Open the Gates, Here They Come.

A set of ornate gates to heaven opening under an ethereal light and cloudy afterlife
A set of ornate gates to heaven opening under an ethereal light and cloudy afterlife

Gated community clubs are benefiting from a combination of powerful forces that will prove to be both transformative and enduring.   

No one could have predicted at the start of the COVID pandemic that real estate sales, membership demand and usage at gated community clubs would skyrocket over the ensuing six months, but it has. Interviews of realtors and managers indicate little or no inventory, rising prices and huge demand. Here’s why: 

Safety and Security: Surveys have long shown safety to be the number one reason people buy into gated communities. COVID-19 and social unrest have highlighted it. People are in a mode to hunker down and control their environment, which they can find at secured communities.  

Work from Anywhere: The ability for people to work from home has been available for years, but the will was rarely there. Companies worried about lost productivity and people were concerned with losing their ability to network. COVID changed all that. Like flipping a switch, remote work went from a novel idea to the new norm. People can live where they want and work their same job, so why not live in paradise? 

There Are Still Boomers Yet to Retire: About 40 million of the 80 million Baby Boomers are under age 65. There are millions of people who are looking to head somewhere to enjoy a second act. 

Taxes and Money Flow: SALT reforms made people aware of just how much they were paying in state and local taxes. This is pushing wealthiest households out of high tax/high population states (NY, NJ, CT, IL and CA) to havens like FL, TX and AZ. Believe it or not, Bozeman, MT is one of the hottest real estate markets in the U.S.  

Although these forces are powerful, they should not be taken for granted. Clubs will need the products and services the buyers want to succeed. And while golf has had a boom year, attracting the next wave of members depends largely on your answer to the question, “what do we do when we aren’t golfing?” For most, that means a reinvented clubhouse with modern, indoor and outdoor social and dining spaces, state of the art health and wellness facilities, new games like pickleball or old ones like bocce and non-stop programming. 

This is the time for leaders to reinvent and reinvest so they can position their clubs and communities to blossom over the next decade.  

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About Frank Vain

Mr. Vain provides consulting and planning services to private clubs throughout North America. Through use of specialized services including membership surveys, strategic planning, operational analysis and facility long range planning, Frank assists club in developing individualized strategies for their unique situations. 

Mr. Vain joined McMahon Group in 1988 and has more than forty years of experience in the management and development of hospitality properties including country clubs, city athletic and dining clubs and residential communities. Frank is Past President of The Country Club of St. Albans, a 36-hole country club located in Missouri, and he is a former partner in Concord Sports Club, a 1,700 member family athletic club in St. Louis. Frank was elected to the Board of the National Club Association in 2011 and served as Chairman in 2019-20. 

Mr. Vain is a native of Philadelphia and graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is a featured speaker at the annual Club Managers Association of America World Conference, National Club Association National and Regional Conferences, Major Golf Associations and a regional chapter meeting of club managers and leaders. 

Frank is a regular contributor to industry leading publications like Club Management, Club Director and BoardRoom. He was named the Gary Player Club Educator of the Year for 2012 and 2015 and received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021 by BoardRoom. He is also a co-author of McMahon’s Club Trends, a recognized industry benchmark on the trends and issues affecting private clubs. 

More articles by Frank Vain
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