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February 24, 2023

Ten ways your club can go to hell

By By Andrew Wood, Legendary Marketing
How to ruin a golf club

Lack of marketing is just one sin

It’s interesting to hear my club members talk about how great it will be when the members finally take over from the developer. But I know better. I have been there before, and it never works out like they think it will.

The only thing worse than the “Developer” or “Owner” or “Company” running a private club is a committee comprised of two doctors, a lawyer, and a vet!

How do I know?

Because I have been there and the committee described above managed to bankrupt the club in just 12 months despite getting it for free, along with a gift of one million in cash!

Naturally, when the club went under, we, the committee, sued the developer for who knows what!

Bankrupt not once but twice

At this point, to save time, money, and lawyers’ fees, they gave us, the committee, another two million in cash to just go away. That lasted just nine months. Really, I’m not making this up!

Then we went bankrupt again.

Let’s take another example.

I was on the range the other day when one of the older members approached me and started talking about how much better the club would be when we (the members) take over, especially the restaurant. I agreed and mentioned that to be a bit more trendy. We should serve only sushi.

He gasped in horror, “But Andrew, you can’t do that!”

Oh, but I can if I run the house committee. Just like I can grow the rough six inches long, narrow the fairways to 22 yards, and get the greens up to 13 if I run the greens committee.

Anyway, if you want to know the top ten ways to destroy a private club quickly, here’s the formula to share at your next committee meeting.

  • Committees with no long-term vision for planning capital expenses.
  • Committees that keep the dues artificially low to please the older members (usually the committee.)
  • Committees that expect the burden of club expenses to be subsidized by future members and initiation fees.
  • Committees that wait far too long to create a real marketing budget and a marketing plan to keep the pipeline of new members flowing. (Usually, because they don’t really want new members, and neither do at least 50 percent of the rest of the membership!) Meanwhile, the club is shrinking, no, dying, faster than anyone will care to admit!
  • I actually had a club call me last year after their membership shrank from 376 to 89 in five years, and the committee realized they had a problem. Not because they had too few members but because they had no more land to sell to subsidize the club after they built condos on the range! Reality check: I am still NOT making this up!
  • Committees that hire their friends and cronies for vitally essential functions like marketing ,even though their friends are not qualified to do the job. (In the Vet’s club, my previous club, he paid his wife $30,000 a year for six club newsletters. I can’t even count the number of clubs where a member’s son or daughter does the website, usually pitifully!)
  • Committees that allot no money for staff training in the areas of memberships, outings, or banquet sales and service.
  • Committees that have the reluctance to generate outside income from Monday outings or banquets. add to the above lack of training or  lack of marketing, for a truly losing combination. (Guests are NOT responsible for all the world’s divots or all of the club’s ball marks!)
  • Committees that protect long-term employees from getting fired even though they fail to meet basic performance requirements — including membership directors that can’t sell, alcoholic chefs who can no longer cook, caustic rangers, and mentally deranged green-keepers. (At my club in England, the green-keeper once told me, in all honesty, that moles were the only animal he hated more than golfers!)
  • Committees that base all their decisions on what the club down the street does.
  • Committees that fail to allow the manager in charge to actually manage, although in fairness, that also holds true for clubs run by single owners, developers, and large companies.

Now do I think all committees are bad?

No, there is a club in Tennessee with a picture of the chairman on the wall. Underneath his picture are the images of the 12 members of the board of advisors. This is a common practice at many clubs, except for a tiny detail. All 12 pictures are of him!

Andrew Wood is an author and the principal of Legendary Marketing, a leader in golf and resort marketing

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