opinion

McGill: Golf is changing and clubs must follow

Posted 9/14/21

Two of the biggest topics buzzing around our industry these days are the resurgence of golf and how to make the sport, and private golf clubs, more inclusive. Our core demographic is changing and if …

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opinion

McGill: Golf is changing and clubs must follow

Posted

Two of the biggest topics buzzing around our industry these days are the resurgence of golf and how to make the sport, and private golf clubs, more inclusive. Our core demographic is changing and if your club isn’t actively looking for ways to attract and retain the next generation of members ... you should be.

Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club, like many golf clubs, was designed as a traditional private club. Its resort-style amenities and events have been highly targeted to older adults, often retirees and, in our case, snowbirds. That trend has been steadily shifting over the past few years and even more so since the pandemic.

Largely due to the fact that golf is a COVID-friendly sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels, the industry has been seeing amazing growth. And with growth, must come change.

Traditional clubs need to shift focus to cater to both their existing, core membership and the new golfer — including young families.

Memberships

Offering a variety of membership levels is one way clubs can help attract new blood. For example, our associate membership is available to persons age 39 and younger. This option helps break down one of the most common barriers to private club membership for this demographic by reducing the initiation fee and decreasing monthly dues. Upon turning 40, the member will be bumped up to paying full membership dues.

In the past year, we went from 10 associate members to 40, which is our current cap for this level.

Dining

For a majority of traditional clubs, most kids’ activities were designed for visiting grandchildren and often planned around only big family holidays. In many cases, dining at the club was a white tablecloth event with a strict dress code. While there is still certainly a time and place for this type of occasion, clubs must learn to diversify. In fact, we’ve discovered that fine dining alone isn’t enough anymore. Casual dining and special events are becoming more and more popular.

One way we keep all of our members excited about our dining program is by hosting pop-up nights. Members RSVP to a dining event but won’t know where or what until the night of the event. From dining under the stars in the courtyard to progressive dinners that travel to different locations on the property; it’s a fun way to enjoy elegant meals in new, perhaps unexpected, settings.

A relaxed dress code that allows denim in the main dining room at all times can also go a long way to making the club your member’s go-to spot to fill their social calendars. And really, that’s our goal. We want members to look to the club first before seeking dinner and entertainment elsewhere.

Events

When your club is not outfitted with a lot of kid-centric amenities, you may need to get creative to keep young families excited and engaged. In our case, it was a 100-foot slip and slide on the event lawn. Private club members of olden days may be rolling over in their tweed jackets, but it was a huge hit.

At the end of the day, it’s all about diversity and trying new things. From live music and happy hour events to cooking classes and off-site wine tastings — you must have something for all levels of your membership to enjoy.

For love of the game

Making golf fun for a variety of ages and abilities is key to retaining membership at any level.

Our junior golf program has been booming as younger members want their children to be able to join them on the course. We also host various clinics and personalized instruction sessions to meet every golfer where they are in a non-intimidating manner. Our golf pros and instruction team can also work with professional-level golfers looking to take another stroke or two off their game.

Within our two Nicklaus-designed courses we have an executive course and par three option. This allows us to keep the integrity of our award-winning courses — and keep it challenging for skilled golfers — while offering the ability to get in a faster round or adjust the difficulty as needed.
As we continue to enjoy a more diverse demographic among our membership, our team will continue to find new ways to keep them engaged and excited about their club, and this game that we all love.

Editor’s note: Marian McGill is assistant general manager of the Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club.

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