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Monday, May 21, 2012

Does cheaper membership cheapen private club? Plus, two blogs to bookmark

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        Private clubs suffering the ill effects of the recession that began in 2008 and is hardly over have essentially two paths they can take to securing their futures:  They can convince current members to fund improvements that make their club more attractive to future members (and help retain current members); or they can lower their prices to attract

Lowering dues and initiation fees to attract new members does not work for everyone.

increasing numbers of new members from a smaller universe of potentials.  The first path is problematical; many long-time conservative members (read “older”) think they pay more than enough already and are skeptical that modest increases will fund enough improvements to matter.  The second path seems easier to those who guide the golf club and is often the path of first resort because it skirts the issue of extra assessments that might alienate current members.

        But lower prices come with their own set of problems.  One is the obvious one; low or no initiation fees can’t help pay for capital and other improvements (new grass cutting equipment, higher fuel costs, hiring that extra waitress in the clubhouse) and lower dues exacerbates maintenance issues.  The only way to properly fund the upkeep of the golf course and other parts of the country club infrastructure is to generate many new memberships. In the current economy, good luck.

        Kathleen Kingsbury recently published an interesting overview of the dilemma private golf clubs face in the current environment.  It is one of the more balanced we have read in recent memory and should be helpful to those contemplating membership in a private club –- inside or outside the gates of a golf community –- as well as members who are involved in club governance. You can read the Reuters article by clicking here.  We know plenty of high quality private golf clubs in the southern U.S. that have lowered their fees.  If you want to discuss those in areas you have targeted for a future golf home, please contact us.


         We learned about the Reuters article from two web sites published by lawyers interested in golf club issues.  We have been reading attorney Rob Harris’ Golf Dispute Resolution site for months now and find it both informative and entertaining.   Today at his site, Rob noted his new acquaintance with David Cronheim, who publishes Tee, Esq., a similar site that debuted only in March and which noted the Reuters article in a blog post. TeeEsq.com seems a little broader in nature than Rob’s site, going beyond just the legal aspects of golf to include such topics as country clubs for sale, the acquisition of golf retailer GolfSmith by a Canadian company and other issues not of a strictly legal nature.  But you certainly do not need anything like a law degree to appreciate Golf Dispute Resolution; on the contrary, its focus on the interesting and unusual aspects of the operational side of the game is refreshing and entertaining.  I recommend both sites to anyone interested in the foibles of the golf industry, especially the foibles-loaded topic of country club operations.
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Larry Gavrich

This blog was conceived and is published by me, Larry Gavrich, a former corporate communications executive who founded HomeOnTheCourse, LLC, in 2005.  Our firm advises baby boomers and others seeking a lifestyle in which golf is a major component.  My wife Connie and I own a home in Connecticut (not on a golf course) and a condo at Pawleys Plantation in Pawleys Island, SC, on a Jack Nicklaus layout.  We began our search for our home on the course more than 15 years ago, and the challenges of the search inspired me to research golf communities and write objective reviews of them.