United States

Top agenda items for clubs in 2017


To some degree it will be more of the same for many clubs across the country, for others they will be working hard to improve their membership satisfaction and improve their ability to deliver on their mission statements. Here are three areas that we expect to see renewed focus in 2017. 

Continued capital projects
We continue to see club members vote affirmatively in favor of significant capital improvements. As we learn more about the evolving needs and desires of existing or potential club members, Boards across the country are working hard to qualify and quantify those demographic trends and translate them, where appropriate into new or improved facilities. Clubs can continue to measure the return on these investments not just in terms of additional user fee revenue but more significantly in terms of stronger membership rosters, higher satisfaction ratings and, perhaps most telling, the ability to increase initiation fees to new members.

Dues setting methodologies
Following on from continued capital projects, we have seen more clubs take a hard look at their dues setting methodologies – specifically for the members of the club who are not “Regular or Full” members. For a number of years industry commentators have been preaching that the “social” or “sports” member will no longer be a “second class citizen” at their club. This prediction has been coming true at clubs across the nation as many of the major amenity improvements taking place do not focus on golf, but rather on dining, fitness and other sporting offerings. Now some clubs are facing up to the fact that their old dues structure may not still be relevant. In many clubs the budget process focused on setting the golf dues and then other categories moved in relation to that. However, with non-golf members now having access to many more, and often better quality recreational facilities at their club, the question being heard in many Board rooms is “are they paying enough?” While clubs tend to always have one eye on the market rate in their area or competitive set for setting dues, more are setting dues rates for all classes based on the access rights members have – regardless of whether the member uses the amenity or not. This process has led to some significant movement in relationship between dues rates at some clubs. Certainly any budget that drives this level of change needs to be detailed and zero based.

Political regulations
Not surprisingly this makes our top five list this year. There has been a lot of chatter about what is in store for the economy when the new President takes office, particularly in regards to the potential reversal of many rules and regulations affecting businesses. Late 2016 saw a Federal court block the proposed new Department of Labor overtime rule and while many clubs had already planned to make changed to comply with that rule, club budgets around the country will need to be continually monitored for the impact of any new rules under the new administration. For a full discussion of the economic outlook for 2017 see The Real Economy.

No doubt 2017 will be another exciting one for private clubs and we look forward to working through its challenges with you.

Happy New Year!