Trend Two: Health & Fitness

Health & Wellness

The road to developing a fitness center at your club is often blocked by strawmen.

In reaction to a suggestion that he consider adding fitness to his prestigious club, a club president once told me he opposed it because, “It would lead to people eating in the dining room with their hats on backwards.” He was serious, and I think I saw some heads around the table nod in agreement, which is why a decade later the club is still without a fitness facility. I am not sure how you make that connection, but it is that kind of stuff that prevents clubs from acting on what often proves to be the most active recreational component in the modern club; one that boosts the perceived value of membership and greatly increases member engagement.

When adding fitness to your club, you are not trying to create an environment where members wear their hats backwards, or solving for a lack of availability of fitness in your community.

That supply issue is often thrown in your face too, but holding back on fitness because there are a lot of fitness clubs in your neighborhood misses the point. There are a lot of bars and restaurants too, but clubs do well differentiating themselves from those options. It is a parallel situation. Members eat at their clubs because their friends are there and it is a personalized, comfortable home-away-from-home setting. That is also why your members will work out there. It is safe, clean, and they are known by the staff and other users in the room.

Commercial fitness providers have a high membership churn rate. According to industry surveys, the number one reason people quit those facilities is “failure to establish a social connection”. Private clubs start with such an advantage in this regard and they can leverage that advantage by adding a fitness facility. In fact, club managers tell us the biggest benefit a club derives from a fitness facility is increased member engagement and socialization. Members who use the fitness center (which often tops out at about 40% of eligible adults) are at the club more frequently, often several times per week. They meet a whole new group of members, ones that are not in their other spheres of engagement like their golf game or social circle.

The affluent target market clubs serve has the time, money and interest to focus on their health.

They are people who like things to be nice with a touch of personal service and an element of privacy. They live within a 10 to 15-minute drive of their club, which makes it a convenient place to work out. Most important of all, they are people-persons. The club fitness center, with space and programs that get people doing things together, is a perfect place to build relationships and derive extra value from your membership. Do not let the strawman with his hat on backwards stop your club from seizing the opportunity to provide an activity your members want and the opportunity to build your community.

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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