The McMahon Way For Assuring Club Facility Success

facility planning article march 2024


Never before has there been a greater need for good facility planning, as clubs are undertaking major facility projects all across North America. Be they renovations or new clubhouses, facilities need to be based on sound business planning and a club’s Mission of service to its members. Boards and managers have a responsibility to guide facilities based on their club’s Mission and Strategic Plan. But it is also critical that facility planning is based on membership input, so that every plan is what members want, with good communication from the start to gain and secure their support throughout the improvement process. 

At McMahon, we follow four facility-planning steps to assure that the right projects get designed, funded and built. 



This first step defines a club’s Mission/purpose, and it must guide the facility-planning process before a single floor plan is drawn. It is the Board’s and club manager’s responsibility to begin with this step, to determine:

  • Who the club serves, 
  • What the club must provide, 
  • What quality it must achieve,  and
  • What makes the club unique and special.



Once a club knows its Mission, it can study its facilities for adequacy. But it must do this through the eyes of its members. McMahon has developed focus groups and surveys with the entire membership as the best way to gain member input and buy-in for facility projects. Surveys can clearly define what members want in facilities, and how best to pay for them. 



This begins the fun part, with a clear understanding of a club’s Mission, and good input on facility needs from the members’ survey. At McMahon, we work with a Facility Planning Committee made up of members and selected Board members to program spaces, design a comprehensive Master Plan and then propose affordable phases of construction to present to the members. But next comes the challenging part: effectively communicating plans to members. 



For clubs, all is for naught if the facility plans that are developed are never approved. Communicating the specific plans for member approval is a primary emphasis at McMahon. Special presentations, facility testing surveys, PowerPoint presentations and ultimately, membership voting, are very important in the approval process if a project is going to get built. The most important ingredient for achieving project approval is for it to be perceived as the members’ plan and not the Board’s, manager’s or architect’s. 

By faithfully following these four steps during our 40-plus years of working with over 2,000 clubs and HOAs, we have helped over $3 billion in facility projects get developed and approved. As your club proceeds with its facility improvements, remember to follow our process, and you will be rewarded with facility and club success.  

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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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