Stuck in the rough

Now a year into his new role as general manager of The Greens Country Club, Cowan has found that country club managers across the nation are busy just trying to make sure their membership still has a pulse.

“Nationally, country clubs as a whole are tanking and have been for the past couple of years. It’s really, really bad,” he says. “when the economy and all the troubles with that hit, the first thing people realized they could do without was the country club.”

VALUE PROPOSITION

Long bastions of the cigar, brandy and 18-hole crowd, today’s country clubs are having to change with the times.

Females and families are on the radar screen now as potential members.

“We
feel like if we can offer programming and events the moms and the wives
like, as well as the kids, then we’re going to make a lot of progress
here. From our standpoint, social media has played a huge role in what
we do. It’s another tool,” Cowan says.

In addition to a round of golf or a game of tennis, members now can choose
from spin, core-strengthening, and fusion yoga and Pilates classes, as
well as an extensive menu of fitness classes and healthy fare at the
Center Court Cafe.

A three-martini lunch has morphed into an Acai berry smoothie and chicken wrap after an hour-long midday Zumba session.

And
as Cowan mentioned, The Greens hasn’t been afraid to use social media.
The club has to be one of the most tech-friendly in town, boasting
GreensTV on YouTube and apps for Androids and iPhones.

The
Greens members get Friday-afternoon text messages running down the
weekend schedule, as well as email blasts when Cowan needs to get the
word out sooner.

And, of course, the club is on Facebook and Twitter.

GROOMING FOR THE FUTURE

Oliver
Boudin, general manager and chief operating officer of the Oklahoma
City Golf & Country Club, saw the slowdown in applications begin in
2008 and continue through 2010.

Things began to pick up in 2011, but he’d like to see more.

“We’re
a disposable-income business. I think the economy is definitely
something people look at closely, and we see that mostly in the younger
membership,” Boudin says. “Trying to recruit the younger membership is
getting tougher and tougher.”

One statistic regarding membership quickly hit Cowan upon his arrival.

“Keeping
one member 20 years is worth $1 million, in terms of revenue, and
extended revenue as they invite their friends,” he says.

With
a membership of more than 1,000 families, the Oklahoma City Golf &
Country Club will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year.

Boudin knows another 100 years will come only with the steady recruitment of new members.

“It’s
paramount,” he says. “It’s the future of our club. We try to do it
early on. … We do a lot of activity around the kids of the club to get
them used to a club culture in their lives. When they grow up and become
successful and are able to join a club, we want that culture to be
developed early on in their life — whether that be, golf, tennis or
Pilates.”

SAND TRAPS OR MONEY TRAPS?

According to the National Golf Foundation, the number of golfers has dwindled 13% in the last five years.

Private
club membership seems to have taken the brunt of that, with membership
nationwide standing at around 2.1 million — 900,000 below its peak in
the early 1990s, according to the NGF.

“Our
mission here is to be relevant,” Cowan says. “We kind of have to
redesign country clubs. Instead of just a special-occasion place, I want
to be relevant in our members’ minds. When the Thunder is playing, I
want them to think about coming to the club to watch the game.”

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