Why Master Planning Must Precede Any Actual Club Improvement Programs

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Club after club we visit that ask about facility improvements often want to get right to the immediate projects. There is little thought of master planning for the entire club. The classic mistake for clubs in expanding and adding both indoor and outdoor dining capacity and doing nothing for the kitchen. Or there is the need for wellness, fitness and golf conditioning facilities, but a reluctance to study major club trends of developing lifestyle centers in country clubs as opposed to single-activity departments in poor locations. New lifestyle centers are now grouping all of their non-golf course recreation facilities into casual use, recreation centers where everything but golf is provided for members. We have only to look at the success of the lifestyle center at The Country Club of Virginia with its $19M new, stand-alone facility for tennis (indoor and outdoor), pickleball, squash, golf training/fitness and a very popular Panera-type, quick-serve dining facility. This dining facility is now the most popular for all family members. Clubs are also placing their golf simulators in lifestyle centers near bars and adding spas and salons to find ways to make members use their clubs on more of a year-round basis, rather than seasonally. It’s all about maximizing a club’s value.

So when your club is thinking of facility upgrades, think first about master-planning the whole club and its needs. Then the club can make wise investments in facilities that drive club usage for many years to come without having to make major facility changes later. 

The yearn for club improvements is always initially driven by solving immediate problems. But the smart club leaders use this opportunity to solve long-range problems. This also leads to another challenge facing clubs, and that is energy conservation within their buildings and other facilities. The tremendous electrification push by government and utilities will be affecting building systems for years to come, and facility master planning must look to the future when studying facility improvements. 

As Warren Buffett recommends for successful investing, look to what you want your end product to be and then plan today’s improvement to achieve it.  

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About Bill McMahon, Sr. AIA, OAA

Bill is a strategic, financial and architectural planning consultant to clubs throughout North America. He established McMahon Group in 1983 as an affiliate of the family architectural firm his grandfather founded in 1906. Over the ensuing years, the firm has expanded its club consulting services beyond clubhouse improvement planning to a full range of services for all aspects of private club challenges. To date, the firm has assisted more than 2,000 private clubs across the United States, Canada, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean. McMahon Group provides a unique approach to developing club facility projects first establishing design and financial feasibility so membership approval is achieved. Thereafter final design and construction firms are selected to build the member approved project.

Mr. McMahon is unique among club consultants in providing an integrated strategic, financial and architectural approach to solving club problems. His personal involvement with his own clubs in St. Louis (serving in the roles of president, board member and committee member) has allowed him to bring unparalleled experience to each client. Mr. McMahon’s club memberships have included Bellerive Country Club (St. Louis), Racquet Club Ladue (St. Louis), University Club of St. Louis, Spring Lake Yacht Club (Michigan) and the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.

Mr. McMahon is a graduate of Washington University School of Architecture in St. Louis and holds architecture licenses in 44 U.S. states and in Ontario, Canada. He is a featured author in industry publications and a featured speaker at the annual conferences of the Club Managers Association of America, the Canadian Society of Club Managers, the National Club Association and the Hospitality, Financial and Technology Professionals. He serves as a visiting lecturer at continuing education sessions offered by regional CMAA chapters and at Michigan State University. Bill is a co-author of McMahon Club Trends®, the comprehensive research reports on strategic issues facing private clubs published with the National Club Association. He is also founder of the Excellence in Club Management Award.

Mr. McMahon is a member of the American Institute of Architects, and the National Club Association. He is a former president of the Missouri Council of Architects, AIA and has served on various charitable boards in the St. Louis area.

More articles by Bill McMahon, Sr. AIA, OAA
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