The Next Chapter in Club Governance: An Interview with Michael McCarthy

Michael McCarthy is the CEO/General Manager of Addison Reserve Country Club in Delray Beach, Florida, a position he has held for 17 years. In 2007, Michael served on an Advisory Committee to help develop the Club Governance Model (Model) for the Club Management Association of America (CMAA). Designated the Standard of Excellence by CMAA, the Model began to be adopted by clubs across the country, albeit slowly. Sixteen years later, Michael was again asked to revisit club governance principles and practices – this time by serving on a committee to write a Club Governance Handbook (Handbook) for the National Club Association (NCA) and CMAA. “Private Club Governance: A Handbook of Principles and Best Practices” was released in August 2023 and is available to both CMAA and NCA members.

We caught up with Michael to reflect on the journey from the 2007 Model to the 2023 Handbook and to hear his thoughts about the next chapter for club governance.  

GGA: Michael, you have been at the forefront of club governance for over two decades, you were one of the first General Managers to be given the title of CEO, you were on the advisory team that developed the Club Governance Model, and most recently on the committee that prepared the Governance Handbook. What is it about club governance that deserves so much of your attention?  

McCarthy: I started working in private clubs in 1988. At the time, the majority of clubs held onto antiquated traditions of governance. They were run by Boards of Directors, officers, or committees with more of a focus on collegiality than on efficiency. There was almost hostility to operating clubs like a business. I was fortunate to have seen in business how important it is to distinguish between governing at a strategic level and managing at an operating level. So, I brought that mentality to the clubs I worked with and was fortunate to have open-minded boards that saw the importance of clarifying the roles of the board and the GM. 

GGA Partners: So, what do you say to members who want to be in a club and not a “business?”  

McCarthy: That implies we are sacrificing collegiality to gain efficiency. Far from it. Our mission at Addison Reserve is “Excellence is our Standard.”  While our members expect us to honor the mission, they also expect us to be good stewards.  They are happy to see us employ proven business practices in serving them. To do otherwise is to invite members to distrust their leaders – both the board and management.  

GGA Partners: You mentioned the need to distinguish between governing and managing. Why is that important at a club?  

McCarthy: Boards at private clubs comprise men and women who are skilled in their professions and who have very successful careers. However, their expertise may not translate to managing a large, complex private club. That job is best left to a competent GM who is given the authority and the resources to run the club efficiently and effectively. The board continues to be responsible for setting the strategic direction of the club and for holding the GM accountable for aligning operations with the strategy. Fulfilling that responsibility calls for board members who understand that they are governors and not managers.  

GGA Partners: How do they develop that understanding?  

McCarthy: Start with well-documented board policies that describe the club’s governance model, the expectations of individual board members, the delegation of the authority to the GM, and the roles of the board, its officers, the advisory committees, and the GM. Ensure that the orientation of new board members includes a detailed review of board policies. Soon after the election of new board members and officers, conduct a board retreat that includes a training session to reinforce the principles and best practices of good governance. 

GGA Partners: Speaking of governance models, you have observed the trend in club governance over the past two decades. Where do you see progress to date; what do you see as the next chapter; and how optimistic are you for future progress? For example, the GM/COO model was introduced more than 20 years ago and has gradually become the norm among clubs. You have held the title CEO for 17 years. Do you see the GM/COO model giving way to a GM/CEO model?  

McCarthy: Although I would like it, I don’t see it happening any time soon. Remember, it took time for clubs to accept the GM as COO, and even today, many clubs have a GM/COO while their bylaws name the President as CEO. This is a vestige of the past when boards and Presidents were involved in operations. In most of these clubs, the GM/COO has operational responsibility. If that’s the case, give the GM the title of CEO, or at least remove the CEO title from the President. 

GGA Partners: And finally, share your thoughts on the future of club governance.  

McCarthy: As you know, I was recently involved in the development of a Club Governance Handbook that was jointly sponsored by NCA and CMAA. I see the Handbook as ushering in the next chapter for Club Governance. It contains an integrated Framework which pulls together the principles and best practices of club governance. Acting on the recommendations in the Handbook may be a challenge to clubs that have trouble emerging from the status quo, but those that take to heart the Handbook’s instruction will clearly benefit. CMAA and NCA seek to encourage General Managers to appreciate the importance of proper club governance and embrace the principles in the Governance Framework. Finally, we General Managers who have traveled the road from antiquated club governance models to the Handbook must mentor and coach the next generation of leaders to preserve the standards set in the Handbook.  

Between Members and Governance: Member Discipline Today

The call went something like this: “We need your advice in a disciplinary matter here at the club. It seems that one of our members was making offensive statements when a fellow member asked the member speaking out to stop his comments. An argument ensued and the offended member punched the member making the offensive statements in the face. What disciplinary actions do you recommend?”

Uncivil – and sometimes antisocial – behavior has become a matter of concern in clubs across the globe. Many club members began to demonstrate anomie, as French behaviorist Emile Durkheim called it during the early 20th century. Anomie, in societies or individuals, is a condition of instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values or from a lack of purpose or ideals. Durkheim summarized his findings by stating, “We are moral beings to the extent that we are social beings.” 

The pandemic loosened ties between people and relocated them to their clubs. Children stopped going to school; their parents stopped going to work; parishioners stopped going to places of worship; people stopped gathering, in general. Many sociologists think all of this isolation shifted the way we behave. “We’re more likely to break rules when our bonds to society are weakened,” Robert Sampson, a Harvard sociologist who studies social disorder, says. “When we become untethered, we tend to prioritize our own private interests over those of others or the public.” 

Many club leaders are reckoning with unprecedented behavioral abnormalities. “The pandemic has created a lot of “high-stress, low-reward” situations, explains Keith Humphreys, a psychiatry professor at Stanford University, “…and now, everyone is teetering slightly closer to their breaking point. Someone who may have lost a job, a loved one, or a friend to the pandemic might be pushed over the edge by an innocuous request.” 

Like their friends and neighbors, club members became untethered from social norms and standards of mutually respectful behavior and their disconnection from behavioral standards has left many clubs seeking guidance in matters of member discipline. 

First, each club must return to – or re-establish – its standards of decorum and respectful conduct. The most frequently abused private club standards are usage of technologies in restricted areas, violations of established dress codes, and general adherence to long-established club rules for reservations – whether for sports or meals. 

Second, club members demand that their boards and management take disciplinary action with members who frequently or repeatedly stray from the club’s rules. The questions in many club boardrooms are: What? And how? 

Updating a club disciplinary structure requires several steps which must be described as swift, firm, and fair. 


Members want to see rules enforced in a timely manner to ensure that regular rule-breakers begin to refrain from undesirable actions.  

 In order to implement timely rules enforcement, clubs must establish and broadly communicate clear guidance concerning the club’s rules and regulations. Four primary steps should be used: 

  1. Establish clear-cut steps to be consistently implemented when club rules are broken. 
  2. Communicate that the Board is responsible for member discipline. 
  3. Demonstrate and disclose the disciplinary process that will be used.  
  4. Adhere to the practices that are established for disciplinary matters. 


Execute the disciplinary process without passion or prejudice. It helps that the Board has already reviewed, approved, and authorized disciplinary actions – or punishments – in advance of events as they may unfold. Rules cannot be made on an impromptu basis. 

 Board members must be congruent and respectful of those members being disciplined. As behaviorists have indicated, good people sometimes become disconnected from their own social judgement. Be understanding and committed to the premise that members want to belong to a club that has standards and that the club stands for something to be honored. 

 Do not make exceptions or excuses. In pre-determining what rules violations or offenses are to be addressed, develop proportionate disciplinary responses to each.  


Plan the disciplinary process to ensure that a reasonable and responsible fellow member can see that the Board is acting with balance and understanding in disciplinary matters.  

The important priorities to remember are: 

  • Be prepared to defend your disciplinary approach. 
  • Coordinate your club’s disciplinary plan with capable club counsel who can review your club’s bylaws and disciplinary approach prior to taking action. 
  • Confirm with counsel that they can successfully defend your approach to restoring or improving discipline in your club 
  • Confirm all disciplinary examples and intentions with experienced club lawyers before taking action. 
  • Interview all participants (and witnesses) in rules violations to confirm the facts involved. Take the time to overturn all possible observations, recordings, and/or previous communications and events. 
  • Allow for appeals and reviews to ensure that the club’s actions align with local jurisdictional guidelines…regardless of the offense. 
  • Include family members for repeat offenses. Poor or disrespectful conduct means one must tell his or her spouse that the family has been suspended. 
  • Maintain a spirit of understanding and collegiality throughout the review and disciplinary process. 
  • Refer matters – such as employee harassment, inappropriate behavior, assault and/or battery – to law enforcement. Report legally relevant situations to the proper authorities. 

Some members may believe that their clubs and directors are too soft on discipline. Most members want to belong to a club that honors the values being proclaimed. Be who you say you are. 

Once disciplinary action has been taken, tell members that the Board has acted:

  • Do not name the individuals involved. 
  • Communicate disciplinary actions by stating (i) the offense, (ii) the action taken by the board, and (iii) the outcome of this action. 
  • Maintain strict confidentiality to protect the privacy of all concerned. 
  • Communicate the disciplinary actions of the board monthly (note and report when no actions were required as behavior improves) 

If you do not respect your own rules, no one else will respect your authority to discipline. 

Executive Sessions: What, When, How, and Why

How many private club boards include executive sessions as part of their board meetings? Not enough, in our view. Although executive sessions can play an important role in a board’s relationship with the general manager (more and more clubs have adopted a governance model that designates the General Manager as the Chief Operations Officer (COO) or Chief Executive Officer (CEO)). Although we heartedly endorse this practice, we use the generic label of GM throughout this article.) and their staff, too few boards have a policy relating to the conduct of executive sessions as a regular item on their meeting agendas.

To encourage boards to adopt a policy of including executive sessions as a regular part of their meetings, this article offers:

  • What: Identify the two types of executive sessions.
  • When: Describes their frequency and where they are placed on the agenda.
  • How: Recommend their conduct.
  • Why not: Suggest why they are viewed with skepticism.
  • Why: Explain why they are important.


There are two types of executive sessions:

  • Type 1: those that include only the GM and board members (Type 1 sessions may also include subject matter experts to provide special advice on a sensitive topic.).
  • Type 2: those that include only board members.

Type 1: While the GM attends all board meetings, it is not uncommon for key staff members to also attend. They can serve as a resource for additional information and the board discussions and actions can help staff members understand the board’s strategic perspective. However, there are topics of a sensitive nature where it is advisable for only the Board and GM to discuss. Hence the need for a Type 1 executive session.

Type 2: Often the GM’s success turns on his/her being provided valuable feedback from the board that as a group is responsible for the GM’s evaluation and for their success. The agenda for Type 2 executive sessions is focused on hearing from board members as to where the GM is performing well and where he/she can improve.


For club boards that meet monthly, we recommend including a Type 1 executive session as part of every board meeting. Topics of a sensitive nature are common enough at board meetings to warrant Type 1 executive sessions be on the agenda. Although executive sessions can be placed anywhere on the meeting agenda, we believe they are best placed at the end.

While it is best practice for Type 1 executive sessions to be part of every board meeting, Type 2 sessions should be scheduled at least semi-annually and at most quarterly. The purpose of the Type 2 session is to provide the president with constructive feedback he/she can present to the GM subsequent to the board meeting.


With a Type 1 executive session, the chair or the GM will typically schedule topics for discussion. The chair may also invite board members to raise topics that they believe belong to only the board and the GM to discuss. To join the Type 1 session, the chair may invite experts such as attorneys, accountants, or advisors on employee matters to advise the board on sensitive topics or potential risk areas to the club.

The value of Type 2 executive sessions rests on the clarity of their purpose, effective communication with the GM, and the professional conduct of the discussion. It is important that the session have a framework and not be an ill-structured voicing of opinions. Fashion the agenda around the GM’s annual performance goals, which should be documented in the board policies manual. Share the agenda with the GM and ensure that they understand the purpose of the session and the benefits of the feedback they will receive in the process. Include both quantitative metrics such as meeting budget and retaining staff and qualitative assessments such as responsiveness to member concerns and value of reports to the board. Seek results from the session based on the consensus derived from the discussion that provides the president with clear messages to be delivered to the GM.

Relating to the “how” question of conducting the executive session, be prudent about what to include in the minutes. Regarding advice on minutes, in her excellent article, “Goldilocks Minutes,” Robyn Nordin Stowell cautions that “Board minutes should include enough information, but not too much information.” She goes on to identify what should be and what should not be included in meeting minutes. Her counsel is especially relevant to executive sessions that include sensitive topics. For example, she cautions against naming individuals or providing detail on disciplinary actions.

Why Not

Although we don’t hear from staff that they are offended to be excused for Type 1 executive sessions, we often hear from GMs who dislike Type 2 sessions. They have misgivings about the board criticizing their performance. One GM said, “An executive session is an invitation for disapproving comments by board members who don’t have a clear idea of what I do. The board and I are partners in leading the club and I view executive sessions as undermining that partnership.” This is an understandable reaction. Few of us enjoy being talked about—especially when constructive criticism is a part of the discussion. But the benefits of Type 2 sessions properly conducted can more than offset the displeasure or skepticism of the GM.


The GM and the board are in a real sense leadership partners. However, each partner has a role in the relationship. The board confirms the mission, develops the strategy to achieve it, and delegates the operational authority to the GM to carry out the strategy. In turn, the GM is accountable to the board to achieve the operational goals within written board policies. The clarity by which the board delegates and the GM is held accountable is fundamental to health of the partnership.

The increased popularity of the concept of the GM as COO or CEO has added greatly to the quality of private club governance over the past two decades. GMs are being given the authority to do the jobs for which they are well-trained and equipped. However, having a GM as COO or CEO does not reduce the responsibility of the board to properly evaluate him/her via a structured, well-documented evaluation process. Such a process includes periodic feedback during the year—feedback borne out of board member input during Type 2 executive sessions. Boards that default to the president to conduct the evaluation of the GM or wait until the end of the year to tally their opinions on the GM’s performance do a disservice to this important duty of the board.

Just as the GM as COO or CEO helps to distinguish the roles of the board as governing and the GM as managing, so too can executive sessions send a similar reminder. Good club governance models have the board speaking with one voice to the GM. Far from disrespecting the GM/board partnership, executive sessions can strengthen the relationship by giving the GM the benefit of constructive feedback from a board committed to his/her success. We recommend that club boards include Type 1 sessions on the agenda of every regularly scheduled board meeting and Type 2 sessions on the agendas of at least two board meetings a year. Regularly scheduled sessions reduce the perception that an executive session signals a problem with the staff, a risk of litigation, a concern about the GM’s performance, or another unfounded speculation. Put executive sessions on the calendar of board meetings and let them contribute to the board’s effectiveness in general and its ability to support the GM in particular.

This piece was published in the National Club Association‘s Summer 2023 Issue of Club Governance. 

How a Club Works: Back to Basics

When our children were young, they had an endless stream of questions, often beginning with the words “how” and “why.” One day, we bought them a book entitled, “How Things Work.” It was a hit with its basic diagrams and simple explanations, and it greatly reduced the flow of “how” and “why” questions. As simplistic as it sounds, we recommend that club leaders provide their members with a basic understanding of how things work at their club—how it is governed and how it operates. We often hear from members via surveys about what they view as a lack of communication, transparency and trust with their board of directors. Although regaining member trust is a multifaceted exercise, the first step in addressing adverse perceptions of club leadership is a primer that serves as the club’s version of the book “How Things Work.

This article offers a sample approach to providing members of “Model Country Club” with a basic understanding of how their club works. These concepts and their supporting documents should be part of a new member orientation portfolio. We trust that clubs can customize the sample message to meet their configuration and culture, so their new members understand the governance structure of the club and the expected roles of each of the key players in the structure.

Welcome to Model Country Club (MCC). For you to get the most out of your club membership, it’s important that you understand how the club works, i.e., the basic structure and governance of MCC and the roles of the key players, namely the:

  • Members
  • Board of Directors (often called Board of Trustees or Board of Governors. In the case of MCC, it’s the Board of Directors.)
  • General Manager (GM) and staff
  • Committees

Structure and Governance
MCC has three layers of structural authority and responsibility:

  • Members: As a member, you own the club and enjoy access to the full array of services, facilities and amenities it offers (not all private clubs are member-owned. For this sample message, MCC is a member-owned club). Your predecessors established MCC in the 1921 Articles of Incorporation. Members establish the framework of club governance in the Bylaws, which were last amended in 2017. Annually, members choose who will lead and guide the club by electing representatives to the Board of Directors (Board).
  • Board of Directors: The members elected to the 10-member Board become the club’s “governors.” The Board is given authority in the member-approved bylaws and is charged with fulfilling and sustaining the club’s mission through fiduciary and strategic oversight of the club.
  • General Manager: The Board delegates authority to manage operations to our GM, the Board’s “one employee.” The Board establishes the mission and strategic direction for the club and relies on the GM to align operations with the strategic plan to accomplish the mission.
  • Committees: Our committees advise the:
    • Board on Board-related functions like finance, long-range planning, membership and governance.
    • GM on operational matters such as golf, greens, house and fitness.

Role of Key Players

Members: As owners, members have the authority to amend the bylaws and therefore formulate the policies within which the Board must operate. However, that authority is operative only during the annual meeting or specially called meetings. At all other times, although members are encouraged to offer feedback or suggestions, they act as customers expressing their opinion, not exercising authority.

Board Members: With the delegation given in the bylaws, Board members have the authority to formulate policies within which the GM and staff must operate. However, that authority is operative only during properly called board meetings. At all other times, although board members may make suggestions to the GM and staff, they are acting like club members expressing their opinion, not exercising authority.

General Manager: Using the authority delegated by the Board, the GM is responsible for club operations within written Board policies. The GM and staff are encouraged to solicit feedback from club members and respond in a timely and substantive way. However, they are not obligated to act on a suggestion if they don’t believe it is in the club’s best interest.

Committees: Committees serve the Board by providing advice and proposing policies on Board-level functions. Operations committees support the GM and staff by providing advice and proposing policies on operations-level functions.

Going Back to Basics

The governance structure at MCC is straightforward and designed to operate efficiently and effectively as well as to engender the culture as a family-centric community. Each of the key players in the structure must understand their roles—in terms of both their authority and the limitations on their authority. We seek a community where members, leaders, and staff personnel are respected, and where each of them is trusted to carry out his/her role in the structure with integrity and quality.

This piece was published in the National Club Association‘s Summer 2023 Issue of Club Governance. 

Revisiting the Board Policies Manual

During the Hundred Years War, the English army laid siege on Harfluer, France, and blew a hole in its fortification. After King Henry’s troops tried and failed in an initial attempt to take advantage of the opening, he spurred them to try again with the memorable command, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” The phrase is used today to encourage additional attempts to succeed. We use it to revisit the board policies manual (BPM) and urge clubs to adopt it as their club management system.

Fifteen years ago, the Club Managers Association of America (now known as the Club Management Association of America) designated the Club Governance Model (Model) as its standard of excellence. The centerpiece of the Model was the BPM, a document containing or referencing all policies of the Board of Directors. The Model reinforced the concept of the general manager as chief operating officer (GM/COO). Clubs were initially slow to adopt the Model in general and the BPM in particular. However, over the years, the BPM has steadily found its way on the list of strategic action items for clubs seeking to strengthen their governance models. The growing recognition of the BPM’s value is good news. The bad news is the perception of the BPM has morphed away from the original structure and content. It’s time to reexamine the BPM by being reminded of its purpose, emphasizing what it is, and clarifying what it isn’t.

Purpose of the BPM

The BPM is a compilation of, or a reference to, all standing board policies. The reasons for its adoption are the:

  • Efficiency of having all ongoing board policies in one place.
  • Ability to quickly orient  new board members.
  • Elimination of redundant or conflicting policies.
  • Ease of reviewing current policy when considering new issues.
  • Provision of policies to guide the board, general manager and staff.

The BPM represents the entire board’s voice speaking to sound governance principles and best practices. Because the BPM is the board’s voice and not just that of the president, the Executive Committee or a faction of the board; it:

  • Guards against divisions within the board by encouraging consensus from different points of view and eventual board-wide agreement on decisions
  • Has the stability to keep the policies operative year-on-year, even though the president and a third of the board may change annually.

BPM: What it is

The most commonly organized BPM comprises five parts:

Part 1: Introduction and Administration: States the purpose of the BPM, the rationale for its use, how it is maintained, and how its contents are employed in the club’s governance model.

Part 2: Organization Essentials: Includes the club’s vision, mission and values, along with the club’s strategic and tactical goals. These “organization essentials” form the foundation upon which the organization’s other policies are designed and built.

Part 3: Board Structure and Process: The board’s strategic perspective, job description, style, and configuration; policies on meeting management and officer elections; policies relating to committee types, responsibilities and membership are clearly outlined.

Part 4: Board-GM/Staff Relationship: This part states the delegation of authority to the GM, accountability to the board, process for GM evaluation and staff treatment.

Part 5: Executive Limitations: Includes limitations on the GM’s authority given in Part 4, e.g., signature authority on checks, budgeted and unbudgeted expenditures, capital spending, size and duration of contracts, and the like.

As configured above, the BPM will incorporate by reference those board-owned documents that can stand alone, e.g., strategic plan, members rules and regulations, conflict of interest statement and committee charters. Although the actual documents are not housed in the BPM, their contents require board approval. Incorporating them by reference in the BPM keeps the BPM shorter and focused on how the board will govern.

BPM: What it isn’t

While we can celebrate the increase in the number of clubs that are adopting the use of the BPM, we have noticed three areas where the BPMs being developed deviate from the recommended scope and structure of the document:

  • It is not a Reference Book: We have seen clubs use the BPM as a type of encyclopedia of information board members might find useful. Along with board policies, they might include their Articles of Incorporation, bylaws, contact data for board members, golf tournament schedules, opening and closing times, and the like. These may be useful reference materials, but they are not board policies.
  • It is not a Guidebook: Policies are directives. They are not suggestions or guides. Publishing them as guides practically guarantees an uneven level of compliance. Governing by guidelines will frustrate those willing to follow the guidelines and reward those who choose to operate outside of them.
  • It is not a Manual of Key Policies: Some clubs see the BPM as consisting of only the most important policies. However, if a board allows implicit (unwritten) policies to exist along with the policies in the BPM, the effect will be similar to the effect of using policies as guidelines. The implicit policies will end up trumping the explicit policies as the BPM will be perceived as “not the way we do things.”

Once More to Succeed

While we don’t see our urging the development of a properly constructed and employed BPM as rising to the level of King Henry’s charge to his troops, we have seen enough examples of improperly developed BPMs to encourage us to enter the breach once more. The BPM is the most important component of a club’s governance model. There are BPM templates available for clubs to follow with sample policies to illustrate both the contents and organization of BPMs most commonly found in the club community. Let them guide you in developing a BPM that will serve as the centerpiece of your club’s governance model.

This piece was published in the National Club Association‘s Summer 2023 Issue of Club Governance. 

GGA Partners and Vivid Club partner to strengthen management excellence for private clubs

New joint partnership helps supports the advancement of clubs around the world.

Toronto, ON, July 27, 2022 

As private clubs work to keep pace with rapidly changing business landscapes, shifts in member access and utilization, heightened workforce challenges, and the untapped potential of data, there is a need now more than ever to monitor and effectively implement strategies and streamlined processes. As part of their new international alliance, GGA Partners and the team at Vivid Club and Vivid Leaf have partnered to deliver advanced mindshare collaboration technologies designed to help clubs transform and lead.

Vivid Club provides clients with a fully integrated goals and objectives management system with pre-populated Balanced Scorecard templates and 360-degree feedback surveys and performance evaluation functionality. The platform also offers a file share system and a Club Social Responsibility section showing all initiatives clubs have in place for their employees, their community, the environment and their partners. The purpose is to optimize collaboration and ensure the alignment of all contributors towards the joint vision of the club.

Vivid Leaf is the real-time club sustainability platform, following the triple bottom line approach of sustainability: profit, people, planet. Vivid Leaf is helping clubs to advance on their journey to becoming fully sustainable and carbon neutral. All aspects of a club’s ability to have an effect on the three sustainability pillars are considered. The club’s carbon footprint is calculated as well as automated alerts are sent for unusual spikes in usage.

The Vivid platforms are also helping clubs to strengthen their operational and managerial processes for the future through artificial intelligence (AI), automation and monitoring tools that are built with private clubs in mind. With clubs from all over the world contributing in a mind-share fashion, the Vivid platforms improve on an ongoing basis, all available to every club on the platforms.

GGA will leverage the unique features of the Vivid platforms in the design of strategic actions plans, help clients use the platforms to monitor the implementation of strategy and continue to be the source of data-driven strategic solutions that consider the unique market, financial, operational and governance circumstances of each club.

“We are thrilled about our partnership with GGA Partners to better serve the club industry. Combining GGA’s experience and expertise in data and analytics, financial and operational analysis, surveying, governance, and strategic planning with state-of-the-art, easy-to-use, club mind-share and artificial intelligence driven technology, clubs have a framework at hand that supports their sustained success.”

Bettina von Ruexleben, Chief Executive Officer, Vivid Club and Vivid Leaf

“To adapt and respond to the ever-changing club industry, and the evolving expectations of members, it is imperative that clubs diligently plan, monitor, transform and evaluate their strategies, goals and objectives.  This is why GGA Partners is increasingly focused on helping clients to innovate and grow. Our new partnership with the Vivid Club and Vivid Leaf team is now more important than ever as we continue to help clients successfully implement important strategies for their long-term sustainability.”

Derek Johnston, Partner, GGA Partners

About Vivid Club and Vivid Leaf

The Vivid platforms are developed for the club industry in close cooperation with visionary club leaders. Supported by the team of the Brodtmann Consulting Group they focus on enabling clubs to easily share their thoughts, templates and initiatives with each other to learn and optimize collaboration as well as their sustainability progress. The Vivid team is located in Cologne, Germany as well as Denver, CO, Atlanta, GA and Naples, FL.

For more information, please visit and

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. The firm is 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

Board Room Best Practices

In partnership with the National Club Association (NCA), we are pleased to release the inaugural issue of Club Governance, a publication focused on the fundamentals for effective club leadership developed to provide key insights into pressing board room issues and outline board room best practices to effectively govern your club.

In our inaugural issue, Henry DeLozier and GGA’s governance expert Fred Laughlin, discuss the following topics:

Three Keys to Effective Governance: Who Serves on the Club Board?

A Model for Club Governance: Policies and Practices of High-Performing Boards

How to Build a Board of Directors: Selecting Your Dream Team

Building Accountable and Transparent Boards: The Board’s Path to Excellence

Gaining Governance Consistency: How to Reduce the Annual Speed Bump

A Case Study of Good Governance: Greensboro Country Club

NCA members will receive Club Governance semiannually as a special insert in Club Director magazine. Through our partnership with NCA, we are making each publication available to our valued clients.

Read or download Club Governance here

A print version of Club Governance is available to GGA Partner clients. If you would like us to send one, please provide your name, club name and mailing address via email to

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 Renews Legacy Alliance Partnership with the National Club Association

Top corporate partnership demonstrates GGA’s commitment to supporting the advancement of clubs nationwide.

(Washington, D.C., May 17, 2021) – The National Club Association (NCA) announced that GGA Partners Inc. (GGA) has renewed its corporate partnership with NCA at our top corporate partnership level, Legacy Alliance Partner, for three years. As a Legacy Alliance Partner, GGA will continue to provide industry-leading resources to NCA members in an effort to strengthen and advance clubs nationwide.

GGA is an international consulting firm and trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful private clubs. Its global reach and wide-ranging experience allow its professionals to deliver proven best practices and innovative concepts to clubs of all types.

For NCA members, GGA will continue to be the source of data-driven strategic solutions that consider the unique market, financial, operational and governance circumstances of their clubs.

“We’re thrilled to continue to better serve the club community with industry leading education resources through this powerful partnership,” said NCA President & CEO Henry Wallmeyer. “GGA’s expertise in critical areas like market analysis, financial and operational analysis, governance, and strategic planning provides clubs of all kinds the framework they need for sustained success.”

“NCA serving as the foremost club authority on COVID-19 is emblematic of their visionary leadership throughout our partnership,” said GGA Partner Henry DeLozier. “We are pleased to continue our long-standing partnership and eager to provide more value for the club community.”

As a Legacy Alliance Partner and lead sponsor of the NCA Board Leadership Institute, GGA will benefit NCA club members through numerous sponsorships, research and educational initiatives, including:


  • Hosting the Club Governance Symposium during NCA’s annual National Club Conference.
  • Sponsorship of NCA’s Board Leadership Institute, a leading resource for club board members.
  • Co-publishing a new joint periodical, Club Governance, to provide club leaders with industry data, case studies and best practices to improve club leadership, strategy and governance.
  • Sponsorship of NCA’s Club Governance Standards, a collection of whitepapers designed to educate and guide club boards on specific issues.
  • Presenting the Club Leadership and Governance Webinar Series focusing on improving the function of club boards.


About the National Club Association

The National Club Association (NCA) has been the advocate for the private club industry in Washington, D.C. for 60 years. As the voice of private clubs on Capitol Hill, NCA ensures that club concerns are at the forefront when legislative and regulatory issues affecting the industry are being decided. In addition, NCA provides club leaders an outstanding array of resources on club industry trends, governance best practices, legal and operational matters, and ways to strengthen club leadership. For more information, please visit


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. The firm is 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

Executive Search: General Manager/COO at Whitevale Golf Club

Pickering, ON

Whitevale Golf Club

With the first game enjoyed in 1958, Whitevale is a member owned, private golf club conveniently located in north Pickering, Ontario. We have a scenic championship golf course and a world class practice facility. Our sanctuary is surrounded by conservation lands to our east, west and south.
Completed in 2015, our state-of-the-art Clubhouse, designed by Richard Wengle, sits high on the landscape ensuring the perfect vantage point to awe inspiring views from all our dining, patio, and lounge areas. More recently, our Golf Operations and Turf Care Facility was completed in 2020.

Whitevale Golf Club provides an exceptional golf experience whether it is a casual round with family or friends or providing opportunities for members to compete and develop their game. Our course is our showcase, and it is conditioned to please and entertain members and guests alike.

The Position: General Manager & Chief Operating Officer

Whitevale Golf Club is seeking a General Manager and Chief Operating Officer who is dedicated to the Club’s Mission, Vision and Values. Reporting to the Board of Directors through the President, the role of the GM/COO is to manage Club operations in accordance with the strategic, financial, and operational direction set by the Board.

Guided by Policies and Bylaws, the GM/COO shall manage all aspects of the Club including activities and relationships between the Club and its Board of Directors, members, guests, employees, community, government and industry. The GM/COO is the leader of the Club’s management team and is responsible for managing all facets of the Club’s operations.



  • Develop and deliver a consistently excellent experience to satisfy the members expectations in a private golf club.
  • Effectively manage all aspects of the Club’s activities and services provided by the Club to ensure a high level of member satisfaction and referrals to their family, friends, and colleagues.
  • Develop and implement innovative, industry-leading operating policies, programs, procedures, and methods. Direct the work of and support the development of all department managers.
  • In consultation with the Board and Finance Committee, deliver long and short-term financial objectives.
  • Prepare forecasts and executing the financial plan for the Club including development of annual operating, cash, and capital budgets. Preparing financial reports to the Board and Finance Committee.
  • Lead the Club’s human resources, including establishing, initiating, and monitoring personnel policies and overseeing training and professional development programs. Create an environment where staff wishes to return, and candidates want to join the Team. Act as a mentor to Direct Reports.
  • Coordinate and implement the strategies within the Club’s short and long-range strategic plan as created by the Long-Range Planning Committee and the Board.
  • Welcome new Club members, “meet and greet” all Club members as practical during their visits to the Club.
  • Coordinating the marketing and member relations programs to promote the Club’s services and facilities to present to potential members. Develop ongoing dialogue and rapport with members by being present at all major Club functions.
  • Ensuring compliance with all legal and regulatory matters affecting the Club.

Direct Reports:

Head Golf Professional, Golf Course Superintendent, Executive Chef, Food and Beverage Manager, Events Coordinator, Social Media and Marketing Coordinator, Membership Administrator, General Accountant.


Candidate Profile:

The GM/COO will report to the Board of Directors through the President. Given the leading role this individual will play in achieving the strategic, business objectives and leading the continuing transformation at Whitevale Golf Club it is essential that the successful candidate possess the following core competencies, experience, and attributes:

Leadership Skills:


  • A trustworthy, dependable, and dynamic leader with the ability to build strong teams by motivating staff and leading by example.
  • Has the ability to provide direction and expectations, continuous performance feedback with recognition that leads to positive outcomes. Fully engage and inspire department managers and their teams to enhance member experiences.
  • Exhibit leadership skills in continued team building, employee motivation and service training.
  • Is respectful and professional in all interpersonal dealings.
  • Proudly represent the Club to external groups.

Member and Guest Experience:


  • Thorough understanding of and capacity to consistently deliver exceptional standards of service as expected at a member-owned club.
  • Ability to set and maintain high standards for the golf course and all facilities, services, and communications.
  • Analytical with the ability to proactively use data in forecasting and managing revenue and cost.



  • Demonstrates integrity, ethical conduct in words and deeds; embodies the characteristics of a successful leader through honesty, straightforwardness, accountability, leadership, empathy, and dedication.
  • A self-starter with a results-oriented work-style combined with excellent verbal and written communication as well as interpersonal skills demonstrated with all the Club’s stakeholders.
  • Flexible and adaptable to changing needs in schedule demands & time commitments. There is an expectation this position will be present and visible at Club events.
  • Demonstrates energy with a desire to interact and build relationships with the membership.
  • A confident, diplomatic, competent professional who is a “doer”. A take-charge person who recognizes the importance of accountability and innovation.
  • A track record of strong professional results with a clear commitment to member service.
  • Interacts with an open and transparent approach with members while maintaining a professional balance between empathy and process adherence.

Business/Finance Skills:


  • An entrepreneurial style combined with a strong understanding of all aspects of business management including business development, finance, information technology, marketing, human resources, risk management and performance management.
  • Experience managing golf course operations and capital projects.
  • Values marketing (including digital) and its organizational impact.
  • Direct experience and understanding of the operation of a not-for-profit golf course including the hospitality aspects.
  • Incorporates succession planning by preparing staff for key leadership roles.
  • Efficient knowledge of word processing, spreadsheet, e-mail and use of the Internet & social media platforms.



  • A post-secondary degree in business, hospitality or professional golf management credential is preferable.

Experience and Accreditation:


  • Experience as a senior leader in a private golf club environment or other similar top tier golf facility
  • A passion and understanding of what it means to deliver a private golf club experience.
  • Experience in the hospitality with an excellent understanding of food and beverage operations, including pricing, menu development, inventory management and costing.
  • Proven experience developing and managing budgets and business plans.
  • Experience reporting to a board that has adopted a club governance, structure, and processes to lead the Club and GM/COO to thrive.
  • Evidence of continued professional development.


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

Application Process and Deadline

IMPORTANT: Interested candidates should submit resumes along with a detailed cover letter which addresses the qualifications and describes your alignment/experience with the prescribed position by Friday, April 30, 2021. Those documents must be saved and emailed in Word or PDF format (save as “Last Name, First Name, Whitevale Resume” and “Last Name, First Name, Whitevale Cover Letter”) respectively to:

Michael Gregory, Partner and George Pinches, Director
GGA Partners, Inc.


For more information on Whitevale Golf Club please visit