When Charlotte (N.C.) Country Club embarked in 2006 on a sweeping, $25 million renovation of its legendary golf course and clubhouse, it also decided it was time to overhaul one part of the nearly 100-year-old property that hadn’t existed for nearly that long but was also showing its age: the club’s website.

Like many private clubs, Charlotte CC made an initial entry into the Internet age with a rudimentary site that quickly became dated in how it looked and awkward in how it functioned. The site wasn’t doing justice to the caliber of the club and its membership, and the disparity would only become more glaring with the improvements being made throughout the property. It was time for cyber-change on an equally grand scale—especially because the site would need to play a critical role in the success of the entire project.

“As we began the restoration of our golf course, clubhouse, and tennis and swim facilities, it has been, and will continue to be, imperative for us to successfully communicate the details of this exciting process with our members,” says Damon DiOrio, CCM, the club’s Chief Executive Officer.

As part of a major club-wide technology upgrade tied to the renovation (which would also include a new point-of-sale system), a Charlotte CC management team headed by  its Controller, Steve Argo, and its Marketing and Human Resources Manager, Caroline Klinger, set out to find a vendor partner that could help bring the club’s web portal into the 21st century. The search eventually led to MembersFirst, the Wayland, Mass.-based company that specializes in helping clubs develop websites, online member communities and communication services.

By the time Charlotte CC awarded a contract to MembersFirst (April 2007), the club’s renovation project was well in motion. A key factor in selecting MembersFirst, Klinger reports, was its ability to get the website up to speed as quickly as possible, by providing the club’s staff with a detailed timeline of exactly what needed to be accomplished.

“They drove the process,” Klinger says. “Having them lead made it much easier on our end.”

Inviting New Look
The club’s new Web page has the same Internet address as before: www.charlottecountryclub.org. But that’s about the only thing the new site—which went "live" in October 2007—has in common with its previous incarnation.

The updated site now provides an emerald backdrop for a slideshow of stunning club photos. A lighted navigation bar at the top frames a series of links to the basic sections of the homepage. At the bottom are photos of members through the years, invoking the club’s rich history. To the right of the photos is an easy-to-find member log-in area.

Once members sign in to the new site, their club now virtually comes to life. A landing page offers real-time announcements, upcoming events, a “Member Central” section complete with links to an online profile and “buddy lists,” and a feedback feature. A separate photo gallery and weather updates round out the offerings.

Links to separate Dining & Social, Event Services, Golf, Tennis, and Pool pages now fill the top navigation bar within the member area. Inside, each page offers a wealth of specific section information. The Dining & Social page, for example, offers announcements, upcoming dining events, clubhouse hours, a wine-of-the-month section, a Chef’s Corner with a featured recipe, photo galleries from past events,  and a dining and social highlights section.

Instant Gratification
Delivering that volume of information, however, puts a premium on updating it in a timely fashion. Here, too, the club staff lets MembersFirst drive the process, providing a team led by Account Executive Laurie Fox and Project Manager Kari Bass with new information, and leaving the details of how to design and post it to the experts.

It’s all worked out as a win-win, DiOrio reports, that’s created a more engaging site that “provides our membership with more information than ever before, while costing us much less money in the amount of staff time we need to dedicate to the process.”

Just as important, he adds, the site has created a vital two-way dialogue stream with club members. “Having an online avenue of communication not only allows us to effectively market the club’s activities to our members, but it also provides our members with the ability to actively communicate with us,” DiOrio says.

The new site—which pulled in 1,418 distinct log-ins, and 4,817 total log-ins, during its inaugural three months—caters well to the club’s shifting member demographics, explains Trish Myers, Marketing & Human Resources Coordinator, as more members become tech-savvy and receptive to electronic communications. “We were able to secure 220 online registrati­ons for the Christmas Ball by doing a simple e-mail campaign,” Myers reports. That led to a total headcount of 628 guests, making the 2007 Ball the club’s biggest to date.

Beyond e-mail, the site allows the club to extend its reach “twenty-four/seven,” by building a virtual club community of members with common interests and expectations.

“At their convenience, our members can now make event reservations, download club publications, view other members’ information and pictures, check their account statements, view photos of recent events, and view dining menus,” says DiOrio.

“The site has essentially become a central meeting place for our members and staff,” adds Klinger. “It helps us to provide the best level of service.” And in that way, like the course and clubhouse renovations, Charlotte CC’s new site has led to increased member involvement, a stronger sense of community, and improved member satisfaction.