Know What You Need Before Drawing Useless Plans

The Club Pelican Bay (Naples, FL)
The Club Pelican Bay (Naples, FL)

Quick fixes can quickly backfire

Time and time again, we find boards and their architects approaching club facility needs with little thought about the long-term strategic, financial and member-attracting needs of their club. Since these club leaders have no real strategic understanding of their club’s true mission or its purpose (other than offering what they always have), they react with quick-fix improvements rather than planning with long-term strategic objectives in mind. The bunkers need some improvements, so just fix them. The dining areas are a bit shabby, so just redecorate. The kitchen is having production problems, so just buy a stove. Before a club begins the journey of a facility improvement project, it is the perfect time for the board and management to ask some critical questions about their club. By not identifying strategic issues regarding membership, finances, programs and facility needs first, the results are millions of dollars being spent on projects that appeal to vocal groups of existing members, but do not attract one single new member.

Consider the long-term strategy to properly design club facility improvements

Somehow, someway, club boards have got to think more strategically. If they don’t, their clubs will not be around very long. Their clubs will be impacted with significant debt for projects that do not attract the essential new members of the future. Clubs must have a sound strategic plan that clearly defines their purpose before they spend a single dollar on facility improvements. A club’s board should not hire an architect until they know what it wants to build. You don’t ask architects to tell you what they want for your clubhouse. You give the architects directives based on your club’s non-facility, strategic needs for what must be built, and how much such projects should cost based on member input and the club’s ability to raise the funds. In effect, you plan facilities with strategic objectives in mind.

So, if your club is contemplating facility improvements, take the time to do your homework first and figure out what you are trying to accomplish. With this agreed upon, you can then plan facilities that achieve the essential goals relating to club success. The facility improvements, themselves, should not drive facility projects. The strategic objectives of increasing member satisfaction, increasing loyalty and driving new member attraction are what facility improvements should be all about.

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About Bill McMahon

Vice President

Bill is a private club planner providing strategic planning, member research analysis and facility planning services for private clubs across North America. Bill joined McMahon Group in 1999 and has worked with over 200 clubs helping to solve their strategic and facility needs.

Bill is Co-Editor of Club Trends, a quarterly report published with the National Club Association (NCA). He has written for many private club publications like The BoardRoom Magazine, Club Director and more, and has been a featured speaker at national conferences, local chapters and other associations serving the private club industry. He is also on the NCA’s Communications Committee.

Bill has been instrumental in developing and enhancing the McMahon Group online presence. He created and runs Clubtopia® ( – an online business directory of firms and companies serving the club industry.

Bill’s club memberships have included Bellerive Country Club (St. Louis), Glen Echo Country Club (St. Louis) and the Missouri Athletic Club (St. Louis). He proudly serves on the Board of Cinema St. Louis ( and is Second Vice President on the Board of the Tennessee Society of St. Louis.


More articles by Bill McMahon
McMahon Report - Volume 13, Issue 1 – Jan/Feb 2018
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