With some focusing on the “holy grail” of members under age 50, California clubs are tinkering with initiation fees and time restrictions based on age.
When it comes to obtaining new memberships, private clubs have their work cut out for them, the Desert Sun of Palm Springs, Calif. reported.
“It’s not necessarily just the economy,” said Julie Bloom, Vice President of Marketing at Toscana Country Club in Indian Wells, Calif. “A lot of people are just not playing golf. Their lifestyle is often tied down. They are working, and if they have kids, from elementary school to college, their lifestyle is tied down to that.”
To keep up with societal changes and member needs, clubs need to get more creative, the Sun reported—especially if they want to focus on the “holy grail” of members: those under the age of 50.
“[I was brought into my position so we could] get creative in marketing the club,” said Jodi Pannell, Membership Coordinator at Marrakesh Country Club in Palm Desert, Calif. “There are several types of memberships we are working on.”
The efforts clubs are putting forth makes it a buyer’s market, where clubs are eliminating or delaying initiation fees, or offering limited-time memberships, the Sun reported.
The semi-private Woodhaven Country Club in Palm Desert, Calif., has seen its golf membership plummet from 150 to about 60 in recent years due to bankruptcy and a shift in ownership. General Manager Matt Valen opted to eliminate the required $5,000 initiation fee for the summer, the Sun reported.
“My primary job when I took the job [in July of 2011] was to re-establish that membership,” Valen said. “We could do that two ways. One was to put more value on the membership, and two was to make it a new deal.”
Now, when a new member at Woodhaven pays dues of $467 a month for a family for at least 12 months, a 20 percent discount off merchandise and food at the club is earned. A trail cart fee that allows a member to use his or her own cart at the course was reduced form $495 to $395 a year. Through the promotion, about 20 new memberships have been sold, the Sun reported.
Marrakesh CC implemented a $700 nonresident membership limited just for the summer.
“That’s for two people, and they have unlimited golf privileges and are welcome to come every Wednesday and Saturday to our ‘Survivors Suppers,’ ” said Pannell. “They get all the benefits and perks for the social membership, too, understanding that the social calendar is limited in the summer.”
Toscana’s Young Professional membership requires that both the membership candidate and spouse must be under 50 years old, and begins with 12 months without an initiation fee. Golfers under 40 pay monthly dues of $1,095; those between the ages of 40 and 44 pay $1,295 a month; and those ages 45 to 49 pay $1,595 a month, the Sun reported.
The golfer decides at the end of the first year to join or leave the club. Those who join pay a $5,000 down payment on the club’s $150,000 initiation fee, and one-third of their monthly dues will be credited against the rest of the $150,000, which must be paid when the member turns 50.