The Value of Club Survey Research

McMahon Group has been surveying club members and managers for over 30 years, and the value of this research for individual clubs and in projecting trends in the club industry has been invaluable.

No club today would think of proceeding with a major capital project without a membership survey. No club should do strategic planning without first involving members in the process.

It is from McMahon’s survey research that we have learned the six major trends in our society which most affect clubs today and into the foreseeable future. These trends should not be ignored by any club, and they are:

  • The need for a sense of community in a person’s life,

  • The importance of health and wellness,

  • Embracing technology,

  • The new role for women,

  • Protecting the environment, and

  • Time-constrained society.

From our most recent 2019 Pulse Survey completed primarily by private club general managers, they have rated the most important impact factors in attracting members to clubs, and surprisingly the number one factor is the “quality/culture of a club’s own membership.” Simply stated, it is the members within their own club which are the main reason new members join a particular club. After the quality of membership, the reasons for attracting members are golf, clubhouse, dining and recreation facilities and programs for country clubs, and for city/athletic clubs the important joining reasons are clubhouse, dining, reciprocal clubs and recreation offerings (excluding golf).


From McMahon’s experience in doing literally thousands of membership surveys at every type of club, dining satisfaction achievement is by far the most challenging offering in which to achieve success. We find that at one-third of clubs we survey, members rate dining as one of the top three activities most important to them, but in satisfaction ratings, 70% of the time the club dining offering has significant dissatisfaction levels. This is a tremendous lost opportunity.

As for why this is happening, one reason is the disconnect in dining perception as perceived by members and managers.

From McMahon’s surveying actual club members about the club’s dining experiences, 92% want their club to be a “favorite dining place” but only an average of 42% of members say it actually is.

By comparison, when the Pulse Survey asked managers these same questions, 92% said members want their clubs to be a “favorite dining place”, and 66% of country club and 63% of city athletic club managers say and believe it is.

The above dining issue is a typical example of the value of doing membership surveys. More importantly, club surveys help us better understand what it takes to attract new members and retain the members we already have.

The best ways to stay in touch with club members is to simply ask them what they want from their club.   

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About Tom Strutz

Hailing from the Los Angeles area, Tom left sunny Southern California at the ripe old age of 17 to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point.  After graduating with a degree in Civil Engineering, he spent 11 years on active duty in the Army and then another 11 years in the Army Reserves, eventually retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  Along the way, Tom earned a Master’s Degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management from Florida International University in Miami.  During his 22-years in the Army, he had a chance to see the world, with assignments in South Korea, Germany, the Pentagon, Virginia, Indiana, Florida, Alabama, Maryland and Washington state.

Tom has been with the McMahon Group since 1990, serving as head of the survey and market research division.  During that time, he has worked with over 1,500 private clubs on a wide variety of survey and research projects, achieving the rank of “Survey Guru” at McMahon.

Over the years, Tom has been a jack of many sports – golf, tennis, racquetball, squash, water skiing, snow skiing, running – but a master of none.  His current pastime passions are gardening, cycling and nature photography – often combining the latter two on rides at a lake near his home in suburban St. Louis.

Tom and his wife Marlene have two children in their 20’s.  Katy is an artist working at an animation studio in Portland, Oregon, and Marcus is studying Mechanical Engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

More articles by Tom Strutz
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