What Attracts Golfers to Become Country Clubs Members?

From time to time over the past several years I have received a large number of calls from country club managers or board members who are interested in what I have to offer to help attract golfers to becoming members of their private clubs.  I thought in light of the NGF releasing their recent report on Private Club Desirability, that maybe it was time I posted a blog that captured some of my thoughts on this issue and provide what I have found from asking this question to the golfers I have run into in my travels.

Seems what does not attract them to becoming a member of a private country club out weights what attracts them.

What Turns Golfers Off About Private Country Clubs

If I was to sum this all up into what most none country club golfers think of country clubs it would be:

  • Too Old Fogy
  • Too Expensive
  • Too Restrictive

The list of why the former country golfers left their country club membership:

  • Too Old Fogy
  • Too Expensive
  • Too Restrictive

And the list of what current country club members feel about their country club is:

  • Too Old Fogy
  • Too Expensive
  • Too Restrictive

You can see a pattern is growing here.

Add what the women who were non-country club golfers think about being a country club member had to do with the

  • Not Women Friendly Atmosphere

So let me break it down even further.

Too Old Fogy

Interesting enough, the statement of country clubs being Too Old Fogy came from every generation and age group.

The under 35 group were more animated in their view points of country clubs holding on to the past and being covenantal to the over 65 generation.  The over 35 to 50 group took sides with the under 35 primarily from them not wanting to be associated with the more opinionate over 65.  And, the over 65 agreeing the club’s look and smell of old fogy. They too hate being associated with being seen as the negative old farts who hated life as the generation before them instilled into the private country club.

Most country clubs were built during an era of ignorance to how society would evolve to being more open or tolerant.  Their structures and facilities were built to the fashion of that day.  Now the clubhouses and infrastructures are clearly seen as being outdated.

Both the perception of most country clubs being a house for old thinking is compounded with their image of yesteryear which are a huge hindrance to them attracting new members.  Young and old golfers reviewed agreed that country clubs with a more modern looking facilities would be what would attract them to becoming a member, but all were clear that the cost of membership would be the next barrier to break.

Too Expensive

The statement of country clubs being Too Expensive also came from all of the golfers and age groups.  Even the independently wealthy I spoke to clearly admitted the costs of golf and country club membership has gotten out of reach for nearly everyone.

For most golfers they look at the number of times they are able to play a round a golf a month verses the costs.  Even the golfers who played several times a week could not justify the hidden costs associated to a country club membership.  They all were readily able to affordably play at public courses using the multitude of golf discount cards they can obtain.  The rebuttal question then became.. Why would I want to pay for a membership at a private country club when I can play at dozens of other public golf courses for less?

Even the current private club members reported they were finding ways to cut costs of their monthly dues by not purchase anything at the club since the club’s would also add service charges to those items.  Some who were on their club’s board of governors were very open with reporting what they had found in the club’s operations budget what was causing the price of a membership to be in over the top too high..primarily off the charge high salaries to management staff that performed no service duties.

Obviously, the expense issue all of these golfers was fueled with the current economic situation in each area.  All who I spoke with felt they would or were not getting their money’s worth from the current price many private country clubs forced upon their members to pay.

Too Restrictive

The rules private country clubs have come up with over the years are starting to bite them back. Especially in today’s more open thinking society.

What was considered socially acceptable in private country club’s bylaws was established in the mid 60’s when many of these country clubs today were built.  Unfortunately what was established to uphold a staunch conservative live style is not what a more moderate thinking golfer wants to deal with today.

Naturally the under 35 hate to think about the dress codes most private country clubs established back when income levels supported wearing high price golf fashion.  The over 35 still hang on to there being a need for golf style while the over 50 still feel strongly on the Dress To Impress golf attire is still in order.

A more family and women friendly environment was also universal amongst the golfers I spoke with over the years.  The No Women or Juniors allowed on the golf course on certain days was sited as one of the more concerning rules private country clubs mandate.

Clubs who have changed their rules and remodeled their facilities to be more accommodative of the more modern thinking golfers were more attractive to those who were not currently country club members as well as the current country club members.

All agree rules are needed in order to safeguard member’s investments into the club, but overall all felt many of the rules were outdated and were a inherence to attracting a more moderate thinking golf member.

Still Room for Change

When you look around at the private country club’s in your area you can immediately see what is holding many country clubs from attracting members.  Granted, I have spoken with a few country club’s management teams and owners who claim to have waiting lists of potential members.  So let’s take a look at the resons why.

What these clubs with waiting lists have to offer;

  • equality of social and private space in the clubhouse for women and men members
  • golf courses that accommodate all level of play
  • child care and business centers
  • activities and concierge service for the non-golfing spouse
  • as well a more restaurant style dinning area

Member Privilege

There is something to be said about being a private country club member.  Some of the things the private club members and the non-country club members say are the amenities that would attract them to becoming a member of a private country were:

  • having a place to get away from the crowds
  • to have a sense of belonging in a group of peers

Customer Service Still Rules

Still many of the basics of normal life’s expectations are part of what golfers today have grown up to demand.  Being treated fairly, honestly and as a human being is just one of the basic creature features a private club has to improve upon.  Treating the members of a private club like a valued customer instead of a pattsy would be the first attitude to change.  Understanding that the member’s of a private club are the people who pay the bills is sometimes hard for the managers and owners of these clubs to grasp.

The stories the current members of private country clubs had and the impression from hearing such stores the non-country club members have heard about member’s being injured from accidents which occurred from dilapidated facilities and then treated like they caused the accident are points of huge concern.  Many were upset with feeling like the club was fleecing them for services that one would think should be included in the initial costs of being a member of a private club.

All of this was part of what these golfers felt was poor customer service.

Change Has to Be Made

Overall what I generally tell private country club management teams asking what is needed for them to attract new golf members is to find the changes they need to make and make them.  Then once they make them stay in the mode for change and make the changes that make sense when they are needed, not wait until they are shoved down their throats like they are now.

Sooner or later a sound economy will return and the clubs who have made the change to be being more attractive, affordable and open to new modern thinking golfers with be the clubs who will survive.  Hope your club is one of them.

Let me know how I can help.