I received an email from my golf club advising me of their New (Long Awaited) Rules and Regulations. From what I have heard, the last time the Rules of the Club was addressed Woodstock Music Festival had not taken place.
Most of the Rules in this long awaited enhanced, modernized version of an antiquated document that outlines how the club will be run and the members are to abide by were to be expected. Stuff like new dress codes and where smoking at the is allowed (no place) where changes or added.
However, one of the changes they snuck in was the one that will generate some negative press for the club and probably the ownership group that recently bought the club.
The issue that most country clubs feel they have to address to survive the failed economy is how to lure the younger generation to become a member. This discussion has been going on at the Business Golf Country Club and other golf online groups for a few years. The conclusion is…
…treat all club members the same no matter what age they are, offer the best service, the best experience and there would be no need to target a specific demographic to develop new business.
But that is not the decision many Country Clubs, including my club, take to generating new revenue.
How they decided to go about luring a larger share of the under 35 year old country club member is by lowering the initiation and month dues. Naturally, this discounted fee is until the member reaches a certain age then the price goes up to the normal rate everyone who is older than that age has to pay. Yes, that does sound like Age Discrimination.
Why country clubs feel that lowering the initiation and membership fees to the younger generation will help improve revenue is a complete mystery. If someone 35 year old is not able to afford a country club members what makes the club feel they will be able to afford it when they turn 36 years old.
Oh, the under 35 year olds are buying into the club from the hard sale target marketing these clubs are doing…but Who are they trying to fool? Over 90% of the younger members I run into, and play golf with at clubs around the country, all say they are ‘history’ as a member of the club as soon as they turn 36 years old and have to pay a higher membership fee. That is even if there is some hitch put in their membership contract that they have to stay a member for a number of years before they can leave the club without having to pay the higher rate to get out of the contract. The younger members I have had extensive conversation with at my club see no threat to paying any penalties and are gleaming with the possibilities of being challenged to pay up….which they have no plans on doing.
What is this telling the Older members of the club who built the club, gone thru hard time with the club and should be awarded a discount for paying the club’s bills for over 50 years? Yep, it tells them they are not wanted.
I am certain that in many situations where the club is new this method of membership level scaled pricing is their attempt to build a new membership. However, in my club’s case, where the the average age of a member is well over baby boomer era, with a dilapidated clubhouse that reeks of the ‘Father Knows Best’ era (that is 50’s era for you young whippier-snappers who do not know what Father Knows Best is) their offering a lower membership fee has to be generating a negative cash-flow for their operations.
Many older clubs like my club could give memberships away to anyone under 35 and they are going to leave when they get 35 years old. So, what did that get the Country Club?
But back to the New Rules and Regulations…they are now moving the age for a Young Executive Membership to under 40 years old. This five years difference now hits an even larger segment of the country club member demographic and now prolongs the loses a club will take over a longer period of time getting them further behind in what they are attempting to accomplish which is to generate greater revenues for improved operations.
The question then becomes… if a country club can operate at a profit by offering a lower monthly membership due for over 15 years, which is derived from their efforts to target 25 year olds to join, then why can’t they drop the membership dues for the entire membership making the club now more marketable to the entire world of potential country club members. Sounds to me that if they are making a profit off the younger members reduced monthly fees then they are gouging the Older Members.
Am I missing something here? Obviously I must be since my club, and a number of others around the country, are now offering a lower membership fee for younger members with no discounts on the level services or club amenities. It takes the same amount of operations funding to provide service at a club to a 25 year old as it does a 55 year old..doesn’t it?
The next question now is…Which age group spends more money at a country club once they become a member? I am sure some of my Business Golf fans have statistics around this but my gut feeling is the over 40 year olds would probably spend more while they are at the club than the 25 to 40 year olds since they have more time to spend at the club.
So, what is the deal? Right now, it looks like clubs who separate age groups by economic differences is showing some age discrimination…but I will leave that for my thousands of Legal Beagle business golfers to hammer out for me.
Lets set the record straight. I totally agree country clubs need to improve their image to appeal to the younger generation. Unfortunately, lower membership fees or entry fees into the club for a small portion of the membership is not only risky business but will not change the image of an aging golf course or clubhouse. If the facility is modern and fits the younger generation appeal or interest they are going to come and join.
I totally understand that it takes money to change a club’s physical image, but like it is in all businesses, change to meet market needs is the price of doing business. In the Country Club arena, this means the owners are going to have to NOW pony up the money they made during the ‘Hay Days’ to build the facilities that is going to appeal to the next generation of country club members and not pass those costs onto the members of the club that paid the bills for so many years. To survive until the next up turn of the economy country club owners are going to have to bite a big bullet and NOT turn their guns on the membership to pay up. The country club member today would see walking away from a higher membership cost as a better solution to the problem than paying for something that should have been paid for many years ago.
I guess I will add this to the long list of things I will look into that Country Club owners are doing to shoot themselves in the foot and are doing to kill GOLF.
What are your thoughts?