Private clubs continue their reinvention

More than a decade since the recession, private golf clubs are still looking for ways to keep members engaged

After the recession of 2008-2009, private golf clubs responded aggressively to a drop in the membership rolls by rethinking their amenities and programming. But clearly, and especially amid the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the reinvention of private clubs isn’t finished.

According to the Sports and Leisure Research Group (SLRG), six in 10 members strongly voice that private clubs must make aggressive changes to remain relevant. That number is static with what was articulated half a decade ago.

So how are clubs evolving? 

Sports and Leisure Research Group — Slide 1.6.2021

Drawing upon the success seen by Topgolf and Drive Shack, there has been a continued focus on practice areas and other aspects of gamification. As clubs continue to blur the lines between home and office, there is more diversified programming and amenities, like simulators that can keep people engaged throughout the year or beyond the time spent actually on course.

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With Millennials now reaching the parenting stage, there are digital natives entering the club environment in a meaningful way. If anyone has traveled through Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport over the past few years, then you may have seen Gameway, a small, pay-by-the-half-hour oasis next to a couple of Delta gates. Those passengers waiting for flights can pass the time playing video games.

The concept intrigues me as one that could easily be implemented at private clubs, just as bowling establishments previously added pinball machines and game rooms in their pursuit of gaining a greater share of a customer’s time. Think of it as the card room of the future.

SLRG’s research continues to show golf as an oasis. The accompanying graphic illustrates the building blocks that address the need state of today’s golf facility guest or private club member.

The facility is to be seen as a sanctuary or a home away from home. There needs to be an experience that is consistent and exceptional in its delivery, offers great value, and has the right frequency of communication from trusted and dedicated go-to staff that understand the guest’s needs and habits.

Sports and Leisure Research Group provides customized research services to clients in the sports, travel and leisure categories.