue, this strikes me as running the risk of being a slave to tradition, rather than building on it.