Can Country Clubs Evolve?
A recent story in the Denver Business Journal asked, “Can Country Clubs Evolve?”
Our answer is, and was, yes.
In 2014, we completed a series of focus groups for Columbine Country Club, one of the clubs mentioned in the DBJ article. Columbine Country Club is one of only two courses in Colorado to host the PGA Championship, and we knew that it could not run away from its legacy as a championship-level golf facility. However, revenue was down and the average age of members was increasing.
Our role was to be the neutral party so that club members could openly express their individual visions for the future of the club. Over three nights we spoke to almost 100 club members, focusing on what was working – and not – at the club.
Our findings, presented to the board and made available to members, highlighted the following:
- Many of the things the members thought the club was doing well were golf-related. This was true even for those who were not active golfers.
- A generational divide was clear in the desired uses for the club’s space (and budget).
- Younger families with children wanted more casual dining options, enhanced pool features and a more casual environment.
- Many in their 60’s and older focused on golf and appreciated the child-free dining options.
- Investing in pool and gym enhancements, while maintaining the excellent golf facilities, would clearly appeal to younger families and those with children.
Overall, we suggested building on the golf legacy while, at the same time, making changes in both facilities and programming to attract younger members – especially younger families with children. We knew the club could not solve all the challenges at once, so we focused on solutions to keep current membership engaged – and paying their dues – while also appealing to new members.
In 2015 the club members approved plans for a complete renovation of the clubhouse, including the introduction of new fitness center and a family-focused dining room. This $25 million clubhouse opened in 2017.
According to the DBJ, “the club has sold 250 memberships in the past 3 years to reach capacity at 660, and the average age of members has dropped to 54.”
By engaging the right people, asking the right questions and giving people the freedom to tell their stories in a welcoming environment, Columbine Country Club was able to overcome some significant challenges that are facing golf-focused clubs all over the country.
It did nothing to improve our handicap.
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