What all clubs can learn from the best practices of leading-edge properties.
Awards and rankings abound in club and golf circles, with trade associations, management companies, consulting firms and industry publications all releasing a steady stream of “Best of” honors throughout the year. These lists cover overall property management and operations, as well as specific departments and activities.
Some of these awards are based on stricter criteria and more stringent judging processes than others. Some recognition programs, in fact, can start to resemble Little League baseball or youth soccer banquets, where it seems things have been set up so everyone goes home with some kind of ribbon or trophy, just for taking part in the game.
SUMMING IT UP
But while it can be hard sometimes to see through the hype to determine which club or resort properties and departments really do merit recognition as “best practice” examples, studying these lists can still help reveal undeniable trends that lie behind how truly leading-edge properties are rising to the top. Here are some of the most notable and consistent themes—and some truly noteworthy club examples—that can be seen from an objective, overview look of the many properties that have earned mention during the latest round of industry awards.
• Don’t hold back on making needed facility improvements.
Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club in Tampa, Fla., earned Golf Inc.’s 2012 Renovation of the Year in the private club category with a comprehensive, fast-track course project that took place in 2011 and required only 5 1⁄2 months after closing to complete. Like many course renovations currently being undertaken, the goal was to return to “a traditional parkland aesthetic consistent with [Palma Ceia’s] 1925 vintage.”
The project also sought to alleviate crippling drainage issues by “flipping” fairways to a six-foot depth; the top foot of heavy organic material was broken up and buried, while five feet of sand was harvested and brought to the surface. The result was a well-drained column of clean sand, into which the new fairways were sodded. An existing outfall into the City of Tampa’s stormwater system was located and a new main-line drainpipe was connected to it. A comprehensive system of over 300 new surface inlets and sub-mains now drain the entire property.
The project also involved completely rebuilding the irrigation system, expanding and replanting greens, building new bunkers, removing trees, widening fairways and replacing rough with extensive pine-straw areas. The payoffs came back as fast as the work was done: total rounds played rose 19%, guest rounds and revenue rose 50%, F&B revenue rose 11% in casual dining areas and 26% in the Men’s Grill, and pro shop sales increased 17%. And, over 28 new members have joined the club, which now has a waiting list.
Multimillion-dollar renovations also transformed Braemar Country Club in Tarzana, Calif., into a club with something for the whole family. Its newly redesigned 27-hole championship golf course offers an experience for every level of play as well a new state of the art practice facility and driving range. Other updates include:
• Get the right staff working with the right people in the right way.
Sea Colony Resort emerged as the United States Tennis Association’s choice for 2012 Outstanding Facility of the Year in part because of how the Bethany Beach, Del., property has tapped into the junior demographic.
“We increased the junior program by starting an after-school program that has grown to 30 kids, and our junior program now runs all year,” says Thomas Johnston, the resort’s Tennis Director.
For all resort participants, Johnston says, “The general philosophy is that we’re selling fun. We want people to have a blast and to learn something at the same time. In our instruction, we try to catch people doing things right rather than finding the negative; we find the positives and build on those as we correct things.”
• Make full use of all that a property has to offer, inside and out.
ClubCorp properties have earned accolades through the management firm’s overall strategy to “reinvent private clubs by adding more style, technology and fun to appeal to families and improve business networking.” Implementing this strategy has led to significant investment within both the city/business club and country club segments of ClubCorp’s portfolio. In all cases, these improvements have focused on “enhancing clubs with contemporary, stylish looks and amenities, as well as more high-tech features.” Much of the change is geared to appealing to the next generation of members through more family-friendly activities and youth programming, and by providing more networking activities and membership opportunities for young executives and women.
“These reinventions are in step with the lives of members today—they are busy and multi-tasking throughout the day, but still want to spend time with family and friends,” says Jamie Walters, ClubCorp’s Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing. “Our goal is to make clubs more relevant and provide more value to members—and we’ve seen very positive results to date.”