Master Planning – A Phased Approach
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When you think of a private club…what do you envision? High-level executives closing deals on the golf course? A group of “old guys” exchanging witty banter in a smoke-filled cigar lounge? Facilities that offer a wide range of amenities to men, women and children, embracing the family unit as a whole? We hope you answered the latter… But if not, you aren’t alone.
For decades—and in some cases, for more than a century—private clubs have been known as a place where members can enjoy unique, exclusive and memorable experiences. Traditionally, however, they have also been generally regarded as male-oriented and male-dominated.
Today, women play a vastly different role in society than they did 20, 30 or 50 years ago. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center (2017), women make up about 44% of the overall labor force—36% of which hold mid-level managerial roles, and 25% in executive or senior-level roles. Now, as clubs continue to adapt and evolve to remain relevant in today’s society, they are becoming much more age diverse and gender neutral. From club-wide activities, to committees, to leadership roles, the female authority is becoming more and more common across the industry—and it would be foolish to ignore it.
Power in Perspective
Gender has little bearing on our intelligence, capabilities or management skills. All across the world, there are exceptional male and female leaders, and each of those leaders have personal experiences that help shape their individual leadership styles. As Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sanberg simply stated, “Diverse teams make better decisions.” And with today’s private club memberships becoming more and more diverse with regard to age and interests, it is critical now more than ever for club leaders and their devoted staff to be able to relate to varying viewpoints. As we continue to see more and more women rise to leadership positions in private clubs—serving on Boards, as Club President, heading up Committees, or becoming the General Manager—we can’t help but recognize the unique perspective they bring to the table.
“Diverse teams make better decisions.” —Sheryl Sanberg, COO, Facebook
Jenny Riegel, Immediate Past President of Salisbury Country Club (SCC) and 2016 Strategic Planning Committee Chair, has significant first-hand insights on this topic. “Women are qualified not only from a professional, strategic, or financial perspective,” says Riegel, “but they also have something innate in their soul that makes them different in a leadership role.” In a word? Empathy. “The combination of the appropriate professional skillset and the innate ability to show emotion and relate to your members can make for a much better club environment,” Riegel remarks.
Riegel also understands the importance of relating to the Millennial generation—a generation where decisions (including whether or not to join a private club) are often driven by the woman of the household. “There are lots of women who are professional and working, and others who are choosing to stay inside the home and are really looking to maximize their family’s experience,” she says. “It helps to have leadership who can really relate to this and can be sure to incorporate it in the club experience and understand the changing composition of the membership.”
Inclusive Programs and Services
Although golf is still the number one driver in the industry, it is no longer the only factor families consider when making the decision to become members. Prospective members now have interests that lie in other amenities like swimming pools, fitness facilities and family-oriented activities. And since women are increasingly more involved in making the decision to join a private club, it’s all the more important to make sure they see value in the club experience for their entire family—their spouses, their children, and the women themselves.
SCC has a lot to offer in this regard, including the development of family tees on their golf course. The club promotes use of the course later in the day on Saturdays and encourages families to come to the club and play, offering a unique opportunity for families to bond. The club is also considering Frisbee Golf to engage kids and utilize the 27-hole course in more non-traditional ways, and has a vibrant Junior Golf Program and hosts summer camps throughout the summer to help children develop their skills while having fun. “This past year, we actually created a piñata and the kids practiced their aim by hitting the piñata with golf balls until they could break it,” Riegel shared. “My niece and nephew attended the camp and they absolutely loved it!”—a perfect example of how seeing enjoyment for her family has led her to see value in her SCC membership.
Salisbury also has great women’s programs, including a Women’s Club that has been around for years. This internal club is hosted monthly for nine months of the year and includes a wide variety of activities from speaker series with published authors or politicians, to organizing fundraisers for charities. “It’s a great way to bring all ages of women together,” says Riegel. “Some think it’s only for older, retired women but there are a lot of young women with school age children as well. It’s a great way to build relationships.” SCC also has a very vibrant Women’s Tennis Association that is great for camaraderie among women. The key when it comes to programming is equality. It is great to consider women’s golf leagues and women’s tennis programs, but clubs must also dedicate the appropriate time and resources to make sure the quality of the facilities and instruction matches that of the men’s programs.
Ultimately, your club facilities send a message, so it’s important to “take the blinders off” and really evaluate what vibe—either positive or negative—various spaces in your club may be creating. Successful clubs are acknowledging the need to move away from “men’s only” areas and instead create inviting, co-ed spaces that welcome connectivity for all members—young and old, male and female. By embracing some of the industry’s most popular facilities trends, such as creating an adult bar/lounge, you can create a lively, energetic atmosphere where couples want to spend their time—taking the club from being one “option” on a long list of possibilities to being the go-to destination for “date night” or a fun evening out with friends.
And when you are evaluating your facilities—again, equality is key. Are your women’s locker facilities of equal caliber to the men’s? Have you incorporated Group Exercise Rooms and activities like yoga and spinning into your fitness offerings? Men aren’t the only ones who use these spaces regularly anymore, so the way they are designed or the programs that are offered must be adapted to create a welcoming atmosphere for a diverse membership.
These are Exciting Times!
The evolution of women’s roles in private clubs is great news for the industry and should be met with much excitement. Not only are clubs beginning to embrace women with focused programming and activities, but women are also holding more leadership roles than ever before. By acknowledging and welcoming this shift, clubs have the opportunity to create an enhanced sense of community within the club walls and make the private club lifestyle increasingly relevant in members’ lives—ultimately, leading to increased utilization and a significant growth in membership.
All of this is not to say that your Club should shift its focus from men to women—the idea is to shift the stereotype surrounding the private club industry by focusing on equality. And this can only be done when clubs acknowledge these needs and make the necessary changes to accommodate both men and women and their families alike.
How has your club taken strides to be more inclusive of women? Comment below and let us know!