Planning Strategically to Address Club Facility Needs From Expanding Memberships


Clubs today are improving and adding facilities as never before. Members are joining city and country clubs in record numbers. The challenge is to not just expand facilities, but to do so with strategic objectives in mind, so the facilities serve to achieve a club’s mission of driving high member satisfaction. 

We now know golf play has exceeded most clubs’ ability to provide it at the required level of quality. Clubs are having to deal with this in new ways. And now we are also seeing other club offerings get overcrowded at swimming pools, fitness facilities, dining areas, etc. Clubs are having to stop accepting new members, because their facilities are inadequate to properly serve them. 

The club world is changing, and so is the way facility planning is being done. Locker-room use is declining, fitness/spa areas are growing and members want year-round club usage. Not only are many country clubs enjoying long waiting lists for new members, but the great city clubs like the Missouri Athletic Club and Detroit Athletic Club now have waiting lists for future members. 

While having waiting lists for future members is a wonderful opportunity for our clubs, it is a challenge each club has to address. Overcrowding can destroy the very reason members joined in the first place. To get control of this new popularity for membership, each club has to look to its own strategic plan and refresh it, to reflect a new understanding of what today’s members want their club to be. 

Our challenge now is that we have the members wanting to join, but we don’t have the adequate facilities to serve them. Each club Board and manager needs to have a strategic plan guiding their facility and program needs, so they are providing the club their members want. 

By planning new facilities strategically through an understanding of what needs to be achieved in member services and quality, rather than building quick-fix projects, clubs have a great opportunity to continue to expand their memberships and maintain optimum levels of service and satisfaction.  

Refresher Strategic Planning

Almost all clubs today have a strategic plan, but times have changed from clubs searching for members to members searching for clubs. This is requiring clubs to refresh their strategic plans with updated missions and goals to be successful. Once a club understands its mission of who it is serving and what its members want, it is easy to achieve its facility goals. 

However, we are still finding clubs that build facilities first and then refresh their strategic plans. This is a backward approach. 

At McMahon Group, with our thousands of club improvement programs, we have developed the Strategic Planning Refresher for all types of clubs, to assure that a club’s strategic plan is in alignment with its facility planning. This is a brief, two-month planning exercise done with the Board and manager to refresh a club’s mission, goals and action plans and address the most important opportunities available to a club. Then, when facility improvements and additions are needed to better serve expanding memberships, a club’s leadership and management are well prepared to act wisely.


Download the the Strategic Planning Facility Refresher Brochure Here

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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
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