Millennials & Golf’s Value Proposition

GGA Partners and Nextgengolf Release Findings from Annual Research Study on Millennial Golf Community

Over 1,600 millennial golfers share habits, attitudes, and preferences about golf

TORONTO (June 10, 2020) – In an ongoing research collaboration, Nextgengolf and GGA Partners have released their annual study on the millennial golf community.

Nextgengolf is a growth-of-the-game subsidiary of the PGA of America.  GGA Partners serves as an international consulting firm and trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful golf courses, private clubs, resorts, and residential communities. Together, their report suggests ways golf facilities can adapt and develop their offerings to meet the needs of the next generation of members and customers.

“Not every millennial is the same, but it’s often communicated that way,” said Nextgengolf Director of Operations Matt Weinberger. “In our continuous work with the millennial audience and now Generation Z, we see tremendous opportunity for golf facilities to deliver value to young people, while operating their businesses successfully. The key is understanding how golf businesses mesh with millennial lifestyles.”

Featuring valuable insights about millennial golfers, the challenges they face, and opportunities for facilities to help support the long-term sustainability of the game, the research reveals three overarching observations:

1. The lifestyles of millennial golfers have changed the way they approach, experience and enjoy the game of golf.

Leading fast and casual lives, the millennial concept of “golf lifestyle” is evolving to allow for more flexibility, greater efficiency, a unification of multiple social activities into a single experience, and experimentation with the way the next wave of customers and members engage with the game.

2. Socialization and relationships are important for millennial recruitment and retention.

Millennials typically start playing golf as a result of encouragement from a family member. They primarily continue to play because of their own friendships, using golf as a platform for shared activity and a chance to connect. Family is a huge factor for millennials and will increase in significance, especially as it relates to private club membership.

3. Cost is a major concern for millennials and the biggest barrier for them to play golf.

This is partially due to lifestyle evolution and primarily as a result of funding capability.  The good news is that millennials show strong interest to join private clubs under the “right” fee structure – traditional club membership offerings and conventional fee structures are less appealing to millennials than previous generations.

“When it comes to private club membership, costs continue to be barriers for millennials but there’s a bigger picture at play,” observed GGA Partner Michael Gregory. “While price is important, the best performing clubs are focused on creating an experience that enhances millennials’ lifestyles and develops a sense of emotional connection and belonging.  An experience that also enhances the lifestyles of their family strengthens this connection, elevates the value proposition, and paves the way for greater price elasticity.”

Focused exclusively on an audience of active, avid millennial golfers with prior golf interest and experience in tournaments or golf events, the 2020 study brings forward survey findings from more than 1,650 millennial golfers and builds upon research annually conducted since 2017. To date, more than 5,200 survey responses have been analyzed during the four-year research study.

Details on these findings and more are illustrated throughout the full report, titled “Millennials & Golf’s Value Proposition” and available on the GGA Partners and PGA of America websites.

Click here to see the findings and download the report

 

About GGA Partners

GGA Partners™ is an international consulting firm and trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful golf courses, private clubs, resorts, and residential communities. We are dedicated to helping owners, asset managers, club and community leaders, investors and real estate developers tackle challenges, achieve objectives, and maximize asset performance.

Established in 1992 as the KPMG Golf Industry Practice, our global team of experienced professionals leverage in-depth business intelligence and proprietary global data to deliver impactful strategic solutions and lasting success. For more information, visit ggapartners.com.

About Nextgengolf

Nextgengolf is an inclusive organization with the mission to provide golfing opportunities, keep golfers in the game, and make the game of golf more relevant for high school students, college students, and young adults. Through our NHSGA, NCCGA and City Tour products, we cater to golfers 15-40 years old by proactively keeping golfers engaged through events and bringing new players into the game. In 2019, Nextgengolf was acquired by the PGA of America. For more information, visit nextgengolf.org.

About PGA of America

The PGA of America is one of the world’s largest sports organizations, with nearly 29,000 professionals who daily work to grow interest and participation in the game of golf. For more information about the PGA of America, visit PGA.org, follow @PGAofAmerica on Twitter and find us on Facebook.

 

Contact

Michael Gregory
GGA Partners
416-524-0083
michael.gregory@ggapartners.com

Michael Abramowitz
PGA of America
561-389-4647
mabramowitz@pgahq.com

Not the Time to Wait

Henry DeLozier highlights three important points for club leaders to ramp up club operations and refine their game plan.

When asked what steps they are taking to prepare their business for the post-COVID-19 environment, many small- and medium-sized business owners and managers say they’re taking a “wait-and-see” approach. While that attitude is understandable, with conditions and health and safety guidelines changing by the day, it’s also not advisable.

The more effective strategy is the one that many other businesses are taking to navigate the crisis in creative and productive ways: Anticipating and preparing for a post-COVID-19 business, whenever that may come and whatever it might resemble.

In a wide range of businesses, preemptive leaders are driving revenue through new marketing tactics and sales channels, putting new incentives in place to spur immediate purchasing and capture pent-up demand, moving more of their in-person interactions online, pivoting their business to address new needs and developing new products to position their business when customer demand returns to normal.

Others are enhancing their digital presence by sprucing up their website with new content or fixing online issues for a better customer experience. And many businesses are strategizing by mapping out potential scenarios for the future.

Three important points to consider when ramping up club operations:

1. Update the club’s financial plan.

The business interruption and financial impacts will be profound and may even threaten the club’s existence. The board must reset the club’s financial plan by evaluating the current in-flow of dues revenue and the realistic projection of pending banquet and catering activity. Refer to the club’s historic reference points for revenue as the key component in ramping up successfully. Balance revenue projections with the probable attrition rate caused by members who will leave the club for health and financial reasons.

Look realistically at the club’s expenses and prepare yourself – they will be discouraging. Plan to restart programs and services in a phased manner that focuses on the most popular and engaging programs in the eyes of your members.

It’s important to remember that members may have different priorities in a post-recession world. Knowing what those are through surveys and focus groups is far more advisable than assuming the old normal is also the new normal. Keep in mind that the club may not be able to restart at a level and pace that meets members’ expectations without what may be significant investments.

In a financial sense, the club is starting over financially. This can be good for clubs overloaded with expensive debt since it gives them incentive to renegotiate their debt structure. Interest rates are at historic lows and will remain so for some time. This makes it a good time to restructure the club’s financial plan to remove historic flaws, such as membership-optional communities and outdated governance practices.

2. Strengthen your team.

Every club in your area is being affected differently by the pandemic. Some will retain staff with little change. Others will be forced to reduce operations, programs and staff. Some of your own employees will decide not to return or may be unavailable. Be prepared and recruit aggressively to fill and strengthen key positions on your team. It’s also a good time to review and update personnel records, roles and benefits.

3. Introduce new social programs.

As leaders hit the reset button, remember that private clubs enjoy an emotional relationship with their members far more than a transactional one. When evaluating and creating programs, consider the following:

Members will want to see one another and be seen. There will be a great opportunity for friends to be reunited and reminded that their club is a safe haven for their families and friends.

Look at events that are either successive – where one event sets the stage for the next – or part of a series of similar events. Give members the sense of ongoing relationships rather than one-off types of events.

Host member information exchanges. As members anticipate their clubs reopening, they will have lots of questions, which can be boiled down to “What’s changed – and what hasn’t?” Assemble a team of staff members who constitute the Answers Team.

Get ahead of questions by anticipating as many as you can and communicating the answers widely through email, newsletters and social media.

Creating a Reliable Game Plan

The most effective transitional leaders will be those who can manage information aggressively. Keep your stakeholder groups of members, employees, suppliers, and extended business partners – like bankers and insurance carriers – well-informed.

Your members and stakeholders want information, to be sure. Even more importantly, they want confidence that their club is in steady hands. They want to see evidence – action more so than talk – that the club is taking measured steps and addressing the key strategic issues without distraction with petty short-term matters. This capability requires a reliable game plan.

In May, GGA Partners conducted a series of weekly webinars to help club leaders construct their game plan and illustrate the thought processes that go into reopening and operating again in the wake of COVID-19. The sessions offered a deeper look into these three important points and tactics to prepare for a post-pandemic business environment.

The archive of each webinar and accompanying slide deck (if applicable) are available on CMAA University, complimentary to all CMAA members. Once you are signed in to CMAA University, you can find the recording and accompanying resources under CMAA Member Education, COVID-19 Resources. The content is then organized by topic area, see below for where each of the four webinars are housed:

Crisis Management and Communications

Changing Communications for Changing Times – Linda Dillenbeck & Bennett DeLozier – May 27, 2020

Member Surveys in Uncertain Times – Michael Gregory & Ben Hopkinson – May 20, 2020

Reopening Your Club

Transitional Leadership: Restarting Your Club – Henry DeLozier – May 6, 2020

Business Continuity

Future Trends in the Workforce – Patrick DeLozier – May 15, 2020

If you don’t know your login information, please contact CMAA through this online form.

 

This article also featured in Golf Course Industry magazine

Crystal Ball Thoughts on the Shape of the Next Normal

This article continues a series of communications from GGA Partners to help private club leaders address challenges confronting their businesses and their employees as a result of the global health crisis. Today, Henry DeLozier highlights GGA Partners’ crystal ball thoughts on what the post-crisis environment will look like for club and leisure businesses.

Gordon Gecko wasn’t the good guy in the Faustian tale Wall Street and, yet, the character played in the 1987 movie by Michael Douglas left behind some memorable advice, “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.”

In early April, GGA Partners gathered its team of trusted advisors and thought leaders for the express purpose of developing strategic tenets to guide GGA clients across the globe. Following are glimpses of impacts for private clubs and club leaders:

Expect Longevity

Murray Blair and Fred Laughlin, directors at GGA Partners, observe that the effects of the epidemic will be lasting and may be sortable now into certain phases:

Pre-Vaccine – Until a reliable vaccine is developed, tested, and made available for widespread usage, conditions for most clubs will change only slightly from current circumstances. Baseline operational methods will change significantly as partial- and full-closures are showing operators and members new – more attractive, in some cases – methods which satisfy members’ concerns for caution and dining at their clubs. Many clubs are finding that demand for dining options at the club is growing as so many previously competitive restaurants are closed.

Operating costs will vary widely. Housekeeping budgets will increase substantially as members want to experience highly obvious signs of the club’s emphasis on sanitary conditions, cleanliness, and personal safety for members and staff. Labor costs will vary widely based upon local supply/demand balance as many workers will be less mobile than before.

Post-Vaccine – After a vaccine has been found and put into use, members will renew their active usage of their clubs differently. Bennett DeLozier observed that club members who previously were nonchalant on matters of strategic planning at the club will demand that their club have a clearly stated and broadly understood game plan. Many members who are responding GGA attitudinal surveys observe that there was no expectation of a health pandemic and, yet, believe “The club should have had a disaster preparedness plan.” Strategic planning, which was previously an indicator of the best leadership in clubs, will be important to most private clubs more so in the future.

Continued & Reinvigorated Family-First Focus

Barb Ralph, one of GGA’s most tenured team members, opined that members will seek more family-oriented facilities, programs and services. The notion of “clanning”, first suggested by futurist Faith Popcorn in her 1996 book, Clicking: 7 Trends That Drive Your Business–And Your Life, documents Barb’s thinking on the importance that causes many to want to keep those dear to them in a safe haven – like their club.

A New Normal

Linda Dillenbeck, a director for the GGA Partners Club Communications Practice, looks beyond the pandemic to underscore the critical importance of effective and trusted member communications from the club to its stakeholders: members – their families and friends, employees, neighbors, suppliers, and vendors.

Linda suggests that in a time when new standards are being established, the necessity of effective communications from clubs to their members will be a difference-maker to the clubs’ future economic durability. “Club’s with a proactive communications approach will be at a distinct advantage throughout and after the coronavirus epidemic,” according to Dillenbeck.

Shifting Operational Needs

Speaking from the perspective of the millennial generation, Alison Corner, Ben Hopkinson, Andrew Johnson, Mingye Li, and Andrew Milne agree that clubs will change significantly and – in some ways – toward operational needs and priorities previously reported through GGA Partners’ millennial research installments.

To summarize the ideas from these brilliant young minds, clubs will shift dramatically into (a) high-gear focused on membership recruitment and retention; (b) new activities, like musical events and performance art; and (c) new membership types, categories, rights, and privileges.

Martin Tzankov, a GGA manager, expects the new normal to bring a focus to financial durability to clubs. Martin notes the importance for club leaders to mind the strategic priority of balance sheet management and the financial health of their clubs.

Many club leaders forget the four cornerstones of board service: leadership, governance, strategy, and finance. Looking ahead, the clubs that perform best after the coronavirus pandemic will be those holding the best information. Perhaps Gecko was right.

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.

Background

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.

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.

Looking Outside the Boardroom

Board members are an important source of experience and knowledge. But when making strategic decisions on the future direction of the club, that expertise can easily be hampered by a lack of access to valuable data and actionable information.

GGA’s Bennett DeLozier explains how to connect your board with the critical insights they need from outside the boardroom.

Scenario: you’re a manager, it’s sunny, you’re in a board meeting, fluorescent lights buzz overhead.  The group is brainstorming capital improvement projects ahead of next season.  The topics of budget, capital reserves, assessments, competitor offerings, and attracting new members swirl around the room.

Someone claims that what members “really want” are new amenities, another counters that new amenity supporters are mostly younger members in restricted categories, a third comments on the price of dues for this group.  Opinions begin to diverge on membership pricing, someone mentions member satisfaction, people start using the word ‘should’, and a healthy, productive conversation turns to conjecture.

In this situation, a common reference point can bring everyone back on task. You’re confident you probably have data points on all of these topics somewhere in your office or in your inbox.  You’re scrolling, scrolling.  Before long, the meeting adjourns with decisions on hold, and you leave with a list of research tasks and staff projects to tackle in advance of the next one.

Board Members Need Information

While this scenario may be an overdramatization, it’s not terribly uncommon.  This is what happens when intelligent, capable people face important decisions without actionable information.  It deters strategic thinking and is taxing for the manager and staff.

Board members are usually smart, business-oriented people and they expect to have empirical discussions just as they have done in their own line of work.  Their job is to strategize, and a strategy is only as good as the information which informs it.

The most effective club managers gather, consolidate and deliver a war chest of information to the boardroom in order to facilitate better, easier, and quicker decisions.

The Right Kind of Data

A word of caution: not all data is good data and managers are wise to beware the data ‘dump’.  So, what does the right kind of data look like?

  • Data that is current. In a perfect world, the provision is real-time data and predictive analytics.  Data should be updated as frequently as possible and be on-hand for timely, relevant insight before annual planning exercises and performance monitoring activities take place.  In some markets, data that is 12 months old is out of date.
  • Data that comes from multiple sources. A combination of internal club data and external market data are required to be informed at both a micro and macro level.  Data from the club’s management and point-of-sale systems or reports from department heads alone doesn’t cut it.
  • Data that is useable. In presentations and speaking engagements we’ll often joke about the graveyard for strategic plans: in a three-ring binder on your credenza collecting dust.  Cheeky, but true.  Data should be readily available and accessible in a digestible manner.  Having to look for it, go get it, wait for it, or set-aside-15-minutes-for-everyone-to-skim it usually means your data isn’t seaworthy.
  • Data that works for you. Transferring the right kind of data to your board requires you to have a framework for gathering, analyzing, and succinctly documenting all the research and information that is Your data framework should not create more work for you. In other words, you need technology to gather, centralize, and process that information into synthesized insights.

What kind of information do boards want?

They want consolidated internal data to inform them about the club’s financial and operational performance, as well as member satisfaction, habits, preferences, and attitudes.  They want external data which informs them about competitive offerings, prevailing market trends, industry standards, and helps them contextualize the club’s performance relative to others.

Most importantly, they want to know about progress – where the club is now relative to where it needs to be or where members want it to be.

Why don’t boards have this type of information?

Simple. Because their manager hasn’t given it to them.  Usually the manager hasn’t given it to them for really good reasons: they don’t have the time, resources, money, or – in some cases – the culture to support data-driven decision-making.

To be clear, managers should not be expected to have the ability to answer every question which comes their way.  However, they should be expected to successfully guide the process of strategic decision-making at their club.  Here are six tips to make you more efficient and effective at connecting your board with critical insights:

  1. Survey members on satisfaction every year, if not more regularly. Be deliberate and selective with attitudinal surveys, capital improvement surveys, and club votes, but be adamant about doing a satisfaction survey every year.
  2. Know your market inside and out, literally. Knowing your internal market means helping your board know the club’s performance and members.  Knowing your external market means keeping your board apprised of competitors, industry standards, trends, and best practices.
  3. Maintain a constant grasp on the state of your club’s operational and financial data. Being able to reference, provide, or recite details about the club’s finances and operating performance is one of the most effective ways to enhance your command presence in the boardroom.
  4. Keep your data organized and ready to go on short notice. Get yourself in a position where you’re prepared to deliver an informed response to any questions which come your way or threaten to derail a productive discussion.
  5. Report on performance metrics before you’re asked. Be proactive about regularly updating your board on current status, changes, and evolutions within the club.  As the saying goes, they don’t know what they don’t know.
  6. Build upon your data and monitor how it changes over time. This will provide your board with a sense of progress and will serve as a powerful cache of information when it comes time for your annual performance evaluation.

2019 Millennial Golf Industry Survey Findings – Part 8

In ongoing research collaboration with Millennial golfer organization Nextgengolf, GGA recently updated its study of the habits, attitudes, and preferences of Millennial golfers.  The 2019 study brings forward survey findings from over 1,400 Millennial golfers and builds upon research conducted in 2017 and 2018.

This is the eighth and final installment of a multi-part series of infographics to feature the latest Millennial golfer feedback. Part 8, below, examines public course golf and the key habits, attributes, and fee tolerances of Millennials who play most of their golf at public facilities. Also included are observations about how this group decides which courses to play, how much they expect to play in the future, and key differences between this group of Millennials and those who play most of their golf at private facilities.

See previous individual installments here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, or view all eight parts here.

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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.

Background

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 27-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 3,600 survey responses have been analyzed during the three-year research study.

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

Avoiding a Category Overload

When was the last time you conducted a thorough review into your membership categories?

GGA’s Bennett DeLozier explains how a streamlining process can help to slim down the number of categories and keep them relevant in today’s marketplace.


“Confusion and clutter are failures of design, not attributes of information” – Edward Tufte

Across North America and Europe a competitive landscape for membership has emerged, with more leisure pursuits competing with one another than ever.

Naturally, club leaders across the world are not sitting back and watching the evolution of customer needs and wants without acting. But while a great deal of this action is well-placed – from the introduction of intermediate and family memberships in North America to flexible membership schemes in Europe – in other instances it is leading to an uninformed inflation of membership categories, creating confusion for customers and an administrative headache for club leaders.

A trail of memberships

It is common for categories to emerge at a particular point in time, often as a reaction to an event, as an attempt to appease a vocal minority, or in an effort to attract a specific new member cohort.

Many clubs react to changes in the market by adding or creating a new membership category to appeal to specific segments. When structured properly, this can be an effective way to cast a wider net and appeal to different audiences. However, when this happens in an unstructured way over a number of years, a club may end up administering upwards of 15 to 20 categories at a time.

More categories mean more discounting, different access, and different privileges. Membership samples per category get smaller, and it becomes too much to administer and too confusing for existing and prospective members alike.

Top-performing clubs have fewer membership categories, largely because they enjoy demand such that members are attracted to them versus the other way around. For others, what should be a set of simple, straightforward membership categories becomes a patchwork quilt, absent of any tangible strategy or current solution to underpin its creation.

Naturally, tackling this issue has its challenges. How do you begin to evaluate and streamline so many categories? How do you negotiate shifting members from one category to another?

Streamlining your categories

Current market intelligence and supporting research is essential to guide this process. Once you understand the current market circumstances and positioning of your club, you can identify where membership categories may need to be realigned to attract future members.

The key is to study internal membership utilization rigorously so you can understand where your club has the capacity to grow. The adjustment of existing categories or development of new ones should be based on creating access and privileges in areas where the club has room to grow, not necessarily where prospective members desire it.

To illustrate the importance of proportionate categories, think about one which has emerged in recent years particularly: the intermediate or young professional category.

Typically offered to those between the ages of 25-35 (with a great deal of variance depending on the club and location), its origins are rooted in the issue of affordability both in dues and initiation fees. This has given way to lower dues, waived initiation fees, or a tiered system based on a particular age bracket.

While the introduction of such a category has been, in most cases, an appropriate tactic, it is one in need of constant analysis. As young intermediate members age into their mid-thirties their lifestyles begin to evolve, so does what they need, want and expect from their club experience.

This poses a challenge to clubs: do you change the existing intermediate category or create a new one to meet evolving demands?

The answer comes back to robust intelligence – intelligence which enables club leaders to get ahead of this challenge long before it makes its way to the doorstep. Intelligence allows you to measure and monitor utilization, enabling category adjustments which match lifestyle changes and market trends.

Moving members

Whether you’re dealing with category overload, wrangling legacy categories that you are looking to streamline, or have members moving up an age category where there are implications to their dues or privileges, at a certain point in time it is necessary to change.

But it’s difficult to change members from one category to another.

Legacy categories can be contentious, as members are unlikely to welcome category change – especially if this means an increase in dues. Club leaders should enter the process with the primary aim of growing where the club has the capacity to grow and a secondary aim of establishing a fair playing field across the membership base.

The best practice approach is to identify categories that have become irrelevant and essentially ‘grandfather’ those members into new categories which fit the room-to-grow bill, allowing them the opportunity to transition into new categories under advantageous terms.

If we look back to our young professional categories, when the time comes for them to move up the ranks to full membership, invest time and attention into the process. Why? Because these members have reached a pinch point, a ‘fight or flight’ moment in their membership tenure. If they decide to progress through to full membership now, the likelihood that they will stay for the long-term increases substantially.

Communicating your product

Before communicating your streamlined categories, club leaders should have answers to the following: Are the current categories relevant? Are they performing financially? Are category offerings causing issues with facility accessibility or compaction of activities? How do they situate within the local market and relative to competitor offerings? What benefits will category changes provide existing members? What benefits will they provide the club?

Once in position to communicate the changes internally, preempt what members will think. The primary concern for them will be, naturally, “How does this impact me?”. But the club’s agenda should also form part of the equation. Communicate how the changes will make the club more attractive to future generations and how they will support the club’s financial sustainability. Although it may feel self-serving, it will help to mitigate any ill-feeling among members by giving clarity and a sense of purpose to the changes.

For the change itself, successful clubs provide the option to transition into a new category that has similar access under favorable terms (such as a lateral move into a new category at no cost; or, upgrading to a higher privilege category at a lower incremental entrance fee compared to that of a new member off the street).

Externally, the focus should be on competitive advantage through value. It’s easy to compete with local competitors on price, but it’s not necessarily advantageous to the club. The best clubs look at ways to establish their competitive advantages by adding new programming and subtle category elements that make the value proposition more attractive. Injecting value is preferable to cutting costs.

Clarity over confusion

A proactive and streamlined approach to membership categories has much to offer: an easy-to-manage administrative process and clarity for existing members, prospective members and the Board.

A review of your membership categories also offers the opportunity to view each through the lens of the future and under the guidance of current research. With membership dues representing a hugely significant revenue component for any club, this process is time well spent.

For guidance on how to revise your club’s membership categories, connect with
Bennett DeLozier.

2019 Millennial Golf Industry Survey Findings – Part 7

In ongoing research collaboration with Millennial golfer organization Nextgengolf, GGA recently updated its study of the habits, attitudes, and preferences of Millennial golfers.  The 2019 study brings forward survey findings from over 1,400 Millennial golfers and builds upon research conducted in 2017 and 2018.

This is the seventh installment of a multi-part series of infographics to feature the latest Millennial golfer feedback. Part 7, below, explores the importance of non-golf amenities and social components Millennials look for in club offerings. Also included are observations about how their outlook is evolving over time and several takeaways on how the golf industry is responding to Millennial interests.

See previous installments here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 and look for the final installment of this series to be released shortly.

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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.

Background

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 27-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 3,600 survey responses have been analyzed during the three-year research study.

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

2019 Millennial Golf Industry Survey Findings – Part 6

In ongoing research collaboration with Millennial golfer organization Nextgengolf, GGA recently updated its study of the habits, attitudes, and preferences of Millennial golfers.  The 2019 study brings forward survey findings from over 1,400 Millennial golfers and builds upon research conducted in 2017 and 2018.

This is the sixth installment of a multi-part series of infographics to feature the latest Millennial golfer feedback. Part 6, below, examines the tolerance levels of Millennial golfers to pay annual club dues and considers these within the context of what inhibits or triggers them to join private clubs. Also included are some suggestions from Millennials on how clubs can increase the relevance of their dues structures to the Millennial audience.

See previous installments here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and look for new installments to be released in the coming weeks.

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EAD Logo Taking too long?
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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.

Background

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 27-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 3,600 survey responses have been analyzed during the three-year research study.

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

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