Successful Club Master Planning Must Start with Board and Membership Consensus Building

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A Club’s master plan for its facility future should not just be a wish list for every committee in a Club. It must have direction and purpose. It must be guided by the Board, membership and the General Manager.

The master plan should be a part of the Club’s strategic plan guiding the expenditure of millions of dollars to assure the Club has the facilities to achieve its mission for the members and their families. Great Club facilities don’t happen by accident, they are planned and executed with a strategic plan developed and approved by both the Board and members working together. In beginning the master plan process, it does not begin with architects and members proposing one-off, favorite projects for special groups in an uncoordinated process of who shouts the loudest to get projects approved (sound familiar?).

Master planning must start at the Board and management levels in recognizing the need for facility improvements and being willing to do something about it. The planning should begin with the Board and managers completing a brief half-day facility strategic planning session to define the needs and to set in motion the process. The Board has to define the facility problems in concept and clearly state what it wants in facilities, their purpose and the cost realities of funding master plan improvements. At McMahon Group we have developed a special strategic planning process for helping the Board and manager to focus on facilities and how to best improve them. This way an actual facility planning committee clearly knows how to develop the Club’s master plan.



Member involvement is next. We can’t master plan Club facilities without member input. So a Club must involve its members in some type of feedback process such as focus groups, surveys, committee input, etc. This is easy to do and essential in helping the planning committee identify facility needs and the priority of importance for specific facility projects.

With a good consensus achieved at both the Board and membership levels on the Club’s facility and what is needed, then and only then should the master planning proceed. This assures not only success in developing the right plan, but also has Board and membership support for implementing it when its completed.  

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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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