I am sure I am not the only one who has accepted an invitation to be a guest for a round of golf at someone’s very old school and well respected country club. I personally treat these rare occasions as an honor since I understand the importance a true country club has to a community and it’s membership. However, I am sad to see the aging clubs not modernizing.
Many of the aging country clubs around the country are struggling with accepting change. Interesting enough, I find from visiting with my host or hostess the tight economy of today is not the core reason why these icons of the golf world have trouble with embracing a more modern attitude. Most of the time it’s the club’s ownership or governing board feeling there being no need for a change.
For the past few years I have been frequently asked by members of private country clubs to join them for a round of golf and to give them my feedback of what I see the club needs to improve upon to bring in the more fickle younger generation of country club members.
Sometimes their motive for asking me to consult them is part of their plan of gaining outside reviews to present in their conversation with their club to encourage them to move forward into the new era of golf facilities. Members of the country club see the image of the club as a reflection on who they are and my feedback is to help them to decide to stay a member of the club or leave.
Road to Change is Bumpy
Generally, there are just a few things I observe private country clubs need to do to improve their appeal to a younger age group. However on occasion I have seen some major issues the older clubs are having which projects a negative image of the club to the younger generation as well as the current membership.
Many of the members of the Equity Clubs feel like they are being held hostage or used as the club’s cash cow for accessing funds which does nothing to modernize the club’s appeal. These old forms of managing a private club are starting to work against equity clubs when it comes time to replace or grow the membership.
Where the Rub Begins
Overall the most common of the needs private clubs should address first is to upgrade their technology throughout the club. This is usually where the rub starts between the ownership of a club and it’s newer membership. Most private clubs have been around for a few decades and are stuck on keeping a tradition they have established going or keeping a look they feel is the club’s brand.
I usually find I am not the first to suggest the Tech-Up approach to improving the appeal of a private club to the next generation of membership. I hear about how others who have already suggested the club make physical changes to the clubhouse like hanging large screen TV’s throughout the club to stream an array of different kinds of information and programs all day long. Or, place high tech devices out on the golf course for members to indulge in while waiting on slow pace of play.
Unfortunately, creating the image of the club being a space station sports bar is not what many private club’s board of governors are interested in doing which is what they hear I am saying when I tell them they need to Tech-Up their facility.
What it Takes to Modernize
Most private clubs have not updated their facilities to having the basic needs business people need like Wi-Fi or hardwire access to the internet or more intuitive software for their internal operations. Tech scares the non-tech savvy owners or governing boards. Many times the lack of understanding what is needed or would
There are some obvious reasons why private clubs need to address change. To make the needed changes would call for many private club facilities to be completely rewired. This would result in remodeling of the facility which would take away from the image the club has developed. In many cases the update of the facility to accommodate the latest in technology cannot not be done without a very expensive construction project which nearly always would out-cost a complete rebuild of the facility.
Not Doing Anything
Those private golf clubs who choose to not to change eventually are going to struggle to survive. Those who take the route of making only cosmetic changes, or the cheap way out, usually result in installing ugly wiring conduit hung from the ceiling or along baseboards which always screams to people entering a club as a cheap attempt to Tech-Up.
Updating a private golf club struggling with other dilapidated infrastructure issues, like outdated plumbing and electrical, will be an uphill battle. Dealing with accommodating the needs of the new generation of members while the inside of the facilities are caving in just does not make sense. Yet, that seems to be the common approach by many private clubs.
Putting Lip Stick on a Mule
Things that may seem little to the ownership of private clubs, like pot holes in the parking lot, buckling cart paths on the golf course, back-up sewers, will quickly turn off any appeal anyone of any age group would have for the club. Dilapidation really cannot be disguised.
Many clubs over 50 years old are facing dealing with the problems of aging and more issues as the result of natural causes. To Tech-Up an old club to appeal to the next generation by making just cosmetic changes would be like putting lipstick on a pig.
I am still seeing bulldozers as viable options for older club’s to consider, while also seeing the new clubs of the last ten years has quickly gaining advantage of the younger private club market.
Solutions for private clubs to making the needed changes are many and difficult, but they have to be made if the private country clubs are to survive. If more club’s really listened to their memberships they will hear the need to make change. And if they are listening real close they will also hear they had best find the solution to Tech-Up their facilities without raising the costs to the current or future membership. Yes, it can be done.
Golf Needs the Private Country Clubs
Upgrading the private country clubs of the world to appease the interest of the golfers of tomorrow is a do or die for a major portion of the golf economy. Latest reports show over 40% of the golfing public are members of private country clubs or golf clubs. Disengaging this part of the economy of golf would make gaining access to the game of golf only to public courses which are already stressed to the maximum of their capabilities. Private Country Clubs hold a solid place in golf and lack of upgrading the facilities poses a serious problem for Golf’s future.
In order for Golf to grow many private golf clubs need to suck it up and deal with change. Let me know how I can help.