Trend Four: Build Community, Sustain Your Club


Clubs are commonly referred to by the dominant activity that takes place there.

We call them golf clubs, tennis clubs, a dining club and on and on. While those are, of course, the things members do there, they are not ultimately the primary reason people join and pay a lot of money to belong. There are plenty of places to play golf, as evidenced by the fact there are some 16,000 golf courses in the U.S., and only 3,800 or so are at private country clubs. There are countless tennis courts in parks, at schools, in backyards or other places that have the same court markings and surfaces that you will find at a club. Of course, there is nearly unlimited availability of food for purchase, fast to fine, from a food truck or a sidewalk café, in all its ethnic forms and variations. The quality and breadth of the choices is mind-boggling.

For a club to be successful, it really needs to understand why it does what it does.

Why do we build great golf courses, clubhouses and tennis centers? As we can see, the answer is never about supply; and, more and more, it isn’t about quality. The performance level in the American hospitality and recreation industry is incredible. So, what is it about? Why do we build and run clubs? The answer is this: to build community. Sure, the promise of club membership is access to a special setting, but the potential of that setting is only realized by participating in it with others with similar passions and interests. Not only do they share a strong interest in an activity, they share the most important value. Ultimately, the why behind all of it is a shared passion for people.

Clubs build community through a robust set of programs that drive participation and engagement.

It’s the great member-guest tournament on that great golf course, the wine dinner, or the brunch with Santa that makes membership special. In less busy times, many of a club’s activities were created by members. Today’s lifestyles do not allow many members to dedicate themselves to creating those activities. This now falls to the management staff. The club of the future will have special facilities, but it will be powered by programs. Great operators know how to use the activities their members are interested in to promote engagement. They know how to build community.

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About Frank Vain


Mr. Vain provides consulting and planning services to private clubs throughout North America and Asia. Through use of specialized services including membership surveys, strategic planning, operational analysis and facility long range planning, Frank assists clubs 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 private clubs, athletic clubs, resorts and restaurants. Frank is a Past President of The Country Club of St. Albans, an 800-member, 36-hole country club located in Missouri and he is the former owner of 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 2018-19.

Mr. Vain is a native of Philadelphia and a 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 at regional chapter meetings of club managers and leaders.

He has written numerous articles that have been published in Club ManagementClub Director andBoardRoom magazines. Frank was named the Gary Player Club Educator of the Year for 2012 and 2015 by BoardRoom magazine. He is the co-author of McMahon’s Club Trends®, a recognized industry benchmark on the trends and issues affecting private clubs.

More articles by Frank Vain