Navigating the Evolving Landscape of Private Clubs: Trends and Strategies for Success in 2024 and Beyond


By Capstone Hospitality, Contributing Column


In the dynamic realm of private clubs and country clubs, staying abreast of trends and anticipating shifts is crucial for enduring success. Reflecting on 2023, significant changes have unfolded, signaling potential trajectories for the industry's future. 

Membership Acquisition Trends 

A critical metric for evaluating the health of the private club industry lies in the influx of new organic leads and member referrals. However, in 2023, concerning trends emerged. New organic leads experienced a 5% decrease from 2022 and a 9% decrease from 2021, while member referrals plummeted by 7.5% from 2022 and a staggering 50% from 2021. These figures underscore the challenges clubs faced in attracting new members and leveraging existing networks for recruitment. 

Resignation Rates 

Another telling indicator of industry dynamics evolving is the resignation rates among club members. Despite some variations across clubs, a worrisome pattern emerges. The average resignation total increased by 63% in 2023 compared to 2022 and by 65% compared to 2021. This highlights the growing challenge of member retention for clubs. While outliers suggest more moderate increases, the overall trend emphasizes the need for proactive retention strategies and a focused, diverse sales approach to replace resigned members. 

Membership Sales by Category 

Analyzing membership sales by category provides further insights into shifting preferences among prospective members. While full golf memberships dominated in 2021, influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2022 witnessed a shift towards social and sports memberships.

Surprisingly, 2023 saw a resurgence of interest in full golf memberships, particularly among younger demographics, signaling a notable increase in young executive memberships. 

Sales Process Dynamics 

Beyond membership acquisition, the sales process itself has evolved, impacting the time from prospect inquiry to closing. The trend suggests a lengthening of the sales cycle, with the time in deal stages increasing from 13.3 days in 2022 to 14.7 days in 2023. This extended timeline reflects evolving consumer behavior, necessitating clubs to adapt their sales strategies accordingly. 

Attracting the Younger Demographic 

A significant uptick in golf memberships among the younger demographic in 2023 signals a crucial demographic shift for clubs. Initiatives aimed at attracting and engaging younger members are now imperative. Diverse events, expanded junior programs, and enhanced social experiences can effectively appeal to this demographic segment. 

Emphasizing the Value Proposition 

In the current market, prospective members take longer to decide on club memberships, particularly when the value proposition isn't readily apparent. Clubs must differentiate themselves and highlight the unique benefits of membership. Emphasizing exclusive offerings, personalized services, and community engagement can transform membership from a discretionary luxury to a compelling need. 

Forecasting 2024 

Looking ahead to 2024, several trends are poised to shape the private club industry landscape. Clubs must prioritize innovative approaches to attract and retain members, leveraging data-driven insights and tailored marketing strategies. Emphasizing the value proposition of membership, enhancing member experiences, and fostering community engagement will be instrumental in overcoming challenges posed by shifting demographics, reduced discretionary spending, and evolving consumer preferences.

Additionally, investing in sales training and technology to streamline the sales process and improve data accuracy will be crucial for driving efficiency and effectiveness. By embracing digital platforms, personalized communication channels, and strategic partnerships, clubs can enhance their competitive advantage and position themselves for sustained growth in the years to come. 

In conclusion, while 2023 presented challenges for the private club industry, it also unveiled opportunities for innovation and adaptation. Leveraging insights from past trends and proactively addressing emerging dynamics can guide clubs towards success in 2024 and beyond. 


** The views and opinions featured in Golf Business WEEKLY are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the NGCOA.**


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