Rebirth at The Country Club of New Canaan

New Canaan

This fine Connecticut club found itself in an interesting position after weathering the great recession.

Pre-recession, the Club had a long waiting list of potential members waiting to join. Post-recession, that waiting list disappeared along with a generation of members under age 50. The problem was a very basic one – every nearby club had made significant facility upgrades including great grill rooms, exciting swimming pools and wonderful outdoor dining areas. The Country Club of New Canaan (CCNC) had stayed conservative and done little. Once the reality of the Club’s situation (being one of the best to being a middle roader) set in, the Club’s leadership energized. Two consecutive presidents, Kevin Rusch and Bill Pratt, two Boards and some stalwart members joined to form a Facility Planning Committee. The Committee activated a planning process to return the Club to its prior place of excellence. This process was not easy as it took two years to accomplish educating the members on the critical need to do something.

The education and communications process is what turned the tide.

First, their initial 2014 membership survey showed how to break through the hard-shell of membership denial. The Committee then used a facility opinion survey to test members’ acceptance of an initial plan. The initial plan included a comprehensive clubhouse upgrade, new pool and necessary golf course solutions. The facility opinion survey identified a facility solution and an overwhelming project vote was achieved. Many doubters became believers as over 90% of members approved the major facility project.
Today, this $20 million project is preparing for construction start in early 2018. Features and benefits of the capital project include:

Total clubhouse renovation with:

  • New dining room additions
  • Locker room additions
  • Spectacular outdoor patio added
  • New swimming pool complex allowed for the outdoor patio
  • Adjusted golf course to allow for the new swimming pool complex

The Club is Already Experiencing Results!

The Club has already attracted a record 50+ younger, trial summer memberships that will almost certainly have 70% convert to memberships. The project’s process has already accomplished an improved dining program (see Richard Lareau’s article on the next page) with much-improved dining volume and satisfaction. The moral of CCNC’s story is simple – clubs must stay in touch with their younger members (under age 50) if they expect to attract them. They are the future and without them, no club can survive. As the old saying in the club world goes, “Youth will be served.” The Country Club of New Canaan has proven again the wisdom of refocusing a club for the children and grandchildren as well as for those of us who comprise the more senior memberships.

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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