Trend One: Time & the Re-Invention of Golf

Time. It is precious, of course, and increasingly in short supply. This should be a concern for private clubs, which need people with both the resources to enjoy membership and sufficient leisure time to derive value from the experience. The decline in available leisure time is especially pronounced among the rising 35 to 45-year-olds, where dual-income households are becoming the norm and a child-first culture means parents spend more leisure time doing things with their children.

Upgraded Practice Areas: Once a simple place to warm up, practice areas must become a core element of a club’s golf experience. Start with the essentials of ample teeing ground, length and width. Add features like all-weather tees, short game areas, bunkers and other enhancers. Think of them as a place to replicate and substitute for the on-course experience, not a utility.


Golf Performance Centers: These indoor/outdoor practice venues can fulfill many aspects of what is happening in golf. The feedback enriches players’ understanding of the game and adds a level of interest and enjoyment. They also serve as year-round activity centers, hubs for excellent teaching programs and the heart of new golf.


Simulators: At Medinah Country Club, a trial run of installing two simulators in the golf bag storage facility over winter has led to planning a new Golf Learning Center with a seating area and beverage service to match. At Midland Country Club, hundreds of players participate in league play during winter. As new members increasingly come from time-limited, video-game-oriented Millennials, expect real growth in this aspect.


Think Topgolf: Embrace what is working and identify ways to bring popular features of Topgolf (a definite “third place” for Millennial golfers) to your club. Upgrade adjacent food and beverage areas so the practice ground becomes a place to “hang”. Hold events on the range, add music and develop contests. Make it an entertainment zone.If clubs are to be successful in this new environment, they must evolve their approach to golf. While still their most significant membership benefit and cost center, there is almost universal agreement that the decline in golf participation and play is driven chiefly by time limitations. So much so that during the recent telecast of the US Open, the USGA dedicated almost all of their advertising to messages about less time-consuming approaches to the game. When the game’s oldest governing body is saying it is ok to enjoy an abbreviated version of their sport, you know it is a real issue.

The bottom line is that in the future, golf will be more frequently consumed in smaller “bites”. The response from clubs is to adopt the new golf mantra: Practice – Teaching – Technology – Fitness (see right).

In the next issue of The McMahon Report®, we’ll look at health. The second of the six most important trends affecting the club industry today.

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About Frank Vain

Mr. Vain provides consulting and planning services to private clubs throughout North America. Through use of specialized services including membership surveys, strategic planning, operational analysis and facility long range planning, Frank assists club 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 country clubs, city athletic and dining clubs and residential communities. Frank is Past President of The Country Club of St. Albans, a 36-hole country club located in Missouri, and he is a former partner in 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 2019-20. 

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

Frank is a regular contributor to industry leading publications like Club Management, Club Director and BoardRoom. He was named the Gary Player Club Educator of the Year for 2012 and 2015 and received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021 by BoardRoom. He is also a co-author of McMahon’s Club Trends, a recognized industry benchmark on the trends and issues affecting private clubs. 

More articles by Frank Vain