Millennials and the Value Proposition at Your Facility

A First-Look at 2020 Millennial Golf Industry Research Findings

In ongoing research collaboration with Millennial golfer organization Nextgengolf, GGA recently updated its study of the habits, attitudes, and preferences of Millennial golfers.  The 2020 study brings forward survey findings from over 1,600 Millennial golfers and builds upon research conducted in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

A preview of this year’s research findings was unveiled in a presentation delivered at the 2020 PGA Merchandise Show by GGA Partner Henry DeLozier and Director, Nextgengolf Operations, Matt Weinberger.

Titled “Millennials and the Value Proposition at Your Facility”, the session introduced key insights and observations from the latest research and supplemented these findings using personal anecdotes shared by participating Millennial golfers.  The session explored what these findings mean for golf facilities and highlighted several tactics some facilities have implemented to enhance their value proposition to Millennial golfers.

Over the next few weeks, be on the lookout for a full, in-depth report of findings.

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Research Overview

In many clubs today, the long-held expectations and perceptions of existing, ageing members are at odds with the entirely different needs and expectations of a new wave of younger, more casual members.  The challenge for clubs?  To create an environment which not only appeals to the new wave, but where members of all types can coexist.

Research findings highlight how golf clubs can adapt and develop their offerings to meet the needs of the next generation of members and customers.  The goal is to provide valuable insights about Millennial golfers, the challenges they face, and the opportunities for clubs to help support the long-term sustainability of the game and the industry as a whole.


As the leading entity for team-based golf in the United States, Nextgengolf connects Millennials to golf and supports the success of their game while GGA specializes in solution engineering and problem solving for golf-related businesses.  A fusion of GGA’s 28-year history of private club research and Nextgengolf’s connection to young golfers afforded the unique opportunity to study a highly valuable Millennial audience.

The survey sample focused exclusively on a sample audience of active, avid Millennial golfers with prior golf interest and experience in tournaments or golf events.  To date, more than 5,200 survey responses have been analyzed during the four-year research study.

Thank you to the Club Management Association of America (CMAA) for the support that makes this research possible.

Think Big Entering A New Decade

Thinking of big changes in 2020?  Writing for Golf Course Industry Magazine, GGA Partner Henry DeLozier shares four macro changes to consider as the new decade begins.

Golf no longer exists in a vacuum, separate and distinct from market forces that shape other mainstream businesses. Gone are the days when golf club and facility managers could operate without a sensitive finger on the pulse of social, environmental and political changes affecting their business. As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, here are four macro changes to be aware of and to use to your advantage.

1. New solutions to labor shortages

Traditionally, labor costs for golf courses have ranged from 52 to 56 percent of golf course maintenance budgets. With increases in minimum wages and the ripple effect throughout organizational charts, labor costs continue to escalate. Derek Johnston, a partner at Global Golf Advisors, says labor costs have jumped as much as 6 percent.

Operators managed the first wave of escalating labor costs by reducing head counts and outsourcing certain activities to third-party contractors. Now, they are being forced to get more creative to deal with what is by far the facility’s single largest line item. Some have reacted by flattening their org charts, eliminating supervisory positions and restructuring responsibilities for some managers and staffers. As a result, staffing levels that ranged from 19 to 25 employees per 18-hole course are in significant decline.

Labor will remain a primary focus and concern for operators in 2020. Suggestions for managing rising costs are to re-evaluate all operational activities with an eye for possible benefits to be gained from outsourcing; take labor-intensive components of your operation and determine how the work could be accomplished more efficiently; and look at non-golf sectors for solutions being implemented in other fields such as hospitality and manufacturing.

2. Increased environmental awareness

Golf courses throughout North America have embraced opportunities to increase their environmental stewardship. Beekeeping, which sustains the bee population and ensures ongoing pollination; bat houses, which address mosquito infestations; and habitat restoration for butterflies, especially monarchs, whose habitat supports pheasant, quail, waterfowl and many other species; have been introduced at many locales.

Making golf courses and their surrounding grounds environmental sanctuaries is resonating with key market influencers, including millennials and women, who are also prime targets for increasing play and membership. Audubon International CEO Christine Kane reports that clubs as sanctuary communities are on the rise nationwide: “Audubon-recognized sanctuary communities have increased more than 20 percent over the past five years,” according to Kane.

Progressive superintendents and golf managers who expand the reach and impact of their environmental efforts will be viewed favorably by community leaders as well as current and prospective members and customers.

3. Expanded reach of social media

Superintendents and facility managers have become important sources of content relevant to club members and consumers. Photographic images of flora and fauna on club grounds are of interest to members who take pride in their clubs’ beauty and connection to the environment.

Instagram and Twitter can be used to show images sourced by staff members — golf course workers, cooks, janitors, golf professionals — who are alert to opportunities to snap butterfly habitats, wildflowers and all sorts of wildlife that call the club home. Such images are often posted to the club website and distributed to club members and visitors as a means for extending brand engagement.

Gone are the days of the cut-and-paste guidance for how to repair a ball mark. The increased relevance and timeliness of today’s news is attributed to the capability and proliferation of social media.

4. Comprehensive planning

The growth of strategic planning (supported by specialized plans for marketing, communications, finance and membership) is another example of general business’s influence on a more enlightened group of golf managers. Just as most any business relies on a strategic plan to guide its decision-making, golf is recognizing the importance of establishing a clear vision that serves to prioritize programming and investment. Top performers rely on data-based plans to distinguish their facilities not only in overcrowded markets, but also with consumers debating their leisure activities and spending. Those facilities that create market differentiation will prosper in 2020 and beyond.

Executive Search: General Manager at The Royal Vancouver Yacht Club



The Royal Vancouver Yacht Club:

The Royal Vancouver Yacht Club was formed in 1903, seventeen years after Vancouver was incorporated. Since the early days, the Club has developed into a year-round, full-service operation with seven offshore stations and three food & beverage outlets between the two home ports. A membership of 5,000+ embraces all forms of yachting and social activities. The Clubhouse and Jericho home port are in the beautiful Point Grey residential area and offer easy access to English Bay. Our Coal Harbour home port is nestled into the shores of Stanley Park, a stone’s throw from the cycling path, park trails and downtown Vancouver.

The Position:

Reporting to the Executive Committee (Board), the General Manager serves as Club’s Chief Operating Officer and implements the Club’s policies and strategy as defined by its Executive Committee. The General Manager is responsible for leading and directing all day-to-day and long-term activities associated with the Club.

Specific accountabilities include:

  • Work with the Executive Committee in the execution of the Strategic Plan, from the Strategic Plan, construct a Business Plan and a Marketing Plan that drives Club revenues and achieves the agreed upon financial results.
  • Effectively manage and oversee Club Operations. Senior Managers who report directly to the GM and are responsible for the day-to-day activities and processes. Although the GM will rely on the Senior Managers to operate the daily activities, the GM will be ultimately responsible for overall performance metrics and service.
  • Develop and implement an effective sales and marketing strategy to increase membership and awareness of The Royal Vancouver Yacht Club within the local community.
  • Design, implement and maintain operating policies and procedures that align and support the Club’s policies as defined by the Executive Committee.
  • Conduct an ongoing evaluation of Club programs and events to ensure the consistent provision of outstanding services to meet the needs and expectations of members, guests, and employees.
  • Represent the Club to members, employees and external agencies. The GM is engaged in new member recruitment and onboarding.
  • Manage the development, implementation and ongoing monitoring of the annual operating and capital budgets and the Club’s overall financial results.
  • Maintain effective communication with the Executive Committee on Club operations, financial reports, risk analysis, compliance, asset management, human resources, membership initiatives and capital projects.

Candidate Profile:

Given the leading role this individual will be expected to play in achieving the strategic objectives of the Club, it is essential that the successful candidate possess the following core competencies, experience and attributes:

  • A dynamic leader with the ability to build strong teams by motivation and lead by example. Has the ability to provide direction and expectations, performance feedback and recognition that leads to positive outcomes;
  • A post-secondary degree in business or a related discipline is preferred;
  • A minimum of 5+ years’ experience operating at a senior level in a private club or other similar athletic/social facility;
  • Strong professional deportment with a clear commitment to member service through an open and transparent member/customer approach;
  • A strategic thinker with strong business acumen with the ability to “grow the membership” through traditional and innovative sales and marketing techniques;
  • A definite business presence complemented with personal drive, resourcefulness, maturity and sound business judgment, with integrity and ethical conduct in words and deeds;
  • A self-starter approach, results oriented work style combined with excellent communication and interpersonal skills;
  • An innovative and decisive professional who possesses a positive demeanor;
  • Experience reporting to an Executive Committee that has adopted a club governance structure and processes to lead the Club and GM to collaborative success;
  • A strong boating background, preferably with an excellent profile in the club industry.

The current General Manager will tentatively retire on March 31, 2020.

The Club will offer an attractive compensation package, commensurate with experience, which will include a competitive base salary and benefits.

IMPORTANT: Interested candidates should submit resumes along with a detailed cover letter which addresses the qualifications and describes your alignment/experience with the prescribed position by Friday, January 31, 2020. Those documents must be saved and emailed in Word or PDF format (save as “Last Name, First Name, RVYC Resume” and “Last Name, First Name, RVYC Cover Letter”) respectively to:

George Pinches

For more information on The Royal Vancouver Yacht Club:

Does Your Club Have An Identity Crisis?

“Today, brands are stories. (…) carefully developed and aimed at preidentified market segments whose wants, needs and expectations align with the intended benefits of the product.” – Henry DeLozier

But change can often bring about a mismatch between the story and the segments you want to attract. GGA’s Bennett DeLozier outlines how to determine whether your club’s visual identity is true to what it represents.

A lot of things have changed in the last decade. In politics, in society, in the environment we all share. This impacts how we feel, how we interact with each other, and what products and services we want to be a part of our everyday lives.

These changes are evident at the club level, too. Aspects of your club may be unrecognizable from what they were ten years ago, from membership categories, to club amenities, to the profile of your members, and even the culture of the club. Sometimes this change has come as a result of proactive planning, sometimes reactive necessity.

But while many clubs have changed dramatically, we often find the brand pillars and visual identity (logo, colors, mission, values, purpose, positioning, voice, tone, look-and-feel of the club) get left behind. In other words, the club is missing the opportunity to illustrate and communicate what makes it different, compelling, and worth someone’s interest.

Given the state of over-supply for clubs in most metropolitan markets, brand management which enables effective market differentiation is essential. But before embarking on a rebranding effort without professional guidance, clubs can and should seek to periodically assess the state of their brand identity and how compelling a proposition it is to target member or customer segments

Stick or twist

How do you go about assessing the current brand and the potential need for change?

First, club managers and leaders must understand the power of brand. This means knowing the market segments the club serves and those it aspires to serve in the future. It requires a grasp of buyer motivations and the reasons people are motivated to join the club.

Second, and in order to evaluate whether there is a need for change, you should engage your board in a strategic brand audit and follow a clear process, similar to the indicative one below:

1. Ask your members, past members, stakeholders, and staff for their thoughts via a bespoke survey.

It’s also valuable to solicit input on brand perceptions from those outside of your intraclub community, particularly from competitors and people with whom current and prospective members are likely to interact (such as realtors, local community groups, fitness centers, apartment complexes, senior living homes, or neighboring schools). This will (quickly) help you to gain a sense of how those most important to the club view it, and allow you to identify any potential mismatch between what the club is, and how it communicates that with the wider world.

2. Assess the costs and benefits of a brand change or an identity evolution.

For instance, how will repositioning the club’s brand help to open up new target customer segments? How might it affect your typical core customer base? What is the cost of any proposed change, both financial and perceptual?

This exercise need not be overly complicated, a good old-fashioned SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) will cover off most of the key points to consider. Outline the opportunities and threats in a rational, pragmatic way to determine the most suitable outcome.

3. Marry your findings with your strategic plan.

How strong is the desire for change and how does this synchronize with your club’s future plans? It’s crucially important not to get drawn into making a decision for the now and foregoing any sense of futureproofing.

For instance, if you are set to launch a multi-sport facility and fitness center next year, are planning to unveil some luxury lodges the year after, and have been considering enhanced family programming for months, all this needs to be factored into the new identity you create.

Charting the future

Change is never easy. It feels uncomfortable. And risky. But sometimes standing still will only serve to do your club an injustice, poorly reflecting its attributes, story and emotional value to those that engage with it.

In that case, the benefits are there to be seized: appealing to new customer segments, futureproofing the club (socially and fiscally), and uniting those closest to the club around a clear sense of what it is and what it represents.

Turning Insights Into Action

GGA Insights exists to support you as a club leader, offering you solutions, tools, and tactics today that can help you improve your work life tomorrow.  But putting change into practice can be a challenging endeavor. GGA Director, George Pinches, offers a road map for translating genuine insights and data into meaningful boardroom action.

Most private clubs are like cruise ships; they do change direction, but very slowly. They are often steeped in tradition, and while this is a powerful asset, it can also hold clubs back.

In reality, clubs need agility if they are to respond and adapt to the fast-evolving demands of changing markets, new technology and generations of new members.

But don’t lose hope; with more data available to us than ever, there is reason for optimism.

Data can clarify the changes that need to be made, shape the direction of travel, and safeguard clubs from the obstacles and pitfalls they may otherwise run into.

But the truth is, before data can be put into such effective practice, many clubs and boards require a cultural shift to recognize the value of it.

Commitment first

When my GGA colleague, Fred Laughlin, first introduced the Club Governance Model, he stressed the importance of obtaining a board commitment before undertaking transition.

This is because research demonstrates it usually takes three administrations for significant changes to be fully adopted by a club board.

In order to move away from what we typically see – decisions based on anecdotal evidence rather than genuine insights and hard facts – this is the process to follow: commitment first, then change follows.

For you, obtaining commitment from your board and committees means convincing them that the use of data-driven decision making is mutually beneficial.

Once your board members start asking “What are the facts? Do you have comparable data or industry benchmarks to support this recommendation?”, then your club will be on track to a brighter future based on genuine insights.

Shifting the dial

It’s clear that clubs can no longer rely on decisions based on institutional memory and personal opinion. But how do you (in practical terms) achieve such long-lasting change?

When it comes to shifting the culture, timing is key.

One of the best opportunities to start a culture shift is at the beginning of a new tenure. This tends to be a ‘honeymoon period’ for the new GM or COO, when support and expectations are running high.

Take the opportunity to assess the culture and seek ways to introduce change: commitment first, change to follow. If your board has an annual board retreat, this can be an opportune time to take action.

Beyond that, I’d recommend focusing on these three key areas to encourage a sustainable culture shift towards a data-driven future:

  1. Board recruitment and development – The nominating committee can add “an aptitude or understanding of data-driven decision making” to the list of attributes when recruiting nominees for the board. The GM/COO can use the same criteria when filling senior management positions.
  2. Board policy – Alterations to the Board Policy Manual (BPM) can ensure that the decision-making policy stipulates the required data, back-up information, and consultation necessary to support a recommendation. Proponents, be they committee or management, soon learn what is expected by the board before considering an initiative or making a decision.
  3. Education – Club industry resources that extol the virtues of data-driven decision making can be shared during board and committee orientation to support the culture shift away from anecdotal to fact-based practices.

Finding ‘your’ way

Process and structure will help, but a true shift in culture can only be achieved through intelligent and thoughtful execution. In some cases, this means finding the unique tactics which work best for you and your Board.

‘Shifting culture’ will not appear in many job descriptions of club leaders. But, for a lot of clubs it should be at the very top. It holds the key to disrupting what can be a perennial cycle of decisions based on what those in power ‘think’ is right.

My advice: think long-term (beyond 5 years), actively gain the buy-in and commitment of board members, and put a structure and process in place to ensure data and intelligence are at the heart of how your Club operates.

The Indistractable Manager

Phone calls, emails, knocks on the door… all contribute to those days when you feel busy, but achieve nothing. GGA’s Patrick DeLozier outlines some tactics aimed at eliminating those fruitlessly busy days from your calendar.

There’s nothing more frustrating than a hollow sense of fulfillment at the end of a tiring day. Fulfilling in that you’ve been busy and active, hollow in that you’re no nearer to completing any of the tasks you set out to.

The first thing to make clear is, it’s a common problem. It affects us all. And while some of these days are inevitable, throughout my 18 years in the private club industry I made a conscious effort to develop methods of mitigating their impact and focusing on productive outputs.

Winning the day

It all starts before you even set foot in the workplace.

Develop a routine that gets your mind organized and focused from the get-go. For me, it was a morning swim, followed by reading several newspapers and social media news briefs that helped put me in an optimal productive state. So whether it’s a workout, meditation, yoga, or simply a coffee, find what works for you and stick to it.

When it comes to the working day itself, I found it particularly helpful to break this into three stages:

  • Up-brief – a first-thing review, to focus and plan of your tasks for the day
  • Midday check-in – an opportunity to measure task completion, to assess or reassess priorities
  • Debrief – end of day review, to look at what has been accomplished and what needs to be addressed the following day

For the up-brief, tasks should be specific, achievable, and aligned towards set objectives, prioritizing what you need to achieve and by when. Try to avoid tasks which veer away from your objectives or can be easily completed by another member of your team. Delegating tasks can often test your sense of trust and judgement in other team members, but is critical when it comes to staying focused on what’s important (and befitting of the Club Manager role).

During the day, make time to measure where things stand. If a task due for completion is in doubt, can you call in additional resource? If team members have become distracted by inane endeavors, is there time to pull them back and refocus their attention where it should be?

Finally, don’t allow the day to go by without assessing what has been accomplished during a debrief session. This is your opportunity to not only review your own achievements, but reward team members for a job well done and completed on time. They should also understand how this has helped (or is helping) towards the overarching objectives of the Club, as this will encourage their buy-in to the bigger picture.

Conversely, you will also need to confront incomplete tasks or missed deadlines. This is where balance and accountability come in, as you need to address these without demotivating your team.

Though some may find these stages overbearing, consistent monitoring and clear communication will allow team members to stay on task and focused for success. Ultimately, accountability will combat procrastination and instill a goal-oriented culture at your club.

Working smart 

Aside from external distractions, what can you do as a manager to work smarter? Here’s what I learned from nearly two decades at the sharp end of club management:

  • Do not try to take on everything on your own. Trust your team to assist you in your success.
  • Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. And then provide them with feedback, support, and recognition for a job well done.
  • Block off time in your calendar where you will not be interrupted. Sometimes an hour per week off-site (such as a coffee shop) will allow you to complete a certain task or get some much-needed headspace.
  • Temper your access to your cell phone or tablet. This will help you to avoid unnecessary calls, texts, and social media, allowing you to make headway with tasks requiring the utmost focus.
  • Be disciplined. Don’t put off tasks just because they are more challenging to you. They will fester, induce stress, and only become harder to overcome in the long run.

There are so many simple ideas out there that can help you overcome distractions, and they can be very effective. But if you can isolate a structure which is focused, holds everyone to account, and is married to your club mission, you can unlock something greater: a productive culture. A culture driven by goals, achievement and success. And that is something that no one wants to get in the way of.

GGA Expands Senior Leadership Ranks

Michael Gregory and Craig Johnston named partners of the firm

TORONTO, Ontario – GGA, the leading authority on successful ownership and management practices for golf, private club, resort, and residential real estate businesses, has named Michael Gregory and Craig Johnston partners of the firm.

Gregory joined GGA in 2007 following a successful college career during which he was an All-American scholar earning a business degree and captain of the golf team.  Since joining the firm, he has helped more than 400 clubs develop and implement a game plan for success. In addition to his client relationships, Michael has managed the firm’s internal workflow team of business analysts and market researchers for the past five years.

Gregory serves as a lead strategist for successful private club business and membership solutions at GGA and is renowned for his ability to use comprehensive membership and market intelligence to develop actionable strategic solutions for clients.

Johnston is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CA) and alumnus of KPMG. Prior to joining GGA, as a ranked equity research analyst for Scotia Capital, he was recognized in 2016 by Thomson Reuters as the #1 earnings estimator in his sector.

Johnston supports GGA clients in the development and implementation of goal-oriented business strategies to achieve targeted operating and investment objectives. He is a seasoned business strategist and investment executive who leads GGA’s transaction advisory practice, having successfully advised on some of the largest transactions in the club industry over the past three years.

“Craig and Michael have distinguished themselves as expert, reliable confidants to our clients and deliver value day-in and day-out,” commented GGA Senior Partner Henry DeLozier. “The firm will benefit from their joining the senior leadership ranks.”

“Both Michael and Craig have become clear leaders in our firm and mentors to our team of consultants,” said Founding Partner Stephen Johnston.  “Their work ethic and dedication to excellence in professional services is an incredible asset to our firm.”

About GGA

GGA has provided industry-leading advisory services to more than 3,000 clients worldwide including private clubs, hotels, resorts, residential golf communities, developers, homebuilders, government agencies and municipalities, financial institutions, investors and lenders. Operating out of three global offices in Toronto, Phoenix, and Dublin, GGA is a highly specialized consulting firm focused on club and leisure related assets with a professional services heritage as the KPMG Golf Industry Practice. The firm’s expertise lies in its ability to effectively meld club management and operational expertise with highly capable professional strategists and experienced business analysts. GGA personnel include former club managers with experience leading exceptional clubs, along with alumni of Deloitte, Fairmont, KPMG, Marriott, Pulte Homes, PwC, and Scotia Capital. For more information, please visit

Media Contact

Derek Johnston, Partner at GGA