Club Opportunities For Facility Master Planning in a Recessionary Economy

Screen Shot 2022-11-29 at 11.11.20 AM

The financial geniuses in Washington have done it again. Having overfunded the economy to save it, they now have to underfund it to deflate it. I think this means deflation and recession. Of course, we in the club world benefited from all the government largesse, so we can’t cry in our soup when they raiseinterest rates to the sky to try to get people back to work and stop the inflation everyone knew had to follow. You can’t flood an economy with $4 trillion in handouts and not have horrendous inflation.

So get ready for the aftermath, and in particular prepare your club for what is about to happen. McMahon Group has lived through these boom/bust cycles four times, usually every ten years as they seem to happen like clockwork. The challenge is now how to weather this financial storm best, and keep memberships full. One sure way to achieve membership retention is to have good facilities and programs that members use so they continually find value in their club.

The other important membership strategy is to continue offering facilities and programs which appeal to our next generation of members and their families. Just look back at 10 or 20 years ago to what happened in fitness and wellness. From not being even on the radar screen as required for achieving club success back then, today fitness/wellness/conditioning programs are the third most important club offerings for country clubs’ members, behind dining and golf. And now watch what is happening for clubs as the next wave of offers are pickleball, bocce, golf simulators and expanding racquet sports as members want more year-round clubs for paying year-round dues.

One of the most interesting trends in the club industry today is that of clubs doing long-range facility planning for the future. The leaders at clubs are always thinking and planning ahead so they anticipate when something can be and should be done, even though it might not be the right time to actually do a project. This has paid good dividends to clubs in the past that have a clear understanding of their mission and have a strategic master plan completed. This way when the opportunity arises, these clubs can act quickly to implement needed projects.

Strategic Facility Planning has really caught on with boards no longer approaching facility planning as individual, one-off projects; but now they develop strategic understandings of a club’s culture and what the club must do to continually succeed in having a full membership and properly maintain existing and new facilities that provide what members want. Gone are the days where golf gets all the money to the detriment of the family members and their satisfaction. There is even a new club trend well underway for what we call the family-friendly golf club, as women and children are playing golf as never before. 

This is one of the reasons why golf courses are crowded and many clubs can’t accept any more golfing members.

A Recession is a Time to Plan

So as the economy goes through its normal ups and downs, this is not a time for managers and boards to back away from facility planning. Quite the opposite. This is the time to plan ahead and understand your club’s needs so you are ready to move forward with facility projects when they are needed.

Share This Article

About Bill McMahon, Sr. AIA, OAA

Bill is a strategic, financial and architectural planning consultant to clubs throughout North America. He established McMahon Group in 1983 as an affiliate of the family architectural firm his grandfather founded in 1906. Over the ensuing years, the firm has expanded its club consulting services beyond clubhouse improvement planning to a full range of services for all aspects of private club challenges. To date, the firm has assisted more than 2,000 private clubs across the United States, Canada, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean. McMahon Group provides a unique approach to developing club facility projects first establishing design and financial feasibility so membership approval is achieved. Thereafter final design and construction firms are selected to build the member approved project.

Mr. McMahon is unique among club consultants in providing an integrated strategic, financial and architectural approach to solving club problems. His personal involvement with his own clubs in St. Louis (serving in the roles of president, board member and committee member) has allowed him to bring unparalleled experience to each client. Mr. McMahon’s club memberships have included Bellerive Country Club (St. Louis), Racquet Club Ladue (St. Louis), University Club of St. Louis, Spring Lake Yacht Club (Michigan) and the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.

Mr. McMahon is a graduate of Washington University School of Architecture in St. Louis and holds architecture licenses in 44 U.S. states and in Ontario, Canada. He is a featured author in industry publications and a featured speaker at the annual conferences of the Club Managers Association of America, the Canadian Society of Club Managers, the National Club Association and the Hospitality, Financial and Technology Professionals. He serves as a visiting lecturer at continuing education sessions offered by regional CMAA chapters and at Michigan State University. Bill is a co-author of McMahon Club Trends®, the comprehensive research reports on strategic issues facing private clubs published with the National Club Association. He is also founder of the Excellence in Club Management Award.

Mr. McMahon is a member of the American Institute of Architects, and the National Club Association. He is a former president of the Missouri Council of Architects, AIA and has served on various charitable boards in the St. Louis area.

More articles by Bill McMahon, Sr. AIA, OAA
Originally published in: