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Private clubs across the country are constantly competing for members’ time. Club leaders struggle to find ways to keep their members proactively enjoying all they have to offer – especially during inclement weather and the ‘off-season’. When it rains in the South or turns cold in the North, members have traditionally spent less time at their clubs. But these days, it isn’t just about the weather. Many club leaders have found their members spending more time at other recreational facilities with different service offerings, putting clubs in a precarious situation. So if members are finding greater value in other facilities… how do we bring that value back to the club they hold near and dear?
“If our members are paying to be somewhere else, we want to figure out why,” says Oliver Boudin, General Manager of Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club (OKCGCC). As many clubs do, OKCGCC aims to provide their members with a valuable year-round experience.
Their strategy? Recognizing that members need activities for days and months that have traditionally been considered the ‘off season’ as well as times where the weather may be less than ideal. “It’s important to focus on value-driven dues. Creating a great dues/value proposition is the best way to keep members engaged,” explained Boudin. Developing creative methods of keeping your members engaged no matter the weather or time of year is a great way to do just that!
When the sun is shining and the flowers are in full bloom, members love to spend time at their club. Oftentimes, as soon as members arrive at the club, they are eager to get outside and enjoy the sunshine and their beautiful view. But in many areas of the country, activities such as golf, tennis and swimming are only offered for a limited time.
Many clubs have realized they need to become more resourceful in order to diminish their off-season, and squash the mindset that when the weather suffers, so will the club. Seasonal clubs must recognize that the amenities that are the backbone of their service offerings in the summer can be embraced in colder months, too. For some clubs, this means simulating the outdoor experiences that members love in a climate-controlled environment. OKCGCC has taken this approach with their indoor tennis courts.
“The indoor tennis courts are our most popular courts on the property”, says Boudin. The tennis courts have always been a popular amenity at the club, but offering indoor courts has given members the luxury of enjoying the game no matter what the weather brings. Of course, OKCGCC understands that all of their efforts cannot be placed on the indoor amenities. They also need to establish foundational outdoor activities. “We try to offer it all, not just one kind. It’s always more challenging to do this, but the members love it,” explained Boudin. OKCGCC is currently building courts on the south side, as well as preparing to offer table tennis as an alternative option.
Other clubs, like Chevy Chase Club, have created a whole suite of recreational offerings tailored to the winter months. Chevy Chase’s Winter Center possesses unique features like a Duck Pin bowling alley, paddle tennis courts and an outdoor ice skating rink. Members can enjoy the Center’s amenities all year, though it boasts its highest utilization during colder months. If capital is funneled into the appropriate facilities, weather and seasons don’t have to be a limiting factor for your club’s recreational offerings – or your member experience!
Creating a space that can be easily adapted to suit your members’ needs for various circumstances is the best way to maximize a club’s return on investment. Despite its name, the Winter Center at Chevy Chase Club has also become a hub of year-round activity with their recently upgraded adult casual dining facility. This building offers a variety of cold-weather activities, but has also become the club’s primary casual dining facility. By expanding the dining capacity and adding new menu options, this venue has become a favorite among members for all four seasons.
Club aquatics facilities are also prime opportunities to complement the excitement found in the pool itself with new poolside amenities like unique dining experiences. “We gave our aquatics facilities a 1950’s diner-feel with a soda fountain and an open kitchen that’s used by members of all ages. We use this area for kids’ parties, socializing after football games and even as a banquet area,” Boudin explains. In addition to the already multi-faceted experience offered at their aquatics facility, OKCGCC has also created an outdoor cabana bar that is open to all members.
Some other clubs have even developed dynamic new Golf Learning Centers that allow golfers to train day or night in all weather conditions, but also serve as a social hub for all members to dine and mingle with one another. These facilities create a place for golfers, tennis players, pool users and young families alike to interact, which fosters a greater sense of community within the club.
Establishing a space that has multiple functions can open many doors for private clubs. It is important to think outside of the box and design with inclusion in mind with as many year-round opportunities and multi-generational spaces as possible!
The value of clubs does not begin and end with their recreational offerings. One of the best and most affordable ways to keep members involved at the club year-round is to provide services that can be enjoyed at any time. “We’re always emphasizing programming and trying to figure out how members can spend more of their time at the club,” says Boudin. “They want to be here. We just have to provide them with more reasons to do so.”
In conjunction with their outstanding facilities, OKCGCC provides their members with a number of other services that infuse their membership with increased value throughout the year. Their active junior program is one service that keeps members’ families engaged while creating fertile ground for cultivating a future generation of members. This is a growing trend across the industry that provides incredible family value.
Activity groups and ‘clubs within a club’ strengthen OKCGCC’s sense of community and give members even more of a reason to spend their precious spare time at the club. They even offer a carry-out delivery service that brings items from the club’s menu directly to members’ houses. “The goal is to provide members with greater value for their dues dollars. This enhances their experience while at the same time driving increased revenue at the club,” says Boudin.
From implementing business centers for members to plug-in and conduct business, to updating their fitness facilities to encourage members to relinquish their standalone fitness membership elsewhere, to modifying their facilities to become more family-friendly rather than family-tolerant, private clubs are continuing to reinvent their offerings so they can provide a wide variety of services separate from their recreational amenities, thus increasing their year-round appeal.
The growing public interest in fitness offers another prime opportunity for private clubs to create an environment that nurtures their members’ fitness and wellbeing goals. “We’ve responded to the latest fitness/wellness trends by investing in a versatile Athletic Center that caters to the entire membership,” says Boudin. OKGCC’s new fitness facility offers spin and rowing classrooms, a scenic cardio room, virtual instructor capabilities, a boot camp space and outdoor workout areas —amenities that appeal to long-time workout enthusiasts, those looking to develop a new exercise routine and anyone else in between!
Of course, the Athletic Center’s amenities don’t end there. After working up a sweat, members have the opportunity to swing by the beverage station for a drink or stop by the grab-and-go station for a snack. Spa-like amenities have also been incorporated into the Center, ranging from high-end locker rooms equipped with saunas to tranquil massage rooms. A new fitness and tennis pro shop creates additional revenue for the club, all while providing members with a much needed resource for all of their fitness needs.
The benefits of healthy living are experienced for a lifetime. By transforming your club to be the ‘go-to’ place for all your members’ health and wellness needs, you help create a greater demand for your club’s services throughout the year.
Even as you maximize your facilities and create year-round appeal, it is important to take the time to recharge the batteries – for club leaders and their team. Just be mindful not to become too complacent! “Every club’s ‘off-season’ is different,” says Skip Avery, CCM, CCE, Chambers’ EVP and Past President of CMAA, “but it is important to remember there really isn’t any ‘down time’ in club management anymore.” The off-season is a time for reflection of the good – and the bad – from the past season. It is the time to plan for new programs, amenities and services that your club can use to enhance your members’ experience.
The best way to improve upon these opportunities? Consistently brainstorm and plan new concepts that will increase member engagement at the club and, in return, boost their perceived value of it. After all, the more engaged members are, the more time they spend at time club, and the more they want to tell their friends. And that’s the best kind of promotion: members talking to (future) members!
The ability to enhance the members’ experience can be found all around you. At the height of the seasons or during the club’s slowest times, there are always new ways to engage members, create lasting memories and add to their perceived value of their club membership and time spent at the club. You just need to find them!
Have you implemented year-round facilities at your club? We’d love to hear about them. Comment and share your ideas!