James Pond, the 2021 Tri-State PGA Section Professional Development Award recipient, is the Program Director of the Professional Golf Management Program at PennWest University in California, Pennsylvania.
How would you like to achieve your operational and financial goals every year for the next 15 years? What if at the end of those 15 years you found out you were going to have to find new members to keep your facility’s doors open? What if there was a way to achieve operational goals now and for the foreseeable future?
The world of the country club is approaching a shift that we, as PGA Professionals, need to be prepared for if we hope to remain sustainable. According to the U.S. Census projections, we will see an increase of 17 million people aged 65 and over during this decade, and this demographic will concurrently exceed our under-18 population. This means the number of people with discretionary time and income is about to explode, but will also render a challenge in backfilling with juniors as this older generation begins to age out of their playing years.
So how do we address this fast-approaching boost in memberships and play, and prevent the inevitable decline in both aspects of our business? The answer lies within a shift from a social drinking club to a culture that promotes health and wellness, extending the active living years of our members.
The first step is to understand the concept of evolutionary mismatched diseases that are becoming more prevalent in our society. Mismatched diseases are lifestyle diseases that occur because our bodies are poorly- or inadequately-adapted to environments in which we now live (Lieberman). For example, diets with much higher sugar content, and sedentary or inactive lifestyles contribute to an increase in the number of cases of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers.
Some ideas on how to use the club as a catalyst for healthy living include:
• Work with your food and beverage department to start shifting the menu towards delicious healthy choices that promote proper pre-round, in-round and post-round fueling. This can help members avoid feeling fatigued after their rounds and aid in recovery, increasing the likelihood of additional rounds being played throughout the season. This shift will also help the members maintain their quality of play throughout the round, adding to their enjoyment. This can spark additional lessons, shop sales and overall time spent at the club.
•Fitness is another way to move the proverbial needle for active years of membership. We all know improvements in flexibility, strength and conditioning can add years, if not decades, to active years of life. It allows our members to play higher-quality golf as they continue to age, preserving driving distance, maintaining bone density and preventing injuries that could cut their active years of membership short.
Looking beyond the obvious…
Wellness is not the same as health and fitness, although the terms are often used synonymously. Wellness also includes concepts presented by Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute in 1976, including factors we are already fulfilling in our clubs, like social and physical wellness.
We can also continue to support our members emotional, spiritual, financial, environmental and intellectual wellness through programs, activities and workshops that improve the quality of life of our members and increase their time and contact with the club. When we can combine those two aspects, we will have members who fall in love with the properties we manage and run – to the benefit of all parties.