14 Jul

Spanning the Ages

Responding to Today’s Cross-Generational Private Club Memberships

Unlike the private clubs of the past, today’s memberships are diverse in every way – particularly when it comes to age. In response, the focus of club facilities and programming has begun to shift: How can we cater to everyone without over-generalizing? How can we provide the feeling of home for seasoned members, while still satisfying the needs of single professionals and families? What are the best ways to bring multiple generations with entirely different attitudes and desires together?

Clubs across the country are recognizing the need to satisfy cross-generational memberships. One club that has done this remarkably well is St. Clair Country Club. “Demands on people’s time – not just for the 30 to 40-year-olds, but for everyone – are incredible. They’re all different, but they’re growing regardless. When there’s an opportunity to spend quality time together doing things that they actually enjoy – that’s valuable,” says Steve Gonzalez, General Manager of St. Clair Country Club.

St. Clair is a largely community-based club, with most members living within a 5-mile radius. Offering first class amenities and excellent programming, the club has built a robust membership with a waiting list. Though St. Clair is a century old – celebrating its centennial this year – they’re certainly not stuck in the past. In fact, the club is constantly looking ahead and considering industry trends – particularly when it comes to cross-generational memberships. “We take a holistic approach by focusing on engaging families that are three or sometimes even four generations deep,” says Gonzalez.

Of course, it’s easy to describe almost any club as “cross-generational,” but what does it actually take to satisfy an age-diverse membership? We’re glad you asked.

Bringing In Different Perspectives

For the first time in America’s history, four generations are collaborating in the workplace. This has affected a wide variety of industries and private clubs are no exception. Much of the literature currently available about the multigenerational workplace only addresses the challenges involved, misleading managers to believe that age-diverse teams are simply headaches waiting to happen. But when correctly guided, a multigenerational workplace actually presents far more opportunities for success than failure. Numerous studies have shown that a diverse workplace brings in different approaches to problem-solving and perspectives on club issues.

“Our staff itself is multi-generational. Each person has a different perspective and energy to bring to the table, so we want to bring everyone into the fold,” says Gonzalez, who continually references his age-diverse staff as a major source of the club’s success. However, he also points out the importance of strategically placing each age group into a role that best suits them. “We have a young and dynamic golf staff that brings the right kind of attitudes and energy to the junior programs,” Gonzalez says.

In many ways, St. Clair embodies age-diverse staffing at its finest. After all, no one knows what motivates a generation better than the people in it! Having a cross-generational workplace that reflects the diversity of your club membership allows everyone to have a voice in the decision-making process, as well as execution of club programming.

Creating Inclusionary Programs & Amenities

Cultivating active youth recreation programs is one of the best ways to involve the entire family in private club activities. It may seem counterintuitive to strive for inclusion by focusing on one generation, but children often bring families together – St. Clair being no exception. “Many of our family activities are actually built out of junior programs,” says Gonzalez.

Junior Golf Programs are a smart investment for many clubs because they not only engage younger members, but also introduce them to golf – and possibly groom future legacy members. “We really invested time and energy into our Junior Golf Program and offer clinics for all ages,” says Gonzalez.

But St. Clair’s efforts to draw in junior members don’t stop at golf. They’ve also developed a strong swimming program that unites the entire family. “We have well over 100 kids in this program, which is amazing when you consider that it’s only 6 weeks long,” says Gonzalez. Additionally, the club has enhanced the program with local resources, strengthening the club’s presence within the community. “Our club swim team has partnered with the local high school to bring in coaches. We make our swim team fun, but we’re also introducing kids to competitive swimming. Many of them eventually end up on the high school swim teams,” says Gonzalez.

Even St. Clair’s Fitness Center and programming has been crafted with the needs of multiple generations in mind. Rather than creating a generalized fitness program to please the masses, they offer specialized options catered to the young and the not-so-young. “We offer personal training for high school and college athletes, and specific fitness training for older members who might need physical therapy or similar programs,” says Gonzalez. These programs encourage family wellness and cross-generational socializing. “It’s not unusual to see families working out together,” comments Gonzalez.

The lesson to be learned? Offering a wide variety of recreational options that engage the wants and needs of every generation increases utilization and brings families together – a truly invaluable resource.

Offering Multiple Dining Facilities

The industry consensus is that formal dining no longer rules the roost. With families struggling to spend quality time together, members are placing higher value on relaxed spaces that cater to all ages. With this trend in mind, St. Clair Country Club embarked on a strategic facilities planning journey to improve their dining facilities and create a more welcoming environment for their cross-generational membership.

“We worked with Chambers to rebalance club dining. Before, we were heavy in formal dining and didn’t have any spontaneous gathering spaces for members to congregate. We decided to dedicate significantly more space to more casual dining,” says Gonzalez, “We wanted to remain mindful of the past, but focused on the future.”

To execute this strategy while still appealing to all members, casual dining was divided into two primary spaces: the family dining and adult contemporary dining areas.

The Family Dining area is a laid back space featuring televisions and other multi-media to keep young children entertained. The rules are mellow compared to the rest of the club, allowing use of electronics and a flexible dress code (denim included). Additionally, the venue’s menu options have a universal appeal that is in-line with other family-friendly restaurants. The space also regularly hosts special events that reflect the fun atmosphere, including a burgers and shakes night and Sunday brunch.

The Adult Contemporary Dining space provides a happy medium between Family and Formal dining. No children below the age of 13 are permitted, allowing older members to dine in peace without excluding teenagers and young adults. The dress code welcomes country club casual wear, but no denim is permitted. Additionally, the menu options are more sophisticated than the Family Dining offerings, showcasing trendy farm-fresh fare.

Though these relaxed spaces have been tremendously popular – increasing dining utilization by 40% – St. Clair did not abandon their formal venue altogether. Instead, they simply downsized, going from an expansive 80 seats to a modest 36. The smaller but equally grand Formal Dining still offers an intimate dining area for date night or special occasions for members of all ages. This thoughtful reorganization of their dining spaces allowed St. Clair to prioritize profitable industry trends without eliminating the Formal Dining beloved by many older members.

As for the “spontaneous gathering spaces” problem? St. Clair took steps to create a universal area that every member of the family could enjoy. “We have a centrally located casual lounge with adjoining bar that opens out on to a veranda. This space has become the social hub that brings everyone together, from the kids to the grandparents,” says Gonzalez.

Creating a variety of different dining options and spaces to congregate invites everyone to socialize and truly enjoy the private club experience without feeling excluded.

Show Us the Value

Adapting your club to today’s cross-generational environment may seem like a good idea in theory, but it’s always essential to ask the most important question of all: What actual value will these changes yield?

According to Gonzalez, there’s no price point on a singular and enduring member experience. “Providing happiness for the entire family and life experiences that they’ll remember is priceless,” he says. Cross-generational clubs offer opportunities for each and every family member to enjoy the club experience – whether they’re participating in activities separately or together.

This particular kind of cross-generational versatility and value is difficult to achieve outside of the private club environment, yet many clubs don’t take full advantage of the opportunity because the idea of family-centric clubs is relatively new. Proactivity plays an essential role in keeping your club relevant, which is why St. Clair is consistently thinking ahead of the curve and considering the desires of both current and future members. “We’re constantly investing in ourselves to be relevant to future generations through amenities, facilities, and our staff,” says Gonzalez. Adopting a more comprehensive, cross-generational attitude towards your club’s programming and amenities will place you leagues ahead of your local competitors.

Ultimately, when it comes to creating a cross-generational private club experience, it may be a wise decision to follow St. Clair’s philosophy, as described by Gonzalez: “We’re in a great place now, but how can we be in a better position tomorrow?”

Want to discuss how you can position your club for a bright future? Email us!

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