For many years the legacy of private country clubs has come under siege. Initially, through the nature of gender equality. Most notably at Augusta National in Georgia, a long standing private men’s institution known for hosting the Masters Golf Tournament, was challenged to allow women members. Now such female dignitaries as Condoleezza Rice and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty are Augusta members. Although the addition of such high profile women is not emblematic of most private clubs, who struggle to downplay the classic “men’s” environment in hopes more women will seek membership.
Now as the baby boomer generation is in full retirement mode and very cognizant of their retirement budget, the costs of a private club membership, no longer a benefit of employment, has come under greater personal scrutiny. Also, with the increase in public golf facilities providing golf at a lesser cost, the challenge to maintain current members and acquire new members has become increasingly more difficult for private clubs.
Private clubs look to create more opportunities to attract younger, family oriented members by offering varied and focused membership profiles including health and fitness, social/dining, and swimming/tennis.
As a result, the architectural design of traditional club facilities has undergone a significant metamorphosis. Stately and opulent structures have given way to more family friendly environments. Gymnasiums and fitness rooms have replaced exclusive locker rooms. Restaurant-like family dining experiences have replaced the elegant ballrooms and cloistered rooms. Exclusivity has been replaced by a marketing strategy encouraging family participation. Hospitality has become the dominant theme.
Clubs, long thought of as the playground of the wealthy, are now re-examining themselves as a “business” in a very competitive environment. The successful clubs realize the club experience must provide not only an enjoyable golf experience for their golfing members, but also a hospitality experience that encourages members to return regularly and bring their friends.