Unity Within the Community


There are clubs and then there are gated community clubs. The similarities between the two are obvious, but they are also starkly different entities. While almost all country and specialty sports clubs draw members from nearby, it is essential that clubs located within gated developments draw support from all residents. First, a club set behind walls and security gates has a difficult time attracting members from the broader area. Quite logically, the perception among people who live on the other side of the walls is that the club is only for residents. Culture plays a role too, as the relationships among homeowners are naturally stronger, benefitting not only from more frequent exchanges, but also from their mutual interest in home values and community spirit. Non-residents can feel like outsiders.

It is essential then that leaders of gated community clubs develop strategies to attract all residents to membership. This often requires upgrades to programs and facilities, especially if the club is a golf-centric model. Most cities have an oversupply of golf courses and clubs because golf participation and frequency of play has declined nationally. This is especially the case among the under 50 age group, a primary source of future members. With member and prospective member values and preferences changing dramatically, so must the club.

This brings into question the independent club and homeowners association (HOA) structure found in many communities. Industry analysts agree gated community home prices are directly correlated to the attractiveness of the club, with many estimates suggesting they drive 20% to 40% of a home’s value. Thus, the HOA has an obligation to protect home values, and by extension, interest in the club’s success. If the HOA doesn’t have control of the club, it is vulnerable to forces that can significantly impact their constituents, ranging from poor performance to outright failure. This also leaves the club without support from its primary marketplace, since where membership is optional, only about 50% of residents choose to be members. Homeowners benefit from greenspace and club amenities, even if they don’t golf, and aligning interests of homeowners and members is essential to the sustainability of both entities. Ultimately, communities and clubs that choose to unite will have comparative advantages.


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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
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