Trend Five: Going for the Green Has New Meaning at Clubs

Sleepy Hollow with caption

The green movement is sometimes dismissed as a politically-motivated effort to alter our lifestyles and curtail our freedoms; but, the fact is that many of its key elements play well with club members.

For example, golfers and boaters appreciate natural beauty. It is synonymous with their pursuits, and their clubs have proven to be quite willing (and proud) to make their courses or marinas eco-friendly. Our surveys of club managers and members indicate there are both economic and branding benefits to clubs that adopt eco-friendly practices. Based on this research, we have placed “Green” in the category of mega-trends that will affect clubs in the coming years.

Club leaders should heed this call and investigate options to make their club a steward of the environment and an efficient consumer of energy.

This is typically an evolutionary process where the leadership first learns about the options and programs available to their club and then transitions from entry-level green practices into increasingly advanced and capital-intensive projects. A good starting point is to incorporate green management principles into the construction, operation and maintenance of your club’s facilities. While oil and gas get the big headlines, the reality is that some 60% of energy costs in the U.S. is the result of powering our buildings. That’s a big issue for clubs, where small clubhouses start at 20,000 square feet and can easily surpass 200,000 square feet at major city athletic clubs.

Most clubs will benefit by first focusing on the basics of lighting replacement, weather-proofing their buildings, and maintaining and upgrading their mechanical systems. Smart operators start with the basics like energy audits, window replacement, lighting and controls. There is lot to be gained from switching from incandescent bulbs to other lighting systems that use fluorescents, LEDs or halogen bulbs. Next-level projects include sophisticated energy management systems to control the mechanical systems throughout the clubhouse. Some clubs have completed more advanced projects such as solar panels on the golf cart storage building or a geothermal unit for the clubhouse. The payback on these things can be quick – often two to five years!

The results are clear: there is money in green, and a lot of it!

This makes club leaders happy, and increasingly, it is something valued by their members. A healthy environment, reflected in the rapid growth of fitness and wellness at clubs this decade, is a component of being a healthy club. Lifestyles are increasingly tilting green, and in the new economy, members especially like the parts of green that payoff financially.

Share This Article

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