The H. Chambers Company

Changing the Game: Reinventing Golf to Create a Sense of Community

Golf Learning Center Blog - Header Photo Over the last several decades, the golf industry has experienced dramatic changes. From 1990-1999, golf was a growing sport, with participation rising from 27.4 million to 28.8 million as reported by the National Golf Foundation (NGF). For many golf and country clubs, golf was (and still is) the driving factor for individuals looking to join a private club. However, from 2000-2012, the golf industry experienced a significant decline in participation, dropping from 28.8 million to 25.7 million (NGF).

Naturally, this caused many to be concerned for the overall health of the industry. But rather than focus on the negative, club leaders and industry professionals took notice, understanding the need to respond to the demographics shifts and lifestyle changes witnessed in private clubs. Today, industry statistics show that golf participation has begun to level out—in part due to the fact that clubs are finding new ways to reinvent the game.

The game of golf is one of skill, etiquette, and strategy. An experienced golfer sees this as a challenge; however, for someone new to the game, it can be very intimidating. Club leaders are continuously searching for new ways to foster a sense of community in their clubs, which means finding ways to provide members opportunities to socialize and build relationships with their fellow members regardless of age, skill level, or interests. One trending approach in the industry is to re-imagine overall experience provided by golf teaching facilities.
GLC Banner (3 photos) Traditional Golf Learning Centers provide golfers with hitting bays that flow onto the driving range and areas for private instruction with the golf professional. But, what if these facilities could not only fulfill golfers’ training needs, but also satisfy their social and dining needs as well—and cater to non-golfers? We’re glad you asked! This new evolution of Golf Learning Centers nods to the growing popularity of facilities like Top Golf, providing necessary training while focusing on the overall casual experience and making golf “fun” for everyone!

Adding value to the member experience goes hand in hand with increasing member satisfaction—the trick is finding the best and most meaningful ways to accomplish this. For many, creating this evolved type of Golf Learning Center establishes a new ‘destination’ at the club that draws members in and encourages them to spend more time there. Traditional elements like hitting bays and instruction areas provide ample opportunity for golfers to improve their game, while beginners can hit golf balls without feeling any pressure with their friends watching and cheering them on from areas with tables and soft seating behind them. Golf simulators can also be incorporated, providing enjoyment for all ages and skill levels. Members can even host private events and celebrations with the opportunity for night-time play where you can hit out onto a lighted driving range.

 
GLC Banner (2 photos)
 

These dynamic facilities also incorporate the traditional Halfway House while expanding on its appeal. Clubs are moving away from menus that only offer hot dogs, sandwiches and snacks to more health-conscious menus that include heart-healthy options, gourmet salads, fruit smoothies and other quick-but-healthy meal choices elevates the value and appeal. Clubs could even offer early morning hours and offer danishes, protein bars, and breakfast sandwiches to help members jumpstart their day. The design of these facilities can also incorporate indoor-outdoor bars, providing an adult-oriented sanctuary that mimics the energy of the club’s indoor Bar Grill or Pub area with an added flair.

But doesn’t this take away from other dining spaces at the club? Not hardly! It is an experience unto itself that provides a new and unique “ultra-casual” dining atmosphere that is often unavailable in other areas of the club. Golfers can sit down for a quick, casual meal after their game of golf. Families can drop by the club on a whim after soccer practice or a swim meet without needing to go home and change first. Depending on proximity, tennis players can stop over after a tennis match and meet with their friends. It’s a social hub for all members and allows members from varying interest groups to cross paths and get to know one another better—and enhance that sense of community every club longs to provide for their members.

The prognosis for the industry is a good one—golf rounds are no longer on the decline, but they aren’t increasing either. In many ways, the economic hardship of the Great Recession gave golf and country clubs the push they needed to realize they couldn’t keep all of their eggs in one basket. As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Private clubs must continue to evolve and respond to the changing needs and lifestyles of members. The expansion of golf amenities in private clubs has changed the game—and reinvented the private club community feel!

Has your club incorporated Golf Learning Centers into your golf experience? Leave us a comment or email us here to let us know!

John Snellinger

John Snellinger

John joined the Chambers team more than a decade ago. As Vice President and Director of Planning, he is an integral driver of Chambers' strategic and facilities planning efforts. He continues to lead the firm's research team, overseeing member, market and demographic review and analyses, member communications and surveying.
John Snellinger

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2 Responses to “Changing the Game: Reinventing Golf to Create a Sense of Community”

  1. Paul Holbrook says:

    Excellent article. The challenge is implementing a design/layout for private clubs that are built to the scale of use utilizing existing footprints without increasing initiation fees and dues. Designing with efficiencies that control labor costs at the same time providing exceptional service.

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