A Club Leader’s Perspective [2022]

A Club Leader’s Perspective: Emerging Trends & Challenges 

Latest research produced in collaboration with the Club Management Association of America examines the perspectives of private clubs and what trends are motivating their decisions.

In brief:

  • Industry survey of over 200 club leaders across North America highlights the perspective of club leaders on the current challenges facing the industry.
  • A Club Leader’s Perspective explores the state of the industry from the perspective of those in club leadership roles, and what influences their decisions.
  • Club leaders weighed-in on emerging trends and challenges across five primary areas:
    • Industry outlook within the post-Covid-19 ecosystem
    • Human resources and workforce demands
    • Membership experience and programming
    • Capital planning and long-range improvement strategies, and budgeting and forecasting
    • Inflationary impacts on service

We’ve taken the pulse of club leaders regularly since the start of the pandemic, including in-depth looks at challenges and sentiments in 2021. Over the past two years, many clubs were forced to adapt to evolving public health regulations, supply chain shortages, labor challenges and sky-rocketing membership levels. Despite these challenges, club leaders are largely positive about 2022. 

Access the full report for further insights.

Read now

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. GGA Partners has offices in Toronto, Ontario; Phoenix, Arizona; Bluffton, South Carolina; and Dublin, Ireland. For more information, please visit ggapartners.com.

GGA Partners is proud to be a long-standing CMAA Business Partner.

About CMAA

Founded in 1927, the Club Management Association of America (CMAA) is the largest professional association for managers of membership clubs with 6,800 members throughout the US and internationally. Our members contribute to the success of more than 2,500 country, golf, athletic, city, faculty, military, town, and yacht clubs. The objectives of the Association are to promote relationships between club management professionals and other similar professions; to encourage the education and advancement of members; and to provide the resources needed for efficient and successful club operations. Under the covenants of professionalism, education, leadership, and community, CMAA continues to extend its reach as the leader in the club management practice. CMAA is headquartered in Alexandria, VA, with 42 professional chapters and more than 40 student chapters and colonies. Learn more at cmaa.org.

For further information, contact:

Samar Abdourahman
Manager, Marketing and Communications
GGA Partners
t: 416-333-5008
e: samar.abdourahman@ggapartners.com

Labor, Capital Spending Top 2022 Budgets

Budgeting for 2022 is complicated by rapidly changing circumstances and market conditions. GGA Partner Henry DeLozier offers insight into areas where budgetary impact will be greatest. 

Budgeting for 2022 is complicated by rapidly changing circumstances and market conditions. For most experienced hands, anticipating changes within their industry and business is far easier than predicting the breadth and depth of the impact the changes will have on their budgets. Here are two significant categories where budgetary impact will be greatest:

1. Labor costs

Historically, the cost of labor and employee benefits represent the largest line item in a golf course’s operational budget. A trend toward a $15-plus per hour minimum wage and desperately low labor supply conditions will only increase the budgetary impact of labor and benefits. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting impacts on labor, two truths are becoming evident:

  • Those clubs and courses that kept staff on the payroll and continued long-term relationships with their employees are being rewarded in two ways. First, those courses are not having to search a tight labor market for replacements. Second, course care and upkeep have been sustained by committed and knowledgeable employees who have a running head start on those clubs that have been forced practically to start over.
  • Working knowledge of your specific course and conditioning expectations promotes a more cost-effective recovery process.

But what if circumstances and decisions beyond your control have forced you into a game of agronomic catch-up? Here are some remedial actions to consider:

  • Update your agronomic plan to state your expectations for course conditioning. New employees need (and want) to understand what is expected of them. Be thorough. Be enthusiastic. Show how much you care.
  • Plan for robust new hire training. Pair experienced hands with newcomers. See that the veterans describe the values and standards of the work to be done with the same clarity and as enthusiastically as teaching the job’s “how to” components. Train the trainers to ensure across-the-board engagement and understanding. Plan daily technical training for your round-up sessions to bring new hires up to speed and promote consistency.
  • Hire veterans. There are approximately 19 million veterans in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. As the increasing number of veterans mustering out of service expands, many trained and mature workers are searching for jobs. Some three-quarters of these veterans saw wartime service. Take the steps to learn more about those who have given so much and see how much they can give to your operation.

2. Capital maintenance

Capital spending for most golf facilities has expanded decidedly as an improving economy loosened purse strings and made more money available for deferred capital maintenance spending. Financial analysts at our firm note that capital spending is up by more than 55 percent at U.S. golf facilities, with most projects focusing on course renovations and restorations of historic designs, greens reconstruction and new bunker projects.

With the upsurge in golf’s popularity in the wake of the pandemic, many facilities have experienced growth in rounds played and membership enrollments. According to Golf Datatech, rounds played in 2020 increased by 13.9 percent over 2019 and through the first quarter of 2021 are up another 24 percent. The increased demand for tee times has given owners and managers new confidence to expand facility spending.

What are the smart moves being made by superintendents? They’re updating capital project rosters and renewing long-awaited requests for capital to upgrade facilities. And they’re not waiting. They’re describing the features and benefits of the intended projects and supporting financial projections with trustworthy third-party analysis.

In these uncommon times, it is important for turf pros to remember the sun does not shine on the same dog’s back every day. Market demand will shift. Access to labor will change. But the self-imposed high standards for most superintendents will remain and the expectations of enthusiastic golfers will expand. Prepare your 2022 budget carefully and with a broader understanding of social, economic and market conditions.

This article was authored by Henry DeLozier for Golf Course Industry magazine.

A Club Leader’s Perspective: Emerging Trends & Challenges

GGA Partners Releases A Club Leader’s Perspective on Emerging Trends & Challenges Research Report

More than 500 club leaders weigh-in on trends, challenges, and pressing needs in club management emerging in the wake of the global health crisis. Now available for download.

TORONTO, Ontario (June 15, 2021) – GGA Partners, an international consulting firm and trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful golf courses, private clubs, resorts, and residential communities, has released the results of an industry-wide research survey of more than 500 club leaders.  

The 2021 A Club Leader’s Perspective: Emerging Trends & Challenges report is a collaboration between GGA Partners and the Club Management Association of America. Researchers and analysts from both firms partnered in the development and analysis of the findings.

The research, which serves as a contemporary update on pressing needs in club management, takes a look at emerging trends and challenges from the perspective of those in club leadership roles, capturing insight from 515 club leaders, the majority of whom serve as general managers, COOs, and CEOs of private clubs in North America.

A Club Leader's Perspective: Emerging Trends & Challenges

Club leaders weighed-in on emerging trends and challenges across five primary areas: 1) industry outlooks and the ripple effects of COVID-19, 2) human resources and workforce demands, 3) the membership experience, value proposition, and programming, 4) capital planning and long-range improvement strategies, and 5) financial position, budgeting, and forecasting.

“Even before the pandemic, significant change was underway across the private club landscape,” explained Derek Johnston, a partner in the firm. “The crisis has not only accelerated these nascent changes but also introduced new obstacles and challenges for clubs to overcome. The findings of this report will be a useful reference tool for club leaders as they navigate an uncharted path forward and reset for growth beyond the coronavirus pandemic.”

This latest report is a continuation of the GGA Partners Perspective research initiative, a series of surveys the firm deployed in the spring of 2020 which dive into the attitudes, preferences, and industry outlooks of distinct club industry cohorts. The prior installment, A Member’s Perspective: The Shifting Private Club Landscape, featured findings from a global survey of more than 6,300 private club members on their attitudes toward the club industry during the pandemic and how they expect clubs to respond.

To view the research results and key insights found in A Club Leader’s Perspective: Emerging Trends & Challenges, click on the link below.

Download the report here

 

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. GGA Partners has offices in Toronto, Ontario; Phoenix, Arizona; Bluffton, South Carolina; and Dublin, Ireland. For more information, please visit ggapartners.com.

About CMAA

Founded in 1927, the Club Management Association of America (CMAA) is the largest professional association for managers of membership clubs with 6,800 members throughout the US and internationally. Our members contribute to the success of more than 2,500 country, golf, athletic, city, faculty, military, town, and yacht clubs. The objectives of the Association are to promote relationships between club management professionals and other similar professions; to encourage the education and advancement of members; and to provide the resources needed for efficient and successful club operations. Under the covenants of professionalism, education, leadership, and community, CMAA continues to extend its reach as the leader in the club management practice. CMAA is headquartered in Alexandria, VA, with 42 professional chapters and more than 40 student chapters and colonies. Learn more at cmaa.org.

GGA Partners is proud to be a long-standing CMAA Business Partner.

 

Media Contact

Bennett DeLozier
Manager, GGA Partners
602-614-2100
bennett.delozier@ggapartners.com

Mid-Year Predictions for the Second Half of 2021

At the start of the new year and in the spirit of planning, the thought leaders at GGA Partners sat down to predict what we believed to be coming throughout the year and shared our 2021 Predictions on the Shape of the Next Normal. Now, halfway through 2021 with the spring season in the books and summer underway, we reconvened GGA leaders for a mid-year check-in on predictions for the latter half of the year.

1. Ensuring fair and equitable access to amenities remains top of mind, especially on the golf course

A trending topic throughout the industry is golf’s demand surge and how long it will sustain, much has been written on this point and those who are closely watching rounds played metrics anticipate a clearer reading by the end of the summer.

Stephen Johnston, GGA’s founding partner, expects that private clubs will see the surge continue to elevate rounds played by members which will likely increase issues relating to compaction of tee traffic and accessibility.  He predicts the benchmark regarding average number of rounds per member to be higher by approximately 10% following the pandemic and also increased golf course utilization by members’ spouses and family members.  Both factors will create a greater demand for tee times at private clubs.

Johnston believes some clubs may need to consider permitting round play by fivesomes instead of foursomes, potentially catalyzing logistical challenges such as a greater need for single-rider power carts in order to maintain speed of play at the same rate as foursomes with all players using power carts. For club managers and course operators, this entails an increased need for current and detailed evaluation of the benefits of membership and the relationship between playing privileges and the practical ability to book a tee time and get on-course.

2. Effective demand management is key and will shift from agile, flexible approaches to new operating standards as demand stabilizes

During the pandemic and throughout 2020, many golf, club, and leisure businesses recognized the increased need to more accurately and routinely measure the utilization of amenities, adapting operations management to react quickly to change.

Craig Johnston, head of GGA’s transaction advisory practice, anticipates an evolution in this one-day-at-a-time, agile monitoring approach into a new and more formalized standard of operating procedures.  “At the start of 2021, we said we would see clubs provide flexibility and experiment with various operational changes,” he explained.  “With the pandemic feeling like it’s steadily moving toward the rear-view mirror, members will be expecting clubs to begin instituting the ‘new normal’ operations and the data compiled by clubs in the first half of the year will be critical to deciding on the new normal.”

Johnston believes that membership demand will continue to be strong through the second half of the year and that it is likely utilization will reduce marginally as members begin travelling again for work and social obligations.  Even with a marginal reduction in utilization, demand for private club services will remain strong and will continue to put pressure on capacity and access in most clubs.

Senior Partner Henry DeLozier encourages club and facility operators to embrace short-term continuations of high demand while keeping an eye on the future and the non-zero probability of a demand shift in the coming years.  “Clubs must create pathways to sustain demand while navigating utilization volume.  It is unwise to place hard or irreversible limitations on capacity while clubs are at historic maximums for demand and usage,” cautioned DeLozier. “Clubs will do well to establish a clear understanding of demand and utilization to enable innovative programs which serve to fill periods of low demand in the future.”

3. Ongoing uncertainty about the pandemic’s long-term impact on club finances will increase the review and reevaluation of club financial projections to ensure sustained budget flexibility

While data regarding utilization, participation, and engagement throughout the summer months continues to be captured and consolidated, business leaders should not delay their financial planning and instead get to work on reevaluating finances and updating their future forecasts.

“Now is the time to review, evaluate, and reset club debt levels,” emphasized Henry DeLozier. “Clubs need to recast financial projections based upon elevated joining/initiation fees arising from high demand.”

In support of alacrity in financial planning, DeLozier notes that labor shortages spurred by the pandemic will increase payroll-related costs at a material level. He also predicts that comprehensive risk review is needed at most clubs to evaluate possible impacts arising from cyber-crime and/or declining club revenues during 2022.

Beyond internal shake-ups in utilization or operations, club leaders should be anticipating external impacts that could impact their financial plans.  A hypothetical example raised by DeLozier is if the U.S. economy were to become more inflationary.  In such a circumstance he believes clubs would see an increase in the costs of labor and supplies which would necessitate increases in member dues and fees, a deceleration of new-member enrollments as consumer confidence dips, and a slight slow-down in housing demand.

Right now, uncertainty remains with respect to the virus as well as the resulting economic impact from the pandemic. From a financial standpoint, clubs will do well to advance their forward planning while retaining budget elasticity.  “It will be imperative for clubs and boards to build flexibility into their budgets and agility into their operations,” added Craig Johnston.

4. Existing governance practices, policies, and procedures will be revisited, refurbished, and reinvigorated

A litany of new ways of operating and governing the club arose as a result of the pandemic, some of which suggest an efficacy that can be sustained in a post-pandemic environment.  Essential to assimilating these adaptions into new standards of procedure is a review of existing governance practices and the documentation which supports them.

“At a time when boards can measure the full range of financial performance metrics, updating club governing documents is a primary board responsibility,” noted Henry DeLozier.  “Board room succession planning must be formalized to prepare clubs for the inevitable downturn from record high utilization.”

In considering the nearly overnight adoption of technology tools to enable remote meetings and board-level deliberations, partner Michael Gregory noted a substantial increase in the use of technology tools that go beyond virtual Zoom meetings.  “The pandemic has allowed clubs to test online voting,” he explained.  “For many clubs, once things return to normal, their bylaws won’t allow for the continued execution of online voting unless they make changes.”

“We have seen the adoption and implementation of online voting to be a huge success for the clubs who have tried it for the first time,” said Gregory. “Members love it, it’s easy, it’s convenient, it leads to higher participation from the membership, and many clubs are in the process of changing their governing documents to allow for online voting as a result.”  The challenges and opportunities of employing online voting are detailed in our piece on taking club elections digital, which features a downloadable resource that can be shared among club boards.

5. In human resources, expect to see deeper reevaluations of compensation structures and employee value propositions

Weighing in from across the pond, Rob Hill, partner and managing director of GGA’s EMEA office in Dublin, predicts that club leaders will face bigger challenges in human resources throughout the remainder of 2021.

The first of three particular items he called out is a reevaluation of compensation.  “Making decisions about employee pay is among the biggest challenges facing club leaders in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown,” stated Hill. “As they begin compensation planning for the rest of the year and into 2022, these leaders not only have to consider pay levels, but also the suitability of their mission and operating model to thrive in a post-pandemic world.”

Citing his recent experiences in the European market, Hill shared that club leaders are challenged with finding new ways to operate smarter and more efficiently, while also looking for innovative ways to implement sturdy, low-cost solutions that their employees will love.  Which leads to his second point, that there will be a renewed emphasis on what employees love and how clubs, as employers, can provide an enhanced value proposition for their employees.

“As employees get back to work onsite, employers are finding that what their people value from the employment relationship has changed,” Hill explained.  “Where pay has been viewed as largely transactional in the past, clubs may need to provide new types of benefits, especially programs that provide more flexibility, financial security, and empowerment to retain and motivate their people.”

Lastly, there is likely to be considerable movement of talent over the coming year brought on by employees’ new work-life ambitions and financial imperatives, said Hill, “As demand for their skills and experience grows, the very best talent will seek out employers that demonstrate they view employees not as costs but as assets and reflect this in their approach to compensation.”

Recalling our start-of-year prediction that the movement of people and relocation of companies will reshape markets, partner Craig Johnston added, “The relocation of people continues to be a prominent trend and one that is likely to continue in the second half of the year.”  For club employers, it’s not just the changing physical locations which impact the cost and supply of labor, but also the expectations of employees as they seek out competitive new roles and work experiences.

6. The repurposing and reimagining of club facilities, amenities, and member-use areas will continue

The pandemic pushed to the fore the need for clubs to adapt their facilities to match changes in the ways members use and enjoy their clubs.  A combination of practical evolutions for health and safety and circumstantial evolutions drawn from widespread ability for members to work remotely created increased desire for clubs to offer more casual outdoor dining options and spaces to enable members to conduct work while at the club.

Partner Stephen Johnston believes these sentiments will continue to near-term facility improvements at clubs.  “With more flexibility in the workplace and members working from home periodically, there will be a need at the club for members to do work or take calls before their tee time or their lunch date,” he said.  “It has been evident for some time that members generally prefer to enjoy outdoor dining and since, throughout the pandemic, it has become apparent that guests draw greater comfort in outdoor experiences, I see a greater demand for outside patio and food and beverage service.”

As society begins to reopen and communities begin to stabilize, time can only tell precisely how clubs will continue to evolve their operations, whether that be scaling back pandemic-relevant operations or doubling-down on new services and efficiencies.  Evident in our work with clients are significant efforts to reorganize club leaders, reevaluate operations, and retool plans for a successful future in the new normal.  Here are a few highlights of efforts clubs are making for the next normal:

 

  • Reinvigoration of governance processes and engagement of leaders to ensure alignment between boards and club strategic plans.
  • Renewed surveying of members to keep a pulse on how sentiments have changed from pre-pandemic, during pandemic, and currently as communities stabilize.
  • Enhanced adoption and application of electronic voting as clubs reevaluate membership structures, governing documents, and operating policies amidst “displaced” members.
  • Reconfiguring of budgets, capital plans, and long-range financial models.
  • Refinement and advancement of membership marketing strategies, tactics, and materials.
  • Tightening relationships between facility planning, capital improvements, and member communications campaigns.

GGA Partners and USGA to Collaborate on Golf Course Superintendent Executive Search and Placement Services

New offering combines organizations’ expertise to improve golf facilities’ ability to deliver better playing conditions and enhanced golfer experience

BLUFFTON, S.C., and LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. (April 14, 2021) – The United States Golf Association (USGA) will join with GGA Partners (GGA), an international consulting firm, to launch a new service to place top-notch golf course superintendent candidates at facilities across North America.

As part of its suite of advisory services, GGA has long provided executive search services for facility clients. The collaboration will expand the company’s offerings, with the USGA Green Section’s agronomic and maintenance expertise serving as key factors in targeting the unique needs of each golf course and identifying superintendents with matching skills who can help facilities elevate playing conditions, improve course presentation and foster sustainable practices.

“For any golf facility, the ability to hire the right talent is crucial for long-term success, and we believe in creating and maintaining partnerships with facilities,” said Patrick DeLozier, GGA’s managing director of executive search. “The stakes are higher than ever for facilities looking to hire superintendents, and they are looking for candidates with a wide variety of skills.”

Added Craig Johnston, a GGA partner: “The ability to complement our services in strategy, facility governance, finance and operations with the USGA’s agronomic strength will ensure that we can continue to support our clients with the gold standard in best practices, education, innovative products and research.”

The collaboration will allow the USGA to expand its reach and enhance its ability to inform best management practices for golf course maintenance, including resource prioritization. As part of its mission to champion and advance the game, the USGA is helping to ensure a sustainable game in which course managers are empowered to create a positive experience for their golfers.

“GGA’s values and business areas are strategically aligned with our mission,” said Matt Pringle, managing director of the USGA Green Section. “With this new joint service, we can find the best match between the needs of the golf course and the skill set of their next superintendent, while providing ongoing support to deliver outstanding playing conditions and improved golfer satisfaction.”

The joint service will utilize the USGA’s nationwide network of agronomists, whose extensive knowledge of the facilities and superintendents in their regions will be pivotal to the program’s success. They will work closely with DeLozier, who heads up the firm’s executive search practice.

To learn more, contact Patrick DeLozier at patrick.delozier@ggapartners.com or Elliott Dowling at edowling@usga.org.

 

About the USGA

The USGA is a nonprofit organization that celebrates, serves and advances the game of golf. Founded in 1894, we conduct many of golf’s premier professional and amateur championships, including the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open. With The R&A, we govern the sport via global set of playing, equipment, handicapping and amateur status rules. The USGA campus in Liberty Corner, New Jersey, is home to the Associations, Research and Test center, where science and innovation are fueling a healthy and sustainable game for the future. The campus is also home to the USGA Golf Museum, where we honor the game by curating the world’s most comprehensive archive of golf artifacts. To learn more, visit usga.org.

 

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. GGA Partners has offices in Toronto, Ontario, Phoenix, Arizona, Bluffton, South Carolina, and Dublin, Ireland. For more information, please visit ggapartners.com.

Taking Club Elections Digital

The pandemic has accelerated the need to move the ballot box for club elections from paper to the computer and this trend will continue in the coming years. GGA Partners online voting specialists Michael Gregory and Martin Tzankov explain the challenges and opportunities to consider when moving your elections to an electronic voting platform.

Private golf, business, and leisure clubs spend a great deal of time and money planning, executing and delivering the results of club elections, often with discouraging voter turnout.

Over the past two years, GGA Partners, in partnership with secure platform provider Simply Voting, has worked with many clients to move the ballot box for club elections from paper to the computer. As this trend grows in the coming years, our team of skilled specialists shares the challenges and opportunities available as your club considers moving to an online voting platform.

Simply Voting logo
A web-based online voting system that will help you manage your club’s elections easily and securely.

The Challenges

According to GGA manager Martin Tzankov, the biggest challenge is trying to retrofit new technology and process to existing bylaws. “Most bylaws were written before the introduction of online voting,” commented Tzankov. “Outdated bylaws cause complexities in the process, particularly regarding proxies. It is important to understand what you can and cannot do to ensure the election conforms to your club’s rules.”

Another challenge is the organization of member data including current contact information and eligibility.

“The ability for clubs to segment member data is complex and critical,” stated Michael Gregory, a partner at GGA. “Whether it is a current member whose dues are in arrears, or a new member who became eligible while the vote is taking place, clubs must ensure that only eligible votes are tallied in the final results.”

It’s a simple fact that humans make errors and there are times members who were against an issue will question the integrity of any vote. Online voting eliminates that challenge by providing the ability to audit the process from start to finish.

Mobile smartphone screen depicting digital survey with quote "The biggest opportunity for clubs that choose online voting is increased member participation in the process" - Martin Tzankov, GGA Manager

The Opportunities

“The biggest opportunity for clubs that choose online voting is increased member participation in the process,” said Tzankov. “Members use technology every day so casting their vote on their computer or mobile device, which often takes less than 5 minutes, is simple and easy. And while there will be some members who prefer paper, in our experience, the majority of members prefer the online option.”

Along with increasing the experience, participation, and satisfaction of members, online voting is a powerful tool to segment the results by age, membership category and other data sets. Data segmentation allows your club to identify and track trends across a wide spectrum of subjects, providing valuable insight for future planning.

The capability to deliver a consistent schedule of communications is another opportunity provided through the online voting platform. Rather than incur the expenses of printing and mailing information, your team can prepare and schedule a series of email communications to inform and remind electors of the voting period and then deliver the results in a timely fashion.

“Environmental sustainability is increasing as a factor to choose one club versus another,” added Gregory. “Clubs who implement online voting have the opportunity to send a clear message that they are taking steps to minimize their impact on the planet.”

Eliminate The Risk

Warren Buffet has been quoted as saying, “Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.” There is great truth in that statement.

To understand the risks and rewards of online voting, we encourage you to have a conversation with specialists Michael Gregory or Martin Tzankov to gain the knowledge you need to ensure successful elections at your club.

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

Martin Tzankov
Senior Manager, GGA Partners
martin.tzankov@ggapartners.com
905-475-4012

Download the info sheet

Life in Flux: The Evolving Priorities of Millennial Golfers

GGA Partners logo

Nextgengolf logo

PGA of America logo

GGA Partners & Nextgengolf Release Findings from 5th Annual Research Study on Millennial Golf Community

2021 study reveals the habits, attitudes and preferences of over 1,600 millennial golfers.

TORONTO, Ontario (March 17, 2021) – Global consulting firm GGA Partners and Nextgengolf, a subsidiary of the PGA of America, have released the fifth annual Millennial Golf Industry study entitled “Life in Flux: The Evolving Priorities of Millennial Golfers.”

The 2021 Millennial Golf Industry Survey was conducted from November 2020-January 2021 and garnered responses from over 1,600 golfers whose average age was just over 29 years old.

Cover page of the 2021 millennial research report. Title reads "Life in Flux: The Evolving Priorities of Millennial Golfers". Subheader: "Over 1,600 millennial golfers share their habits, attitudes, and preferences about golf. New 2021 findings reveal what's changing and what isn't." Title and subheader overlay image of golf couple taking selfie near flagpin on green with sunset in the background.

Key highlights of the 2021 millennial golfer study include:

Average annual rounds played reached a new peak: 33.9 rounds, a 9% increase year-over-year and average handicap reached a record low, decreasing 5% to 8.8.

Average spend per golf round has increased 28% over the past five years, climbing to $47 from $34 in 2017 at an average rate of $3.25 more per round each year.

For a generation characterized as digital natives, it may come as a surprise that a substantial portion of millennials purchase golf equipment and apparel in-person, roughly two-thirds at a sporting goods store and almost half at a course pro shop.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, golf has become more important to millennial golfers according to 60% of the sample. More than four in five (84%) say they are able to work from home; and over half (51%) say this added flexibility allows them to play more golf.

Sixty-percent (60%) of participating millennials prefer golf venues that actively exhibit social and environmental values. Nearly two-thirds (64%) say these behaviors would influence their likelihood of purchase, and approximately three-quarters (73%) of those surveyed would be willing to pay more, if excellent social and environmental practices increased the costs of golf venues.

Millennials are attracted to private clubs that offer non-golf amenities and social components. Interest is highest in amenities offering two key attributes: 1) non-traditional golf play like nighttime golf use and simulators; and 2) a multi-use club experience with casual dining, socialization and fitness.

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

“What this research shows is a tremendous opportunity for golf facilities and private clubs,” commented GGA Partners’ Michael Gregory, a partner of the firm. “To succeed in attracting the next generation of members, golf facilities must build their reputations around diversity, inclusiveness, and environmental stewardship, providing an amenity and activity profile designed to create experiences which enrich the emotional connection and sense of belonging that elevates the value proposition most appealing to young golfers.”

Historically focused on golfers in the millennial generation (those born between 1981-1996, roughly ages 25-40 in 2021), the study has now begun to span two generations. Nearly one third of the sample audience now technically belongs to Generation Z (those born after 1997, roughly ages 9-24 in 2021), an emergent golfer cohort which the study will continue to evaluate in the future.

Through this study, GGA Partners and Nextgengolf have identified the evolutions happening among the golfers of the future to assist golf facility operators in finding ways to adapt and develop their offerings to meet the needs of the next wave of members and customers.

The 2021 Millennial Research Study is available to all golf facility operators. Download the report by clicking on the link below.

Download the report here

 

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, please visit ggapartners.com.

About Nextgengolf

Nextgengolf, a subsidiary of the PGA of America, has the mission to provide golfing opportunities for golfers of all ages and make the game of golf more relevant for high school students, college students, and adults. Through the NHSGA, NCCGA and City Tour products, Nextgengolf caters to golfers over 15 years old by proactively keeping golfers engaged through events and bringing new players into the game. For more information, visit nextgengolf.org.

About the PGA of America

The PGA of America is one of the world’s largest sports organizations, composed of nearly 28,000 PGA Professionals who daily work to grow interest and inclusion in the game of golf. For more information about the PGA of America, visit PGA.com and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

 

Media Contacts

Bennett DeLozier
Manager, GGA Partners
602-614-2100
bennett.delozier@ggapartners.com

Michael Abramowitz
PGA of America
561-624-8458
mabramowitz@pgahq.com

Plotting for Budgetary Triumphs

GGA Partner Henry DeLozier offers 5 tips to help golf course superintendents obtain the resources they need to meet expectations.

The budget cycle is complete at most golf facilities for the 2020 calendar year. If your budget was approved and you received the allocation you hoped for, congratulations. But if you feel a lack of funding puts your plan for staffing, course conditioning and maintenance in jeopardy, you might need a different approach to the next budget cycle. Here are five steps to consider when planning your budget.

1. Identify the Gatekeeper.

There is often one person who sets the tone for the next year’s budget. It’s normally the controller or accounting manager; in private clubs, it may be the chair of the finance committee. This person sets the minimum standards for the budget, and he or she must be educated and kept informed regarding your priorities and needs. Research the background experience of the gatekeeper so you understand the perspective from which he or she considers budget requests. Take the time well ahead of the budgeting period to ensure that this key player understands what is needed and the extent to which you have gone to manage costs.

2. Understand the Budgeting Process.

Many golf courses and clubs use different budgeting processes, sequences and schedules for development, planning and decision-making. Make sure you understand the expectations for your role, and then work diligently to exceed them by providing background and support information ahead of schedule. Understand how your club handles budgeting and who the decision-makers are. Meet with them to explain your needs and priorities. Explore and learn their viewpoints concerning your budget needs and how they evaluate your problem-solving. Help them to know how much thought and planning you have given their viewpoints.

3. Plan Ahead of the Process.

Schedule quarterly budget-planning meetings with the gatekeeper and key influencers of your budget submittal. Inform them fully of your needs for the next budget year, answer their questions and demonstrate your commitment to their preferences and needs. Invite them into your operation so they may judge for themselves your organization and methods of management. They need to understand that you are efficient and diligent with the funds for which you are responsible.

4. Organize Your Roster of Priorities.

Knowing the viewpoints of the gatekeeper and influencers involved in your budget helps you prepare your list of your priorities. Be concise in stating your game plan and the rationale behind your requests. Support each proposed budget line item with incremental details for costs per unit of measure and the number of units required. Show all the facts and figures that support your needs. Your objective is to ensure that the gatekeeper understands the due diligence and conscientious approach that went into your request, which will increase their confidence in the validity of your request.

5. Educate the Influencers.

Prepare individualized budget discussions with influencers. Schedule one-on-one meetings with each person who will have a voice in approving your budget. Persuade one influencer at a time until you have met with each of them and gotten their buy-in. See that you understand their viewpoints and biases. Once you fully understand the individuals, evaluate the group thinking to which you must respond.

By understanding the budget influencers’ priorities and then presenting your credentials in an organized and well-researched fashion, you’re well on your way to getting the decision you want and the budget that will help you do your job more effectively.

This article was authored by GGA Partner Henry DeLozier for Golf Course Industry Magazine

What Millennials Want

Earlier this year Global Golf Advisors, in conjunction with Nextgengolf, released a follow up report to its ground-breaking 2017 study entitled ‘The Truth About Millennial Golfers’. GGA’s Michael Gregory, backed by the findings of the research, gives a Millennial’s take on what clubs need to do next to realize the clear opportunity this group presents…


We run the risk of a two-tier club membership model emerging. One where 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 co-exist. For some club decision-makers this may be a source of discomfort, because enacting a change that leans one way or the other could potentially upset or alienate the other group.

From my experience, however, it’s clubs who resist change entirely that do themselves a disservice; sub-consciously siding with a diminishing number of older members, which, over time, makes their membership product less appealing to younger prospects.

Now, being a Millennial, it would be natural or somewhat biased having conducted this research to declare that clubs need to change their value proposition for a younger audience, and that their survival depends on it. But while there is truth in this, clubs can and should choose to see this as an opportunity – it’s real, it’s there to be seized, and at some point (whether now or in the future) everyone will need to appeal to this new wave.

Seeing things from a Millennial’s perspective

To help you on this journey, I’d like you to see the following as an insight into what Millennials think and feel about the prospect of joining your club. Each of the findings can provide the fuel for you to create a genuinely appealing product to this (potentially) lucrative group.

Millennials want flexible, scalable membership aligned to how they will utilize the club

Think about what’s important in the life of a Millennial: work, health and fitness, family, friends – all of which impact on free leisure time.

With such time and (in some cases) financial commitments already in place, a high-ticket membership subscription and entrance fee will not only be unappealing, it won’t even be on the radar.

51% of Millennial survey respondents stated their preference is a flexible membership with a low social fee that provides full access, with golf on a pay-per-use basis. Understandable when you look outside the four walls and find other leisure amenities and gyms offering ‘Build Your Membership’ options.

So, rightly or wrongly, Millennials prefer to customize and take an ‘á la carte’ approach, experience the product first (do you offer a membership trial?) and have confidence in the commitment they are about to make.

While this might sound like a ‘cake and eat it’ mentality, think about the lifetime value of these customers; if you can be flexible and deliver an outstanding experience from the outset, the likelihood is they will stay with you for years to come.

Millennials would prefer to pay a higher annual fee over an entrance fee

Not only is the financial impact of an entrance fee off-putting, no matter how many years it can be spaced over, but Millennials also aren’t keen to commit or have a sense of being ‘tied-in’. Especially in cases where they are uncertain how much they will get to access the club (because of time constraints and family/work commitments).

This doesn’t mean to say Millennials will be looking to leave or switch clubs shortly after they join. They would simply rather not outlay a large financial sum at a time of life when, away from the golf course, they often have other life events and variable expenses (home-buying, weddings, children) to keep in mind.

The upshot – Millennials are receptive to a higher subscription fee, appreciating that greater flexibility should come at some cost to them.

Millennials want more than just golf

From the research, we learned that 33 was the mostly likely age for Millennials to join – the ‘sweetspot’. A time at which Millennials, when considering membership, are also looking for fitness (71% of respondents), family access (65%) and a swimming pool (62%). Whether these facilities carry an additional, pay-per-use fee is at a club’s discretion, but simply the provision of such amenities can be a significant draw for a Millennial audience.

Something to bear in mind here: the provision of these amenities will help to boost the dwell time of Millennial members. So, when paired with our other findings in relation to how new Millennials join a club (83% through recommendations from friends, family or colleagues) it stands to reason that the more a club becomes a part of someone’s routine or lifestyle, the more chance of them recommending membership to others.

A watershed moment

When we embarked on this research with Nextgengolf, we did so with the ambition to grow the game and give the gift of golf. What’s clear from working with club managers globally is that, actually, this is an ambition we all share.

Whether this is a watershed moment which helps you to rethink and act on how to connect with a Millennial audience is up to you. But from my, perhaps somewhat biased opinion, the ability for your club to shift gear and develop a genuinely compelling product offering to this group could help unlock those long-term members you are looking for – the ones who will form the future nucleus of your club.


Read the 2018 ‘Truth About Millennial Golfers’ Report

Note: The survey sample for the Truth About Millennial Golfers study focused exclusively on a sample audience of active, avid Millennial golfers with prior golf interest and experience in tournaments of golf events.

This article was authored by GGA Senior Manager and Market Intelligence expert Michael Gregory.

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