Club leaders optimistic despite economic uncertainty

Growing Golf
Sun shining on a golf green

Golf club leaders in the United States are optimistic about the future economic outlook despite inflationary pressures, human resource challenges and capacity access concerns, according to a new industry report.

‘A Club Leader’s Perspective: Emerging Trends and Opportunities for 2023’ was jointly published by consulting firm GGA Partners, in collaboration with the Club Manager’s Association of America, and surveyed 238 leaders at private clubs across the U.S.

More than three-quarters of respondents (76%) said they were optimistic about the future economic outlook for the private club industry, despite proactively planning for potential recessionary impacts.

The survey, conducted from December 2022 to January 2023, highlighted continuing demand for club membership with 63% of clubs reporting increased membership counts and 62% stating that they operate a waiting list.

Respondents also said that average dues were expected to increase in 2023 by an average of 8.2%.

Clubs also increased their appeal to members of Generation X, aged 42-57, with leaders reporting a 46% uptake in the utilization of club facilities by that demographic in 2022.

The annual insights report, now in its third edition, analyses the current state of the industry delving into themes including member experience, capital and finance, diversity, equity and inclusion, and inflationary impacts on service.

Michael Gregory Partner at GGA Partners

Michael Gregory, Managing Director & Partner at GGA Partners, said: “We are pleased to share our latest research on the state of private clubs in the evolving business landscape.”

“We believe that this report will provide valuable insights and inform strategies for club professionals, helping to ensure a bright future for clubs and the industry.”

Rising labour and staff retention costs, funding for capital projects and capacity access were top of the list of concerns for club leaders looking ahead to 2023. Two-thirds of club leaders said they faced new and significant human resources challenges, specifically growth in wages and high inflation-impacted expenses budgets.

Nearly nine in ten clubs (88%) said they would address the inflationary impacts on personnel costs by aligning them with increases in membership fees and other revenue levers.

Almost half of clubs (45%) said they faced new and significant challenges with capital projects and 42% were concerned about capacity and access due to continued growth in membership numbers.

Non-golfing activities such as paddle ball and pickleball were trending upwards as the most likely areas for capital investment projects, up 33% from 20% in 2021, while clubs’ appetite for golf improvement projects remained the same.