Operating in a COVID World

Global spread of a Novel Wuhan coronavirus, conceptual image

Reflecting the intense interest  on the facts behind COVID-19 and the expected impact on private clubs, over 2,000 club leaders recently participated in a webinar hosted by the National Club Association. The NCA has taken a leadership position on this challenging issue, including creating a very informative micro-site on the subject (www.nationalclub.org/coronavirus). Be sure to give it a look for additional guidance.  

No one knows how long this is going to last, but the biggest question we will soon face is “where do we go from here?” The virus is a different challenge for clubs as they are typically a place of refuge during turbulent times. We saw members seek the safety and security of their clubs after 9/11 and many of them took “staycations” there during the 2008 – 2010 financial meltdown. 

So, how should social clubs behave in a time of social distancing? As with most things, your short-term actions should fit within a long term view. As a “third-place” or “home-away-from-home”, be sure to protect your “safe space” status now so it is intact when economic activity resumes. If you are in doubt you can operate in ways that protect your staff and members, don’t do it. If you are operating, be extremely vigilant. Finally, if there is a problem, fix it immediately at all costs.

As we’ve seen at other times when the world seemed to be falling apart, clubs can play a significant role in getting life back on track. They are taking a hit right now, but there is unfortunately opportunity in every misfortune. We are likely to emerge from this slowly, sort of the way people emerge from their house after a blizzard. They look around, assess the damage and get on with life. When sheltering in place is no longer required, your members are going to be looking for social engagement, albeit slowly. They will be much more inclined to look to their club as one of the first safe harbors they enter when the all clear comes. 

The board and management should be thinking now about the return to normalcy. Keep your committees engaged through on-line meetings. Work notices about future events into your communications about the steps you are taking today. Let members know you are not only thinking of them now but planning to be there for them when they are ready. They are going to crave what clubs provide, a sense of belonging.

Share This Article

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
Originally published in: