BoardRoom magazine November/December 2021

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Does it make a difference if you are a manager at a Distinguished Club? Of course, it does! Both general managers and department heads of clubs who have earned Distinguished Club status are widely recognized by Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace and boards as leaders at providing a great Member Experience. It makes you a very strong candidate for leading clubs searching for top club management.

Executive Search Firm Leaders for the Private Club Industry Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace Partners pictured left-right: Dick Kopplin, Tom Wallace and Kurt Kuebler

The only merit-based award program that recognizes private clubs and their management for outstanding delivery of exceptional Member Experience.

DAVE WHITE Dave White is the editor of BoardRoom magazine. If you have comments on this article or suggestions for other topics, please send Dave an email to:


Distinguished Clubs Ideas Summit 2021 Another Smashing Success! Today more than 200 private clubs sit at the pinnacle of the private club industry as BoardRoom Distinguished Clubs … the finest grouping of private clubs…exceptional clubs based on their extraordinary delivery of a first-class Member Experience to every one of their members. And more than 130 representatives from these outstanding clubs attended the 2021 BoardRoom Distinguished Ideas Summit recently, hosted by Addison Reserve Country Club in Boca Raton, FL As well, during the second day of the conference, the general managers and other guests at the Summit toured five other Distinguished Clubs in South Florida to gather ideas of how these clubs are excelling with their member experience. And that, of course, tied in with the Summit theme this year: Delivering a Great Member Experience! “The Distinguished Club award is the highest merit-based recognition a private club can receive, because it recognizes a private club, its management and staff for their outstanding delivery of an outstanding member experience,” explained The Distinguished Club’s CEO, John Fornaro. “Whether your goal is to build member loyalty, increase revenues, inspire your staff, enhance your brand or grow your career, our Distinguished Club Summit gives general managers the information and expertise to stay ahead of the curve,” Fornaro added. Judging by the comments from participants, the Summit achieved its goal of educating board members, general managers and staff about what they must do to stay ahead of the pack in today’s private club world. Have a read of our cover story package for more details. n n n

Many private clubs throughout the world use a governance process involving committees and for some clubs it’s to a greater extent than others. But the fact is, committees are important at private clubs because their purpose is to serve the club’s members. So, what are some of the benefits? Well, as Steve Mona, director of governance for Club Benchmarking explains, “Committees and staff act as partners. Committees have no supervisory role or authority or involvement in the operation or management of a club, but they do operate as partners with staff in developing and 4


implementing policies and programs designed to meet the need of the club’s members. And “they generate buy-in for the members,” says Tom Wallace, principal with Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace. They also act as sounding boards for the GM, department heads and staff and can promote stronger communication at a club, because they can help a general manager get the message out. But perhaps most importantly, committees assist the club’s board of directors in they governance process, even though they function in an advisory capacity. As well, they’re often viewed as a step up the ladder leading to a person’s nomination to the club’s board of directors. Still, there are club that can function without committees because they find alternative ways to handle affairs efficiently and effectively. Have a read of John Fornaro’s Publisher’s Perspective and see how our ideas mesh with those of our contributors. n n n

Have you been to your favorite restaurant lately? If, like our latest venture, you likely notice something lacking… a full staff! “Please bear with us. We’re so short of staff.” That was the comment from a restaurant owner recently as soon as we had entered the premises. Seems it’s not only restaurants, but also a severe problem facing private clubs and that’s the topic for several of our contributors in this BoardRoom. “Right now, it’s a workers’ market,” explained Henry DeLozier in his piece, “Difficulty in Finding Staff to Fill Positions Forcing Clubs to Adapt.” There seems to be a labor shortage right across the market, and apparently, it’s particularly so in the food and beverage and maintenance areas, and there are several reasons for the shortfall, not the least of which is unemployment benefits. Two other contributors also offer their opinions about two major areas where shortages exist. Ed Doyle, president of RealFood, Hospitality, Strategy and Design, expresses his opinions about the challenges facing those handling kitchen operations and Steve Schendel, vice president, Golf Maintenance Solutions, raises his concerns that the pandemic has brought to the golf course maintenance business. Interesting times, for sure! B R



John G. Fornaro

John G. Fornaro



Dave White

Keith Jarrett

Assoc. Editor/VP Creative

Chief Analyst

Heather Arias de Cordoba

Frank Gore

Copy Editor

Chief Information Officer

Chryssoula Filippakopoulos

Jeff Briggs

Innovative Ideas Editor

Executive Director

Ellery Platts

Bill Thomas

APCD Executive Director Bill Thomas

Editorial & Marketing Director Dee Kaplan

Executive Assistant/ Director of Support Joshua Nuzzi

Contact Information

Business Development Joshua Nuzzi

Accounting/Subscriptions (949) 376-8889

Rally Club Leaders Around Best Practices Resulting in Relevant & Enduring Clubs An Experience Designed For Private Club Presidents, Board Members, and Executive Level Team Members

Ronni Dana

Contact Information (949) 376-8889

Featured Columnists Rick Coyne Henry DeLozier John G. Fornaro Andrew Kilpinen

Bonnie J. Knutson Dick Kopplin Kurt Kuebler Nancy M. Levenburg

Gregg Patterson Michelle Tanzer Tom Wallace Dave White

Contributing Writers Matthew D. Anderson Bruce Barilla Rita Barreto Bill Boothe Kris Butterfield Jarrett Chirico Ronald F. Cichy Michael Crandal Dave Doherty Ed Doyle Angela Hartmann

Larry Hirsh David Lacey Melissa Low Ryan Maione Marian McGill Peter Nanula Tom Neill Phil Newman Bill O’Brien Mike Phelps Ellery Platts

Pamela Radcliff Whitney Reid Pennell Ted Robinson Joseph Saracino Steve Schendel Keith Soriano Frank Vain Gordon Welch Frank Wolfe

“The President’s Council is a must attend event for the leaders of our Board and our GM/CEO/COO. The knowledge shared and the networking opportunities are invaluable.”

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BoardRoom magazine is published by APCD Inc. 1100 S. Coast Hwy. #309 Laguna Beach, California 92691 The BoardRoom magazine (USPS 022516, ISSN 15537684) is a bi-monthly trade publication. Issue 298 Periodical postage paid at Laguna Beach, Calif. and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to THE BOARDROOM magazine, P.O. Box 9455, Laguna Beach, Calif. 92652. Reach The BoardRoom magazine at (949) 376-8889 ext. 1 or email or or visit the website at

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Why are committees important at private clubs? A committee makes decisions on behalf of the club and takes on duties to ensure everything runs smoothly. Its purpose is to serve the club members, meaning you need the right people with the right skills, the right experience and lots of enthusiasm.

In few cases are we enabled to transition from major catastrophe to a windfall of business prosperity. Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic, sequestering and a loss of personal flexibility to travel and freedom to assemble, may have unleashed what is shaping up to be a perfect storm of incredible upsides. Okay, so here comes the pessimist: “But will they last?”

I hear “reach out” a lot. It seems to be one of those buzzwords that business folks – in fact, just about everybody – seem to be fond of using – along with other overused words and phrases, like “touch base,” “no-brainer,” “run it up the flagpole,” and “circle back.” Unfortunately, because “reach out” has been used so often – and so casually – it seems it has lost its meaning.










Not long ago, I was listening to our neighbor’s teenagers opine about the fact that they absolutely needed to shop for new jeans. Not because the ones they currently have are worn out or don’t fit anymore, but because they just “couldn’t be seen” wearing their old skinny jeans when flared, bell-bottoms, wide leg and boot cut are the new “in” fashion trend. New? Trend? Not from where I sit.

The COVID pandemic has proven to be a boom for some industries and individuals. Individuals filed bankruptcy less as well, with cases decreasing almost 28 percent over the same period. However, individual bankruptcies are anticipated to increase, threatening the bottom line at clubs, as unprecedented government protections wane.









Change is happening — and the pace of change is accelerating. Change is an adventure — a journey filled with uncertainty, emotional angst, operational turmoil and painful surprises. Anticipating changes and responding with enthusiasm can be — with the right change mindset — a joy for the management team. Change leaders — those who see change coming, who love the opportunities change offers and who create the future — will flourish.


The nationwide labor shortage continues as the hospitality and club industry emerges in a post-pandemic world. With sharp focus on the right things (and not just the easy answers, like “pay more”), we can emerge stronger than ever—for the benefit of our staff, leaders, and members.

We often ask GMs how much time they spend on new employee orientation. If they reply, “None, I have an HR person for that,” it’s very indicative of the culture of the club and is reflective of the overall employee orientation process.

Right now, it’s a workers’ market. That was the headline stretched across the top of the Sept. 5-6 edition of the Austin American-Statesman. Of course, golf and club managers didn’t need a newspaper or anything else to tell them what they already know: They’re living through what many say are the most challenging labor conditions they’ve ever encountered.


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TE CHNOL OG Y COMMI TTE E . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54

Strategy-Based Design: Master Planning After COVID

A Dark Side of Digital By Frank Wolfe

By Craig J. Smith

E XE CUTI V E COMMI TTE E . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56


Top Private Club Presidents 2020

Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace Continues Expansion

By Ellery Platts

ON THE FRONTLINES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80

G RE E N COMMI TTE E . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74

Collaborative Governance the Key to Success At The Club at Admirals Cove

Solutions for Golf Course Management GCSAA’ February Conference and Trade Show By Angela Hartmann

By Dave White, editor

E XE CUTI V E COMMI TTE E . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94

NANCY’S CORNER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88

Does Your Club Have a Short Golf Course? It should!

Boardroom Integrity

By Gordon Welch

By Nancy Berkley

E XE CUTI V E COMMI TTE E . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT . . . . . . . . . . 95

What Does the Labor Shortage Say About Our Workplaces?

Compassion Is the Club Manager’s New Superpower

By Keith Soriano

By Rita Barreto

ON THE FRONTLINES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96


By Marian McGill

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . . . . 32

GREEN COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76

HOUSE COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98

TECHNOLOGY PERSPECTIVE . . . . . . . . 108

By Ronald F. Cichy and Matthew D. Anderson

By Steve Schendel

By Bruce Barilla

From Traditional to Family-Friendly Club

Member Communications Don’t Get Carried Away By Bill Boothe

FEATURE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20-31

Managers Are Busy - Leaders REST

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

GM/COO’s First 90-DayPlan By Michael Crandal

Kevin Reilly - Private Club Industry Has Offered A Most Rewarding Career By Dave White, editor

FEATURE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64 Helping Private Clubs Succeed. The Hallmark for Steve Graves and Company By Dave White, editor

By Melissa Low

RACQUET COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82

MEMBERSHIP COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . 101

The Importance of Background Screening for Private Clubs By Kris Butterfield

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . . . . 38

The Ultimate Guide to Employee Engagement

Clubs Can Learn from the Surfside Condo Building Collapse

FEATURE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60

Legislative and Regulatory Update

Staffing in the Age of Racquets - Part II MEMBERSHIP COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . 102 By Jarrett Chirico The Waiting List Game You Can’t Afford to Lose

By Larry Hirsh

By Dave White, editor

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . . . 78

State of the Locker Room

Capital Reserves, Clubs and the Surfside Condo Collapse

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . . . . 36

Distinguished Ideas Summit A Great Member Experience

Hiring – The Next Level

By Peter Nanula

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . . . . 40

Sustaining the COVID Bounce By Frank Vain

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . . . . 42

Broken Tees and Cigarette Butts By Bill O’Brien

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

Keeping the Bubble from Bursting By Phil Newman

F&B COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46

HR COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84

By Pamela Radcliff

HR COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85

Why Is Feedback and Coaching An Emerging Management Practice? By David Lacey

HISTORIC COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89

Display Your History at No Cost to Your Club By Tom Neill

What’s Next When it Comes to Building Lasting Member Loyalty? By Ted Robinson

MEMBERSHIP COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . 104

What’s Next When it Comes to Building Lasting Member Loyalty? By Mike Phelps

FEATURE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48-49

Protecting Your Club Against Cyberattacks By Joseph Saracino

TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . . 91

GREEN COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72

By Till von Ruexleben

The State of the Industry By Dave Doherty

MEMBERSHIP COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . 103

TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE . . . . . . . . . . 90

Today’s Kitchen Staffing Challenges By Ed Doyle

By Ryan Maione

Benefits of Leveraging Artificial Intelligence in Private Clubs BoardRoom magazine Excellence in Achievement Awards



John G. Fornaro is the publisher/CEO of BoardRoom magazine, co-founder/CEO of Distinguished Clubs and the CEO of the Association of Private Club Directors (APCD). If you have comments on this article or suggestions for other topics, please contact John Fornaro at (949) 376-8889 or via email:

What Are Club Committees Supposed to Do And How Do They Function? Many private clubs across the country use a governance process involving committees, such as the finance, legal, strategic planning, house, membership, green, golf and racquets committees. So, why are committees important at private clubs? A committee makes decisions on behalf of the club and takes on duties to ensure everything runs smoothly. Its purpose is to serve the club members, meaning you need the right people with the right skills, the right experience and lots of enthusiasm. Committees carry out their roles effectively and efficiently by ensuring that all decisions are taken in the organization’s best interests. Individual members should also demonstrate selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and leadership – attributes known as The Nolan Principles.

cross-section of members from which new board members can be recruited,” Mona added. “First and foremost, committees generate buy-in for the members,” commented Tom Wallace, partner with Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace, an industry consulting firm. They also give members a voice and the feeling that they can contribute and have input on the club and its future. “Committees are beneficial because they act as a sounding board for the GM, department heads and the board. They also promote stronger communication at the club because they act as the vehicle through which GMs can get messages out to the membership advocating for important projects or initiatives such as passing a vote for a capital project or generating excitement for an upcoming tournament. Committees, when structured correctly, also help complete work for the board and the GM,” Wallace added.

“Committees have defined parameters. Individuals should serve on only one committee to maximize the number of members participating in the club’s committee structure. Committee terms should be for one year at the pleasure of the club’s president, and members should be limited to three consecutive years of service on any committee for the sake of continuity but also to allow others to serve. Properly designed and implemented, the committee system is a critical component in the functioning of high-performing clubs. Like any other club asset, it must be continually evaluated, nurtured and enhanced to stay relevant and effective in a dynamic, ever-changing world.” Steve Mona, director of governance and leadership, Club Benchmarking So, what are the benefits of committees in a private club? “Committees and staff act as partners. Committees have no supervisory role or authority to become involved in the operations and management of the club. But committees and staff operate as partners in the development and implementation of policies and programs designed to meet the needs of the club’s members,” espoused Steve Mona, Club Benchmarking’s director of governance and leadership “Committees provide an opportunity for members to become involved with their club. In addition, committee work is an important mechanism in developing and observing a broad 10


But overall, the primary purpose of a club’s committee system is to assist the board of directors in the governance and club leadership. “The most important duty of the committee is to help the board understand members’ expectations and desires in the committee’s area of focus. “The board establishes committees. Therefore, they derive their authority and scope of responsibility from the board as outlined in the club’s bylaws. Committees speak TO the board, not FOR the board,” he stressed. SEE PUBLISHER’S PERSPECTIVE | 116








Equity Turnovers

Business and Brand Strategy

Executive Search

Acquisitions and Sales


Human Capital Management

Membership Plans / Bylaws

Repositioning and New Capital

Post-Hire Consulting

Licensing and Permitting


HR Compliance

Deal Structures


Training/Team Building


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RICK COYNE Rick Coyne is president of ClubInsights. He can be reached via email:


Euphoria – A Mixed Message In few cases are we enabled to transition from major catastrophe to a windfall of business prosperity, particularly in an isolated and niche market like private clubs. Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic, with its mass business closures, sequestering and a loss of personal flexibility to travel and freedom to assemble, may have unleashed what is shaping up to be a perfect storm of incredible upsides. Okay, so here comes the pessimist: “But will they last?” By most surveys, we have increased the number of clubs with waitlists of members from approximately 17 percent to over 60 percent in less than a year. Demand for golf has been the highest in 17 years. Utilization of club amenities and facilities is over the top, especially on the golf course. Clearly, anyone can point to the obvious reasons. Pent-up need to socialize and be outdoors. Inability to take family vacations but needing that safe-haven “family fun” place to share. Working from home provided availability of time to participate. OK, so here comes that pessimist again: But why hadn’t they joined before now and will they stay? The amazing care clubs took of their members as COVID-19 shutdowns began contributed to the trust new and existing members have for the club. It was truly amazing to see the outrageously creative and fun programs initiated during the shutdowns, from drive-in movies serviced by bellhops in the club parking lot to gourmet meals to go, along with specialty drinks of the day. Members’ sense of community and trust in the club skyrocketed. While some members maintained a wait and see attitude about quickly reestablishing their social rhythm at the club, most have eagerly resubscribed to their respective sense of normalcy. Have you tracked your new members’ usage and engagement? If it differs from long-term members, are you seeing trends emerge? Engagement of members and onboarding programs to ensure appropriate ingratiation of members will be critical to retaining these new members as things hopefully return to normal. Whether it’s COVID-19, the resultant restrictions and mask mandates or the ever-present political issues, potential problems remain that can be devastating to membership, cash flow and the future of clubs. Some areas are experiencing significant out-migration. 12


The reverse is true for destination areas such as Florida, which now have shortages of real estate for sale. Texas is seeing waves of in-migration and real estate shortages. Many urban areas are seeing out-migration to the country. How does this movement affect you and your long-range outlook? What effect will tax increases, potential negativity around club membership, critical race theory, and increased crime have on clubs? Will the patterns of crime continue to spread? What will happen relative to more workers working from home? What does the club need to do to make these conditions more secure and helpful? This area alone is a treasure trove of opportunity if you look strategically. OK, when you consider strategy, eyes should be wide open to the entire gamut of pluses and potential negatives. There has always been an up and down movement in this and other industries. They’re called “life cycles” and golf/private clubs have experienced four in the past 120 years. They start with high growth, then slow growth, maturity and decline. COVID-19 may have indeed started the fourth life-cycle period of high growth. Perhaps the most important concept today is maintaining peak levels of performance never forced into returning to decline. Your strategy should be your guide. If you have honestly evaluated and resolved all of these contemporary concerns, if you have addressed and subscribed to the member experience driving every good thing that follows, and if you are willing to drive toward the pinnacle of growth and remain there, there may never be a better time than now. Euphoria suggests a manifest condition that will last forever. History tells us otherwise. Therefore, it is not a time to be euphoric. Rather it is a time to be strategic and calculating. If you’ve had excellent growth and participation, use the cash flow to identify and enhance your offerings. Expansion of services does not always mean total master planning of your campus. So, unless it’s time to take on that expense, be frugal and use the extra cash to build reserves. Look at the many things that are simple, fun and engage members. Bocce, pickleball and using your practice range for target golf league play are simple, easy and social, all of which are important to your members’ enjoyment. It also builds brand relevance and membership value. The private club industry is in a reasonably good place today. Use your resources wisely. Find the right people to provide your service delivery system, empower them, make them feel as important as they are, cultivate growth from within and rebuild into a stronger and more disaster-proof organization that remains rock solid through the best and worst of times. While it’s easier to simply relax and take advantage of the current positives, only through strategy will you ensure its ongoing presence. Smart people make smart choices. B R



Nancy Levenburg, PhD, is a recently retired professor of management in the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. She is the president of Edgewater Consulting and a member of Spring Lake Country Club in Spring Lake, MI. For more information, contact her at: or (616) 821-5678.

Reach Out “Reach Out I’ll Be There” was a song performed by the Four Tops on “The Ed Sullivan Show” way back in 1966. “Reach Out and Touch [Somebody’s Hand]” was Diana Ross’ first solo single (1970). “Reach out – reach out and touch someone” formed an AT&T advertising campaign and jingle. And today, “reach out” means trying to communicate with a person or a group of people, usually to help or involve them, according to the Cambridge Dictionary. I hear “reach out” a lot. It seems to be one of those buzzwords that business folks – in fact, just about everybody – seem to be fond of using – along with other overused words and phrases, like “touch base,” “no-brainer,” “run it up the flagpole,” and “circle back.” Unfortunately, because “reach out” has been used so often – and so casually – it seems it has lost its meaning. Here’s an example. A friend and I recently made a spur-of-the-moment decision to go on a mini vacation to the U.P. in Michigan. For those readers who are not Michiganders, U.P. (or UP) is the abbreviation for the Upper Peninsula, even though the lower peninsula of Michigan (where I live) is not referred to as the L.P. (Instead, we’re referred to as “fudgies” by Yoopers – those who live in the UP.). We decided to visit and go kayaking along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, see the Tahquamenon Falls (one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River), and go bike riding at Mackinac Island (no cars are allowed on the island). A four-day “Thelma & Louise” type of adventure. And although we encountered numerous hotels along our travels with “no vacancy” signs, we were able to secure a stay our final night at a two-story chain hotel in St. Ignace, which was beautifully situated along the stunning shores of Lake Michigan. Unfortunately, “beautifully situated” is about the only positive thing I can say about this hotel. The room itself was in deplorable condition. So deplorable, in fact, that I took photos and wrote to the president of the parent hotel as soon as I returned home. What was wrong with the room? A broken bed frame; a bathroom door that was battered, missing trim, and would not stay closed – even 14


when locked; a broken plexiglass magazine that was nailed to the wall; holes in ceiling tiles; electrical cords that did not stay in outlets when inserted… you get the idea. And the “free breakfast” that was advertised consisted only of a fruit cup, a 1.3 ounce Kellogg’s NutriGrain bar, and a packaged muffin. I received a reply from “Melissa” in the presidential office/ customer care department. She offered her “sincere apologies” and stated, “I will inform our operations team who will reach out to the property ownership group to review the experiences you shared and use this as an example to better improve our service and product.” Melissa also offered to add 15,000 reward points to my friend’s account (since we booked the stay under her name) – enough, Melissa said, for an overnight stay in a “level two” property…whatever that means. And what did Melissa do for me? Absolutely nothing. I could care less that she reached out to the property ownership group – I wanted her to reach out to me. I was the one who had to sleep in the bed with the broken frame that was resting on the floor, so it formed a “V” shape. Very uncomfortably, I might add. So, all Melissa’s wonderful words about telling me that I was important and a valued customer and “your feedback is very important to the brand and you have our assurances we will investigate this” meant absolutely zero if she didn’t help me. In fact, to make matters worse, because the font in the email she sent was two different colors (black and blue), it was obvious to me that she had used these words before and had merely copied and pasted them into my email. And exactly how special, important or valued did that make me feel? I’m only good enough for a copy and paste…? Interestingly, too, when I replied to Melissa’s email to say that I remained extremely disappointed, particularly since I was the one who had to sleep in the bed with a broken frame (which I feel is absolutely inexcusable in a hotel), I received an automatically generated reply that stated: “Thank you! We’ve received your message. We will respond within 24-72 hours. We are currently experiencing a higher than normal volume, your patience is greatly appreciated.” What!?! They admit that they’re receiving a higher than normal volume of mail in the customer care department? If other folks are being treated the same way I was, I’m not one bit surprised. Are you? The bottom line for your folks in customer care/retention: If you’re going to “reach out” to your customers, at least be sincere in your efforts. And do something for your customers. BR

IDENTIFY AND HIRE TOP CANDIDATES for key executive leadership positions by utilizing the expertise of the PGA of America’s Career Services department and Senior Consultant, Michael Leemhuis, owner of Leemhuis Consult LLC.




A Member Filed for Bankruptcy - Now What? The coronavirus pandemic has proven to be a boom for some industries and individuals. Clubs, at least those with golf, saw the number of rounds played increase approximately 14 percent from 2019 to 2020 despite more than half of all golf courses being closed in March and April. Individuals filed bankruptcy less as well, with cases decreasing almost 28 percent over the same period. However, individual bankruptcies are anticipated to increase, threatening the bottom line at clubs, as unprecedented government protections wane. On Labor Day, more than seven million out-of-work Americans lost much of their economic aid as three federal programs established in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic expired. As a result, some club members may file for bankruptcy. Thus, clubs should learn about their rights to collect unpaid dues before, during, and after a member’s bankruptcy. First, clubs should review their bylaws and policies regarding delinquent accounts before a member files for bankruptcy. Simple steps such as shortening grace periods, instituting automatic suspensions for delinquent members and requiring deposits for events can limit the club’s exposure if a member files for bankruptcy. Second, clubs should understand a few key bankruptcy concepts. A bankruptcy case begins the moment a debtor files a petition with the Bankruptcy Court. Thereafter, that day is called the Petition Date and the individual is called a debtor. On the Petition Date, without any further action of the debtor or the Bankruptcy Court, an automatic stay is triggered that prohibits the club from attempting to collect any debt from the debtor. Even the most innocent collection act, like mailing a statement of monthly charges to a debtor after the Petition Date, can draw the ire of the Bankruptcy Court and result in harsh penalties against the club, including actual and punitive damages. In addition to giving rise to the automatic stay, the Petition Date is a bright line that divides the debtor’s debts into two buckets: prepetition debts (arising before the Petition Date) and post-petition debts (arising after the Petition Date). The distinction between prepetition and post-petition directly affects a club’s right to collect dues. Generally, prepetition dues are discharged (i.e., the debtor’s personal liability is eliminated) and clubs may only collect those amounts by 16


filing a proof of claim before a deadline set by the Bankruptcy Court. On the other hand, post-petition dues are not discharged and the debtor remains personally liable. But that is not the end of the story. Even though bankruptcy does not discharge post-petition dues, it does, under certain circumstances, give the debtor the power to avoid post-petition dues by rejecting their membership contract. To understand the extent that a debtor can use bankruptcy to avoid post-petition dues at your club, you must know whether the debtor’s obligation to pay dues arises under a contract or on account of an ownership interest in the club. This distinction is typically made along the same lines as between a non-equity and an equity club and is critical to analyzing a club’s right to collect post-petition dues. The bottom line is that clubs must proceed with caution and have an accurate understanding of their legal structure and club documents when a member files for bankruptcy. Both are necessary to know how bankruptcy affects the club’s right to collect and the debtor’s obligation to pay future dues. A member’s bankruptcy done wrong can cost the club a lot, including the member, uncollectable dues, and sanctions from the Bankruptcy Court which could include the debtor’s actual damages, costs and attorneys’ fees and, in some circumstances, punitive damages. When in doubt, consult a club legal professional who is knowledgeable in bankruptcy matters to help avoid violating the automatic stay, navigate the proof of claim process, understand the club’s documents and, ultimately, maximize recovery. B R Michelle Tanzer, Esq. is chair of the Global Club and Branded Residences group at the law firm of Nelson Mullins, serves on the National Club Association board of directors, arbitrates club- related disputes for the American Arbitration Association’s (AAA) National Golf Industry Panel and authored “The Club Litigation Book: Keeping Clubs out of Court.” She can be reached at (561) 866-5700 or via email: michelle. Andrew Kilpinen is an associate in the Global Club and Branded Residences group at Nelson Mullins.





The Importance of Mandatory and Comprehensive Orientations for All Stakeholders - Part II We often ask GMs how much time they spend on new employee orientation. If they reply, “None, I have an HR person for that,” it’s very indicative of the culture of the club. This question is reflective of the overall employee orientation process because if you go to great lengths to start everyone out on the right foot, you will very likely have a much better result in the end. Onboarding new employees is more than just teaching new employees the basics of service, like serving from the left and clearing from the right. It’s a deeper and bigger picture perspective on the mission of every employee and how that perpetuates (hopefully) a strong and positive employee culture. You’ve got to explain the employee’s purpose and why they are really there. Remind all employees that they are ambassadors of the club and perpetuators of the culture. This is true from the GM down to every line-level employee. Have a member, preferably the president, speak to new employees and share why they joined the club and why the club is important to their family. Have them list the reasons they love the club and its importance in the lives of their families. These are the critical elements employees need to hear to understand why a private club is different from any other organization. Help employees recognize the reasons to be passionate about making the club special. Explain that it’s not a “members versus employees” environment, but that it’s a family working to create a place for everyone to enjoy, and that everyone has a responsibility to live it. One of the most important elements to new employee orientation is including a tour of the entire club and all facilities. Show employees the entire operation to ensure they are comfortable with their whereabouts and can perform their job at the highest level. We can’t shout this loudly enough: “Do not assume a new employee knows!” Perhaps you’ve heard about the 11-year employee at a club who was asked to quickly run French fries to the beach house and she replied that she didn’t know where the beach house was? Or perhaps you’ve had a similar experience to the new club maintenance director who drove right across the green on his way out to the grounds building? You’ve got to remember that your new employees may never have been on a golf course before. If you don’t teach them and tell them, you can’t expect them to know it. Orientation is also the perfect time to help employees meet and connect with one another. Camaraderie and team spirit is fueled from day one when employees are genuinely interested 18


in meeting and getting to know one another. You can’t expect employees to drive proactive hospitality among the members if they don’t first drive the hospitality spirit among themselves. Finally, new member orientation is also vital to club success. Inform new members how best to use the club, provide them with the information they need to feel comfortable with their membership and show them how to weave the club into their busy lives. Give new members a tour of the entire facility. Let them see the bowels of the club and all the front and back of the house facilities regardless of their membership category. Giving them the behind the scenes tour helps shape their perspective and understanding, and hopefully gain confidence in how well the club is maintained behind the scenes as well as out front. Introduce new members to the staff and talk about the club’s core values. Share with them “why we are here, what we stand for and who we are.” Involve line- level staff members in the process; you gain their further trust and commitment when they know you believe in them enough to be part of this important onboarding process. Remember your job as the manager is not to just hand new members the manual and expect them to read it. It’s your job to ensure they understand how to use the club and are enthused to do so. Share stories, give examples and provide them with a sense of comfort. At minimum, pick out the five most important things they need to know to be successful members and tell them who to contact with any questions so they land smoothly within the membership. Do everything you can to help them be successful and long-time members. Generating “buy-in” through education is what stakeholder orientation is all about. It requires focus, time and attention and it must be a constant priority. Orientations should be regularly updated, constantly evolving and always on a path to constant improvement. As things change within the organization, so should orientations. Educating stakeholders – board members, committee members, new members and employees – should be taken seriously, and remember the Syms clothing store chain slogan: “An educated consumer is our best customer.” BR Richard Kopplin, a principal with KK&W, can be reached at Kurt D. Kuebler, CCM, a principal with KK&W can be at Thomas B. Wallace III, CCM, CCE, ECM, a principal with KK&W, can be reached at

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The BoardRoom Distinguished Ideas Summit remains the premiere gathering for leaders of the best private clubs in the world. Representatives from more than 130 of 200 of the country’s most outstanding clubs attended the 2021 Distinguished Ideas Summit recently. The Summit was held at the Addison Reserve Country Club, Boca Raton, FL, because of the club’s management’s success in providing its members with the best member experience, as well as the club’s history and amenities. Addison Reserve’s CEO Michael McCarthy hosted the event. Along with being recognized as Distinguished Clubs, all Distinguished Clubs general managers and management are invited to attend The Distinguished Ideas Summit…a private event held every year at different clubs throughout the country. The theme for this year’s conference: Delivering a Great Member Experience! “The Distinguished Club award is the only merit-based award program in the private club industry. And the only one that recognizes the club, its management and its staff for outstanding delivery of an exceptional member experience,” exclaimed Distinguished Club’s CEO John Fornaro. “Whether your goal is to build member loyalty, increase revenues, inspire your staff, enhance your brand or grow your career, our Distinguished Ideas Summits give general managers the information and expertise they need to stay ahead of the curve,” he added. “The Distinguished Club award is the highest recognition a club can earn. Therefore, this award brings not only recognition to specific private clubs but working at a Distinguished Club will most certainly enhance your personal resume, as well,” said Dick Kopplin, principal with Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace, one of the country’s leading consulting firms. “Addison Reserve Country Club was chosen because its CEO, Michael McCarthy, stands as one of the country’s most successful chief executive officers. He has reinvented the role of the board and is constantly improving his club with the most current and updated ideas that create a great member experience at Addison Reserve,” Fornaro said. (Addison Reserve Country, McCarthy and his board of directors will also be featured in our new series on Distinguished Clubs in our January/February 2022 BoardRoom magazine.) The two-day DC Ideas Summit was broken down to feature education for the participants the first day with a gala event that evening. The second day, delegates visited five areas clubs, all completely different, and each with unique things they are doing to create a great member experience. These clubs included Mizner Country Club, Delray Beach, FL; Wycliffe Golf & Country Club, Wellington, FL; The Club at Quail Ridge, Boynton Beach, FL; Broken Sound Country Club, Boca Raton, FL, and Boca West Country Club in Boca Raton, FL. “Representatives from each club took delegates on a tour of their club, featuring specific things that they do to create a great member experience. And everyone knocked it out of the park with tasty bites, entertainment and beverages,” Fornaro added. “A Summit highlight was the evening gala also at Addison Reserve. The poolside event featured delectable foods, including wide selection of oysters, lobsters, jumbo shrimp, wahoo beef, lamb and sushi. During the evening entertainment in the club’s dining room, a special tribute was paid to the king of a member experience, Jay DiPietro, former general manager of Boca West Country Club, now retired. 20


“Michael McCarthy displayed firsthand why he is one the country’s best CEOs (GMs) in delivering a great member experience from the day one lunch to the charcuterie featuring foie gras. Needless to say, every guest was impressed by Michael, his staff and the outstanding experience,” Fornaro exclaimed. In keeping with the theme, “Delivering a Great Member Experience”, speakers at the Summit 2021 included some of the most knowledgeable people in and out of the private club industry. They included: • Filip Boyen, CEO of Forbes travel guide • Colin Cowie, hospitality author and lifestyle guru • Herve Houdre, H2 Sustainability Consulting • Jim McPartlin, hospitality author • Jeff Wielgopolan, senior vice president, Forbes • Tom Wallace, principal, Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace • Bob Jones, principal, GSI • Ray Cronin, founder and principal, Club Benchmarking • Jeffrey McFadden, CEO, Union League club of Philadelphia • Kurt Kuebler, principal, Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace • Duncan Reno, GM/COO, Del Rio Country Club • Matt Collis, director of sales and marketing, Lake Nona Country Club • Till Von Ruexleben, principal, Vivid Leaf • Three and Jackie Carpenter, authors – People First • Carmen Mauceri, GM/ COO, The Club at Mediterra • Gordon Welch, president, Boardroom Institute • Craig Marshall, principal, Mindful University • Ron Banaszak, BoardRoom Distinguished Clubs International • Russell Sylte, GM, Hacienda Golf Club • John Fornaro, publisher, BoardRoom magazine B R

I’ve been in the business for more than 30 years and have rarely had an experience as enriching and enjoyable. Topics were insightful and timely. The tours highlighted specific accomplishments that defined for me the essence of The Distinguished Club Designation. Roger Bacon, GM Montclair Golf Club, West Orange, NJ What great ideas! The speakers were thought provoking! The venues were top notch. Don Emery, GM Grey Oaks Country Club, North Naples, FL It was first class on every level and a wonderful experience. Robin Shelton, PGA Master Professional, GM Newport Beach Country Club, CA

Was a wonderful event and I’m grateful for every moment?

Russell Sylte, PGA Master Professional, GM Hacienda Country Club, La Habra Heights, CA

We’ve all done countless workshops and conferences over the years, but I must say the Distinguished Clubs Summit has been the most meaningful piece of real-world education.

Jeff Dekruif, Assistant GM Berkeley Hall Club Bluffton, SC




Puts on the Glitz For BoardRoom’s Distinguished Ideas Summit BY DAVE WHITE, EDITOR

Addison Reserve Country Club, one of the premier country clubs in the nation, opened its doors for the BoardRoom’s Distinguished Ideas Summit 2021 recently. And the Summit, one of the first events the Boca Raton, FL club has hosted since the onset of COVID-19, provided an exceptional experience for the more than 130 BoardRoom Distinguished Club general managers and board members. “We were honored to host the Distinguished Clubs and Forbes Travel Summit,” expressed Addison Reserve CEO Michael McCarthy, pictured below second from the left. “Since this was one of the first events that has taken place since the start of the pandemic, it was wonderful to witness how happy our colleagues were to see each other – to network and hear presentations given by fellow general managers on how they improved the member experience at their clubs. “John Fornaro (CEO of BoardRoom’s Distinguished Clubs and publisher of BoardRoom magazine) and the entire BoardRoom and Forbes team did an incredible job with the speakers and the interactive sessions that took place,” McCarthy added. The Distinguished Ideas Summit is a yearly event (although it was cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic) and is held at various private clubs throughout the country for the benefit of the GMs and board members of BoardRoom’s Distinguished Clubs. The Summit each year provides an exceptional educational experience and a tour of local Distinguished Clubs. This enable attendees to learn and understand what other Distinguished Club are doing to provide their members with an exceptional member experience. Private clubs can be nominated for inclusion as a Distinguished Club, and the club is then a subject of an extensive on-location audit by Distinguished Club analysts.



“Time and again, the Distinguished Ideas Summit doesn’t disappoint,” McCarthy added. “It’s a great opportunity to share best practices and learn about new and innovative programs. This Summit was no exception – the entire event was inspiring. “It challenges each one of us to continue elevating our member experience. The education was so good that my board president literally sat through all eight hours and wished that the entire Addison Reserve board could have done the same,” McCarthy intoned. The Summit at Addison Reserve focused on a full day of education along with an outstanding evening gala that provided Addison Reserve with the opportunity to put on the glitz. “I am very proud of the Addison team. With so many new team members (nothing like putting a little pressure on the team) it was the first event that we’ve done in nearly two years, and to host colleagues from the finest clubs in America for breakfast, lunch and dinner…well, it was sort of like playing the Super Bowl as your first game of the season,” McCarthy exclaimed. Participants toured the amenities and facilities Addison Reserve offers its members including the newly renovated 70,000 square foot clubhouse, which features the Styr lounge and terrace with indoor and outdoor bar and table seating; taste dining room; two private dining rooms; the Vault, Addison Reserve’s magnificent wine room; men’s and ladies’ card rooms; media center and golf shop to a brand new 37,000-square foot healthy lifestyle complex. “We are social. Themed Opening Galas are the highlight of the beginning of each season, and throughout the year there are lecture series, musical events, dining extravaganzas, sports tournaments and more,” McCarthy added. “Our biggest family event is our New Year’s Eve celebration, which starts with a family Street Fair before the adults ring in the New Year at the clubhouse. Junior golf and tennis camps, annual family fishing rodeo, poolside activities, family BBQs, dances and interactive activities round out our programing.

“Our culture is unique. The Addison team is like an extended family. We embrace and demonstrate mentoring and creating a club culture, which supports the staff team from advancement opportunities to crisis assistance and everything in between,” McCarthy said. “Our members care about our team members and visa-versa. Our team members are brand ambassadors for our membership and our members like investing in their well-being and they sincerely care about them. What we have created and what the members have embraced has made us what we are today – a BoardRoom Distinguished Club.”

McCarthy has been Addison Reserve’s CEO and general manager since 2006, preceded by eight successful years as CEO of BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach, FL. He has over 25 years of experience in club management and community management. McCarthy also specializes in working with club boards on club governance. The standard he has set has been hailed by managers across the country as the new direction for club management in the coming decade. BR



BOCA WEST COUNTRY CLUB Offers Members Personalized Services and Amenities Boca West Country Club offers an active and engaged social community, with impeccable personalized services and amenities, and an incomparable member centric lifestyle – a few of the many reasons Boca West remains a prestigious BoardRoom Distinguished Club with Elite Distinction. The Boca Raton, FL country club, features 55 community villages, as one of the largest clubs in the country, and was one of five Distinguished Clubs that the more than 130 general managers attending the Distinguished Ideas Summit 2021 toured recently. From the many culinary options ranging from casual to fine dining, to four celebrated championship golf courses, a 95,000 square foot aquatic center, an unmatched tennis and pickleball center featuring 14 pickleball courts, a world class spa, and a modern state-of-theart fitness center, Boca West truly has it all.



When renovating Mr. D’s 19th Hole, Boca West continued with the club’s forward thinking on lifestyle and amenities, which led to the creation of the Drive Suites. Boca West has partnered with InRange, a golf driving range experience driven by radar ball tracking and range gamification technology. InRange enables players of all levels and gives all the information needed to practice with purpose, test their skills and have fun, whether it be on the driving range bays or in one of seven brand new Drive Suites. “Members can unwind with drinks after a great round or enjoy a delicious meal with family and friends in one of the sleek and comfortable suites. This venue truly makes Boca West stand out among the rest!” exclaimed the club’s president and general manager, Matthew Linderman. “Boca West Country Club members come first and foremost and that’s one of the many reasons they lovingly refer to their club as paradise. “We pride ourselves on paying close attention to detail, originality, exclusivity and a country club life reimagined. You are sure to ‘Live the Life You Love and Love the Life You Live’ when you belong to Boca West!” Linderman added. Linderman joined Boca West Country Club in 2005 after several years with the Four Seasons Hotels Group. During the past 16 years with Boca West, Matthew worked his way through several promotions leading to his current role as president, COO /GM a position he has held since 2017. B R

BROKEN SOUND CLUB Takes the Lead In Sustainability Initiatives

Other speakers on the tour included Sierra Malnove, owners of Sierra’s Bees and Al Salopek, both of whom have served on the Palm Beach Country Beekeepers Association, who discussed the advantages of honeybees and the fact Broken Sound has harvested 5,000 pounds of honey in six years. Till von Ruexleben, COO, Vivid Leaf Sustainability and Resiliency Solutions, remarked on the benefits of embracing sustainability in the manner of Broken Sound Club… ”profit, people, planet.” Tour visitors enjoyed light bites from Johnny C’s Food Truck that included tasty, organic During the BoardRoom Distinguished Ideas Summit, honey chipotle pulled pork tacos, made with Broken Sound’s own honey. Along with a cup more than 130 general managers from Distinguished of coffee from fellow environmental stewards at Julius Meini, participants were also given a Clubs across the country got to experience that ‘shift’ Broken Sound flavor-infused honey set. during a recent tour. Broken Sound was one of five As a BoardRoom Distinguished Club, Broken Sound Club’s signature blend of warmth, South Florida Distinguished Clubs delegates toured. elegance and genuine five-start hospitality exceeds members’ expectations. Under GM Crean’s leadership, Broken Sound has Broken Sound delivers incomparable service and lifestyle amenities including two become an industry leader with innovative sustainability Audubon Sanctuary Certified 18-hold golf courses, multiple dining venues, a resort-style efforts and environmental ‘green’ initiatives. aquatics center, LEED certified spa and salon, a state-of-the-art fitness center and a 26-court “It started with changes like the elimination of tennis and pickleball facility. Styrofoam cups and a comprehensive recycling program The main clubhouse is undergoing a major interior renovation for the dining, socializing, and the club’s eco-conscious efforts have grown into a card playing and special event facilities. larger movement,” Crean explained. The new sports bar overlooking the 18th green, the main dining room with retractable glass “Broken Sound partnered with the City of Boca Raton NanaWalls, a tapas and sushi restaurant and bar with an outside terrace, playground, mini-golf, to participate in a reclaimed water program for golf and a unique glass covered porte-cochere and lobby atrium are a few of the recent enhancements. courses and common areas. We installed solar panels The legendary golf course architect, Rees Jones, has designed a planned reconstruction of the to heat the pool and hot water heaters, positioned 22 Old Course golf course. In addition, the 19th Hole dining room also will be renovated. BR beehives on the golf course to harvest the club’s own honey and cross-pollinate flowers and plants, and mounted 15 bat houses to act as a natural method of insect control,” he added. Visitors from the Summit toured the golf maintenance facility, to learn more about Broken Sound’s most impactful environmental initiatives…one of the first industrial composting projects instituted in Florida – an in-vessel digester. Crean presented the massive composting machine that combines the club’s food and landscaping waster, producing organic soil amendment that is used to help stabilize the chemicals in the soil and fertilize the golf courses and common grounds. “Broken Sound’s commitment and bold vision has paid off with a significant return on investment while protecting the planet from harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides,” Crean said.

“There’s a paradigm shift in the world of country clubs,” and because of that shift, John Crean, GM/COO of Broken Sound Club has taken the lead in creating a new culture and generating an updated image at the South Florida BoardRoom Distinguished Club.



MIZNER COUNTRY CLUB A Leader in Wellness Efforts

Mizner Country Club is leading the private club industry in innovative wellness experiences for its members. The Delray Beach, FL club was featured as one of the five Distinguished Clubs in South Florida that the more than 130 Distinguished Ideas Summit attendees toured recently. Mizner Country Club not only provides its members with an outstanding wellness program, but the club also stands as Technogym’s flagship country club facility featuring advanced equipment from Italy that uses technology to personalize training. Mizner has earned an esteemed reputation as a boutique private club in Delray Beach for families of all ages. Marking an intimate 471 homes, this lush oasis provides an elevated lifestyle experience to its members with a newer 18-hole, par 72 private golf course, redesigned by Kipp Schulties. The club also features a recently completed $22 million expansion project, named CENTRAL… the club’s social gathering complex with a resort-style poolside restaurant, sports bar, aquatic center, fitness center, café, and more. During the tour, representatives from the other Distinguished Clubs viewed CENTRAL’s top-floor state-of-the-art fitness facility. As the first country club on the east side of Florida with wall-to-wall Technogym equipment, Mizner’s Fitness Center was recently ranked as a 2021 Top Fitness Facility. “It was an honor to be a part of this industry-leading event. From the beginning when we planned CENTRAL, we decided to make an investment to deliver the best services and amenities to our club members which included creating the crown jewel in fitness in our industry, ” said Jennifer Chavez, chief financial officer. “We achieved this by providing the highest quality fitness equipment from a global wellness solution provider, adding services, innovative programs and professional



staff. We use technology along with an aesthetically pleasing space to connect all of those features for the benefit of the members and their guests.” Mizner’s Director of Membership, Marie Mitchalk, added, “Our boards and team, both past and present, worked tremendously hard to bring Mizner to the level we are at today. It’s a privilege to stand amongst the top clubs in the industry and showcase our beautiful club.” All equipment connects to a user’s mobile device to track their goals and training programs while gauging their progress. Mizner’s Technogym certified trainers assist members in every aspect of their wellness journey, joining the company of PGA Tour Professionals and Olympic athletes, who partner with Technogym. Daniyel Gavrilov, Mizner’s director of fitness, spoke to the group with Technogym’s National President, Marco Zambianchi, and Vice President, Dr. Marty Miller, about the importance of a cohesive wellness program. Trainers provided demonstrations and encouraged the group to try the equipment. Adding to the eye candy at Mizner’s Fitness Center and throughout the CENTRAL complex, is original artwork commissioned by urban-pop artists Ruben Ubiera and his partner, Golden, world-renowned for their graffiti-inspired techniques. B R

THE CLUB AT QUAIL RIDGE Looks to the Future

Reimagining Quail Ridge remains the focus for the Boynton Beach, FL BoardRoom Distinguished Club. The Club at Quail Ridge has the honor of being the home of golfing legends Sam Snead, and Claude Harmon, who won the Masters in 1948 and was head professional at Wingfoot for many years. And reimagining is what club general managers at the recent BoardRoom Distinguished Ideas Summit 2021 experienced recently. The Club at Quail Ridge was the third stop on the tour of five Distinguished Clubs. “All of us at Quail Ridge were delighted to host so many of our fellow leaders from other BoardRoom Distinguish Clubs throughout the country,” explained general manager Bill Langley. The Distinguished experience for visitors began with ‘warm welcome beverage and introduction from Langley. The GM, now in his 9tth year at Quail Ridge has been an integral part, working with the club’s board of directors and senior management team in developing

the club’s ‘Reimagining Quail Ridge’ plan. Langley 40-year history of developing and managing some of the country’s finest clubs has allowed him to share his vast knowledge in clubhouse design, project management, community development and real estate sales in the club’s repositioning efforts. “Over the past seven years, Quail Ridge has reinvested more than $35 million in clubhouse, fitness center and south golf course amenities, with another planned $15-$20 million ahead of us. “It’ll be just in time to celebrate our 50th Anniversary in 2024. The plan is simply to properly position The Club at Quail Ridge for continued growth and success over the next 50 years!” Langley expressed. “Our goal from the moment our guests arrived was to provide each with the opportunity to preview what makes Quail Ridge so special.” This included a walk-through tour of club’s Hall of Fame, where visitors were able to engage in the club’s rich golf legacies. Distinguished visitors experienced a walking tour of the dining areas at the clubhouse and especially the Quail’s Nest casual indoor/ outdoor dining and Quail’s Nest patio bar to show everyone why our Quail Ridge’s members are so fond of this special venue. “There are few dining experiences which successfully blend an upscale dining experience indoors with a sophisticated terrace area. Our members and their guests enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the golf courses, waterfall and practice areas. At night, the area comes alive with crackling fire pits and lighted features around the property,” Langley commented. SEE THE CLUB AT QUAIL RIDGE | 29



WYCLIFFE GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB Innovative Leadership the Focus

People first! That’s the mantra Rob Martin, the general manager/chief operating officer at Wycliffe Golf & Country Club, not only preaches, but lives by. Armed with a passion for the industry and a penchant for forward-thinking, Martin is the innovative leader of the Wellington, FL country club, who stands out amongst his peers in the crowded BoardRoom Distinguished Clubs’ marketplace in South Florida. His accomplishments are not going unnoticed by his colleagues and associates. Wycliffe Golf & Country Club was the second stop of the five Distinguished Clubs tour, for the more than 130 general managers attending the BoardRoom Distinguished Ideas Summit recently. “The Distinguished Club general managers were treated to a one-hour, non-stop ideas tour. Many of the GMs said they were stimulated and motivated by what GM Rob Martin and his team have built. Rob and his team are original and clever innovators. We could have spent the entire day at Wycliffe,” commented John Fornaro, CEO of BoardRoom’s Distinguished Clubs. Since his arrival, Martin has led Wycliffe through an $18.2 million renovation and a total branding overhaul, effectively refreshing and modernizing the club’s amenities. He has emphasized sustainability, brand equity and hired a progressive leadership team to ensure Wycliffe’s future is bright.



“My dedication to the club industry and our constant desire to challenge the status quo has helped us keep Wycliffe on the forefront of clubs in our area,” Martin commented. “I’m proud to lead a team of like-minded professionals that move as one collective unit towards our purpose and vision at Wycliffe.” One such team member, Mark Jacobson, director of engineering, forms the backbone of The Guild: a fullfledged engineering workshop. Jacobson came to Wycliffe in 2017, bringing a lifetime of engineering and woodworking experience. With Martin’s support, Jacobson created The Guild. Equipped with a laser-cutting machine, CNC routing machine, and more saws, hammers, and blades than one could count, the team at The Guild is the driving force behind the club’s major and minor projects. From the 160-foot golf cart path bridge – designed, sourced, created, and installed in-house – to the directional

signage posted around the club’s exterior, The Guild’s footprint can be seen and felt throughout the campus. “I find our work to be incredibly rewarding,” said Jacobson. “We’re proud to see our members and staff enjoying what we produce, and we are proud to give them top-quality, personalized pieces that will last the club for years to come.” Martin estimates the total cost savings to be close to $200,000 from the combined projects, with many additional plans on the horizon. “The scope of what we have been able to accomplish with The Guild has been incredible,” said Martin. “The cost savings, labor efficiencies, and the sustainability benefits have far outweighed any startup costs for creating the department, and we are just getting started.” The Hyve, Wycliffe’s newly renovated employee cafeteria, is another unique feature found at the club. While other clubs treat the employee break room as an afterthought, Martin and his team emphasize it. Each day, Willy Cantu, the dedicated Chef in The Hyve, cooks up a variety of fresh, complimentary menu items for Wycliffe’s worker bees to enjoy. Under the leadership of Executive Chef Christopher Park, Chef Willy offers everything from fresh salads, wraps, and soups to hearty chicken dishes, pasta, and sides. The daily menu offers something for everyone to enjoy on their break.

The Guild’s handiwork also radiates throughout the space, with highlights that include a 10-foot custom high-top communal table, decorative shiplap wall panels, and a beautiful bar counter from which Chef Willy serves the staff with a smile. “It is amazing to see what Chef Willy has done in The Hyve,” Park expressed. “That’s his pride and joy. He knows the staff, learns what they like, and makes sure everyone is happy. The staff feels appreciated when we feed them good, quality food and provide a relaxing environment to recharge in. It’s a positive experience all around.” “I try to eat lunch in The Hyve every day, and we would serve the food from The Hyve to our members without hesitation. We are proud to give back to the people who give so much to the club, and we have enjoyed hearing positive feedback from our staff. In this competitive hiring market, it’s a real asset when it comes to recruiting and retention as well as instilling a deep sense of belonging,” Martin affirmed. The Hyve and The Guild are two of many features that distinguish Wycliffe amongst its peers, contributing to member and employee satisfaction scores that are continuously high. With thought leadership at the helm, the team at Wycliffe strives to pioneer practices that contribute to improved sustainability and the club’s success. B R

from The Club at Quail Ridge | 27

“One of the members told me, it makes them feel good knowing that all these general managers took time to visit their club. “She said: ‘We don’t have the biggest clubhouse or some of the amenities other clubs have, but we have something more important, the member experience is what makes this club special. The feeling you get once you arrive,’” Fornaro added. “We sincerely enjoyed serving all of our VIPs and fellow Distinguished Clubs guests and we look forward to hosting you again in the future!” Langley concluded. B R

“We hosted everyone on our back terrace and lawn which included a special ice sculpture to honor all of our guests. A variety of passed foods and lite-bite style hors d’ oeuvres were served in unique ways including our food truck, which we refer to as ‘The Flying Quail.’ It delivers fun Latinstyle drinks and mini-Cuban sandwiches and a Bubbles and Brew Prosecco cart that also served our own ‘Quail Ale,’” Langley added. “Many of the guests commented on how comfortable they felt at the club. It was tranquil and a relaxing atmosphere. Some of the GMs said this is a club they would join for that reason,” said Distinguished Club’s CEO John Fornaro.






Managers Are Busy Leaders REST We live in a world where everyone claims to be so “busy.” Ask anyone “how are you doing?” and the default response is almost always “I am really busy.” With so many people wearing the “busy badge,” proclaiming that “I’m busy” is almost as silly as proclaiming “I’ve been breathing a lot of air lately.” If everyone says it, it has little meaning. Also, who really cares if we are all busy? A more important proclamation to the world is “I’ve been really productive lately.” This is not the last century, or even last year, anymore. The old school primitive mentality toward leadership, where the word “manager” and “leader” were used interchangeably, is no longer true. Management is about setting goals, identifying and controlling processes, planning and monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs), and directing a team of people. Leadership, on the other hand, is about motivating, inspiring, and empowering those the leader is charged with serving. Put another way, management is a job; behaving like a Leader (with a capital “L”) is a choice. Here is the reality: Managers are busy. Leaders rest. Leaders know the value of giving those in their care the opportunity to take on new responsibilities, grow new abilities, and fail and learn in a safe environment. This includes members of the board of directors, managers retained to lead the club, talent, and volunteers for the various committees. By effectively delegating and developing people, Leaders have more free time to invest in relationship building and creative thinking to further support the club and its culture. Leaders rest also has a second meaning in the form of an acronym: Respect Empathy Service Trust Leaders give Respect, demonstrate Empathy, are of Service, and build Trust. Managers will demand that Respect must be given to them by others because of their title or status in the club. Leaders know that giving Respect freely creates an environment where people choose to reciprocate that Respect, are appreciated, and which allows for greater productivity and engagement. Managers ask, “Why did you miss this deadline?” Leaders say, “I’ve noticed that you seem distracted lately. Is everything OK? How can I



help support you to be as successful as we both know you are capable of being?” Demonstrating Empathy means being a human being with another human being. It means removing the arbitrary titles we are assigned based on our job functions and instead showing care and concern and appreciation for those whom we serve. Servant Leadership can be misinterpreted. Long live the Leader who is of Service. When Leaders make decisions, they will always be primarily concerned with the way those decisions impact people. If they are not doing that, they do not measure up to being Leaders. Simply put, they are managers. Trust is the foundation to achieving results. If the club is trying to increase membership, reduce food cost, or accomplish any other goal, there is a process the club must follow to achieve the desired results. Trust must be in place to create an environment where the people affected are engaged. With engagement, collaboration is possible. With collaboration, meaningful, inclusive, and valuable results can be achieved. For all of that to be possible, first the Leader must build Trust. As you are coaching and counseling people in your club, be honest with yourself. Is the person you hope to be a Leader behaving like a Leader or a manager? If they are due for an upgrade from manager to Leader, they likely already have the tools and capacity to be successful. They may just need to rest. As a Leader member of the board of directors, encourage others to rest by setting the example and leading the way. BR Dr. Ronald F. Cichy, O.M. is professor emeritus, Michigan State University, and Matthew D. Anderson is chief executive officer, Leadership Coaching for Results

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Michael Crandal, CNG is co-author with Gabriel Aluisy of the groundbreaking book The ABCs of Plutonium Private Club Leadership. He can be reached directly at (760) 464-6103

GM/COO’s First 90-DayPlan Before a new general manager/chief operating officer’s first day arrives, it is of mutual benefit if the board of directors and the successful candidate understand this question: “What could we expect to see you doing the first 90 days or so?” While the model below is generic, every capable GM/COO and board can easily tweak the concepts to specifically target the unique needs of the club. Here is a model broken into three distinct components: 1. Identify overall goals 2. Anticipate results of achieving these goals 3. Develop an action plan. UPON ARRIVAL/ FIRST 30 DAYS Goal • Become thoroughly familiar with the culture/traditions of the club • Plant seeds of mutual trust/respect with staff and membership • Open personal interaction with all department heads. Results • Become better prepared to offer recommendations specific to the club, rather than generic • Better position yourself to later make management/leadership decisions based on who the club really is now and where they might want to go in the future. Action plan • Maintain an appropriate visible presence throughout the entire club footprint. • Personally meet staff and membership where they are. Not at your desk. • Focus on people. Not so much on strategic plans, standard operating procedures (SOPs,) etc. — all of that will follow. • Introduce a weekly casual hour for members to meet the new GM/COO over coffee. Limit to 10 at a time. A board member should sit in. ONGOING/SECOND 30 DAYS Goal • Begin diving deeper into club operations • Become thoroughly familiar with the existing club business model and staffing structure. Results • Grow into a valuable “working partner” with the board of directors to offer new perspectives toward both shortand long-range goals • Add polish to existing member experiences and slowly introduce new ideas. Action plan • Spend time with the chief financial officer and club treasurer to fully grasp the complete financial condition of the business side of the club • Become thoroughly familiar with the club’s strategic plan, bylaws, rules and policies as approved by the board of directors 34


• •

“Test” all budgets to ensure that they are supported by appropriate backup Provide visible leadership to maintain employee morale and membership confidence.

ONGOING/THIRD 30 DAYS Goal • Keep the strategic plan alive and moving forward (not something that sits in a three-ring binder collecting dust in the GM/COO’s office) • Establish board-approved SOPs based upon continuous improvement • Introduce a meaningful GM/COO executive summary that the board has confidence in as a reliable and accurate picture of club operations with no need to micromanage the monthly operating statement • Retain top “best of the best” department-head talent/ leadership throughout. Results • A GM/COO who proudly supports the vision of the board and keeps moving the ball down the field • A membership that takes pride in belonging to their club • A staff that takes pride in being part of something very special • A board focused on a clear vision for the club — approving relevant and timely policies, ”tweaking” the strategic plan, funding depreciation, increasing member equity, etc. Action plan • Schedule meetings with the strategic planning committee to make sure everyone is fully invested in a vision for the club • Work with the club president to have a 30-minute update on the progress made in moving the approved strategic plan forward at the top of the board meeting agenda once every quarter • Establish that every month management will prepare a concise, spot-on and 100 percent reliable executive summary and distribute it several days before any board meeting. This is not a “to-do list” that is checked off and forgotten before moving on to the next task. These things are ongoing – not just in 30-day increments, but day after day, month after month, year after year. This general outline can be of value to the entire leadership team (volunteer and professional) in developing a common understanding of what needs to happen the first 90 days when a new GM/COO arrives. Of course, specific departmental areas of concern, staffing challenges and/or financial concerns can be added where needed. Over the years – nothing changes from where we started on Day One – executive management must maintain an appropriate visible presence throughout the entire footprint of the club. (Ongoing.) B R



Larry Hirsh, CRE, MAI, SGA, FRICS is the president of Golf Property Analysts (, a leading golf and club property consulting, appraisal and brokerage firm based in Philadelphia.

Capital Reserves, Clubs and the Surfside Condo Collapse Even structural and other infrastructure items get overlooked as club Earlier this year, I wrote about the need for clubs to boards tend to “kick the can down the road,” preferring to pass on the address deferred maintenance and develop capital obligations (and cost) to the next generation of club members. While plans. not often considered as physically dangerous as a residential building, We had encountered several situations where just imagine what could happen if a structural failure occurred during a the existence of deferred maintenance or capital crowded club event or a storm damaged a less than sound structure. Igimprovement plans, or both have affected value noring necessary tree management can (and has) resulted in fatal storm at private clubs. There’s a difference between damage. deferred maintenance and capital improvements, Disaster could strike. though they may sometimes overlap. Typically, With clubs, it’s kind of like the old “pay me now or pay me later” conplans are developed for both. cept. Those clubs that budget and plan for the inevitable replacement of In the ever-competitive club universe, enhanced these critical but not “sexy” infrastructure items will be prepared when it’s facilities play an outsized role in membership time to act. The club can avoid typically unpopular assessments and avoid satisfaction, membership stability and economic long-term deterioration resulting in excessively increasing costs of memsuccess. bership. Not a good combination. Conversely, deferred maintenance refers to the Private clubs, like HOAs, are notorious for avoiding assessments and club components that may have been neglected, the capital needs suffer as a result. My dad always used to say, “The lonare past their useful economic life expectancy and ger you let a problem go the bigger it grows.” need to be rebuilt or replaced. Capital improveWhen clubs defer funding replacement reserves, this couldn’t be more ments are typically elective while deferred mainteaccurate. Not only does the club lack the resources to address the probnance is usually “mandatory.” lem, but now they must establish a reserve fund so that the next cycle Little did I know how prophetic that would be doesn’t require assessments or need to incur debt to pay for the improvewhen the Champlain Towers South condo building ments as well. collapsed in Surfside, FL on June 24, killing nearly There are both mandatory and elective items. From a funding perspec100 people, injuring many others and seriously tive, they’re all mandatory. In the ever-competitive private club environaffecting the lives of surviving residents of the 136 ment, not only do clubs have to keep the infrastructure in good shape but living units. facilities often require upgrades to keep up with other clubs and maintain As we all now know, the homeowners’ association a stabilized membership. knew about and ignored deferred maintenance of While member-owned private clubs aren’t often thought of in terms of the structural variety and the results were tragic. market value and sale, most of these clubs that sell do so because they Time will tell if legislation is enacted to mandate haven’t funded these needs, and suitors often guarantee capital investfunding for such repairs to avoid future tragedies, ment as part of the deal, which often results in a less than attractive (to especially in residential living units. the club) sale price. The club becomes a motivated seller and the value Condo developers and HOAs often seek to keep declines. monthly maintenance fees low to enhance sales I suspect (and hope) that the Florida condo collapse will encourage and resales, sometimes resulting in inadequate remore clubs to “bite the bullet” and establish adequate reserve funds (with serves. Clubs have a similar problem. associated higher dues). It’s not uncommon for member-owned golf and They could also avoid higher dues and potential assessments and country clubs to balance budgets, fund pet projsimply throw up their hands, selling to suitors who guarantee capital inects or maybe add to the golf course maintenance vestment. It is no longer only about financial considerations. The risk of a budget while ignoring the necessity of long-term tragic disaster like Surfside is now a consideration. capital reserves needed to address the “less-sexy” There are many clubs aware of irrigation systems that need to be items, like replacing the roof, upgrading the heatreplaced, kitchens that require redoing, tree management that’s been ing, ventilation and air conditioning system, repavoverlooked and HVAC systems that need to be upgraded. Not attending ing cart paths, rebuilding bunkers or replacing an to these issues before they become problems can become disasters finanaging irrigation system. cially, legally and personally. B R 36




Peter J. Nanula is chairman of Concert Golf Partners, an owner, operator and all-cash buyer of private golf and country clubs. CGP specializes in recapitalizing member-owned clubs carrying too much debt, converting them to non-equity status, and maintaining the clubs as fully private. | (949) 715-0602 |

Clubs Can Learn from the Surfside Condo Building Collapse Seventy-three million Americans (more than 25 percent of the US We all watched in horror as the Champlain Towers population) currently reside in the nation’s nearly 350,000 community South condo building in the Miami suburb of Surfside, FL collapsed, taking nearly 100 lives and de- associations (which includes condos and homeowners associations), so this issue is getting lots of attention. stroying families. Experts suggest that getting a capital reserve study every three years It is rare for this many fatalities to occur in a is not enough if the association members don’t actually fund the needed building disaster. Surfside is among the top 10 improvements. This is what killed the Surfside residents – the associalargest such casualties, along with 9/11 and the tion knew there was $16.2 million of deferred maintenance that needed Oklahoma City bombing. fixing, but the board had only $777,000 in reserves and was dithering But this is not just a story of structural engiabout additional assessments. neers, building codes and enforcement of those Condo associations often “kick the can” on these improvements. codes. This is a story of how associations fund There is typically a rule that condo boards must set aside adequate cash their ongoing maintenance – which both condo reserves to pay for needed building improvements, but all it takes is a buildings and private clubs deal with. simple majority vote of the condo unit owners who show up at a condo “There is a structural problem with the design board meeting to postpone the need for expensive set-asides. of these associations,” according to Peter Coy of Sound familiar? There is now talk in the HOA and condo industry to Bloomberg Businessweek. “These are inherently make these reserves mandatory and to force condo boards to make the difficult to manage, because they’re run by the assessments and complete the improvements. residents, who generally are not professionals It would not be surprising to see banks who lend to these associations and have mixed motives.” and insurance companies who insure them require these assessments – On the one hand, Coy points out, condo associor you default on your mortgage or lose your insurance policy. ation members (like club members) want to keep Private, member-owned clubs who fund their club capital needs like the property up. On the other hand, they want to condos – through assessments of the members – should insist that all minimize their assessments. Sometimes the decapital needs discovered in the capital reserve study be funded annually sire to minimize the assessments gets the upper through operations or ongoing assessments. Or their boards should hand, and buildings (like clubs) fall behind on consider partnering with organizations like Concert Golf Partners, who needed maintenance. have large balance sheets and fund ongoing capital reserves as a matter “Would you rather put your money into college of company policy. B R education or a new car, or maybe you are planning to move, and you see no reason to assess yourself massive amounts of money for things that will accrue to the benefit of people who will be there after you’re gone.” This all sounds achingly familiar to those of us who have spent time in the boardrooms of member-owned clubs. Tennis members don’t always want to pay for bunker renovations. Golf members often resist non-golf expenditures, like pickleball courts or dining-room upgrades. And older club members think like the condo resident who is about to move – why should I pay a large assessment for things I won’t be around to enjoy? 38



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FRANK VAIN Frank Vain is president of McMahon Group, a consulting and planning firm service to private clubs. He can be reached at


Sustaining the COVID Bounce The headlines on stories citing the positive impact that the pandemic has had on private clubs typically focus on the drivers as a pursuit of safety and security, club membership substituting for vacation or leisure travel and the social distancing aspects of golf and tennis. There is no doubt these factors have combined to increase use and membership at many clubs. They are made tangible in ways that are often difficult to express the benefits of privacy, smaller social circles and dealing with known parties. There is more to this story than safe haven issues, however. The club industry has prospered during the pandemic because it has been a period of action and innovation. Unfortunately, rapid response is often missing in the club world. The tendency is to be bureaucratic and slow to adapt. If the industry is going to extend the success it enjoyed in 2020 and 2021, it should embrace the spirit of adaptation that was kindled by the pandemic. It’s amazing how so many of the successful innovations were simple to do. In pursuit of an outdoor dining option, Manor Country Club near Rockville, MD, initially set up tables around the 10th tee snack bar. Following a positive response from members, they’ve since upgraded the kitchen there, to the point it is now one of the club’s most popular dining and social outlets. The club is contemplating ways to make this a permanent venue. In Arizona, Forest Highlands opened the Hole in One Café on the outdoor deck behind the clubhouse to facilitate quick casual dining and golfers making the turn. They also purchased a food truck and a pop-up barbecue station, creating what is now the very popular Smokey in the Pines. At Kittansett Club south of Boston, the tent erected during the 2020 season was so popular members this year approved construction of a permanent covered bar and casual dining deck in the same location. At John’s Island Club, in Vero Beach, FL, online fitness classes have become so popular and the relationship with the trainers so strong that members continue to participate in them when they are back at their summer homes. Like many great ideas, we look back on these now and say, “Why’d we wait so long?” The unfortunate reality is, however, that without the urgency of the pandemic, it is unlikely these clubs would have moved ahead with any of these projects. They may have come up in committee, only to die on the vine in a world of no.



So, yes, clubs are benefiting from their unique position as a refuge in a world of uncertainty. But they are also benefiting from the rapid and innovative response they took when they felt they had no choice. It is difficult to know where we are in the pandemic. In time, the country might reach herd immunity as more people are vaccinated on their own or because mandates become commonplace. Perhaps COVID becomes something we learn to live with, like influenza. Whatever path we take, the pandemic will recede, and society will be fully open. People will again have more opportunities for travel and recreation, or maybe they will return to the office. If club leaders want to extend the gains they made in the pandemic period, they should never forget that the success they’ve had during this period has been due to the environment and their responsiveness. All too often when club leaders propose changes, they are criticized by members who say they like the club the way it is or that the project will be disruptive, costly and flat out won’t work. The data and experience tell a different story. Clubs are much more likely to get in trouble because of stasis than overinvestment. So, keep innovating and you’ll extend your COVID gains in the post-pandemic world. B R

BILL O’BRIEN Bill O’Brien is senior vice president of operations with Troon, and can be reached at


Broken Tees and Cigarette Butts “I think that you might be so sure that you’re one in a million, that sometimes you forget that out there you’re just one in 11.” – Ted Lasso The definition of service predictability within the private club industry has changed significantly since the beginning of 2020, as the member experience journey weighs more heavily than ever on a club’s unique differentiator. There are several components that make up the overall predictability that today’s members count on, but having a thorough understanding of the experience journey from the perspective of utilization is key. This alone is what provides operators the guardrails to refine what members see, hear, taste, and touch, relative to expectations. As a club operator and now operations lead for nearly 20 years, I am humbled to advance club goals on a daily basis with ownership groups, boards, and on-site leadership teams. Service predictability has been firmly established in my mind by longterm conditioning. As a GM (and still today), I would routinely pick up broken tees, cigarette butts, and other debris. I would often be accompanied by the team, focused on providing a clean environment for guests by routinely walking spaces and dusting, cleaning, or picking up items that were out of place. Pride of ownership was reinforced by these habits, and that mattered immensely to the members and leadership team alike. Looking back, I’m sure I knew how important a clean property was to guests and owners, but I’m not so certain I realized to what extent. Fast forward to 2021 and it’s abundantly clear to me that my experience has provided countless lessons in prioritizing cleanliness, as well as a hands-on education in human behavior, best practices, and creating cultures that transform clubs. This backdrop, underscored by the numerous challenges faced by teams operating in a pandemic environment, has now crystallized the purpose of my work. From where I sit, service predictability isn’t much more complicated than getting the golf course right every day, delivering exceptional meals from every outlet, having the music on, ensuring the umbrellas are up, and never missing an opportunity to greet a member by his or her name. Yet day after day – especially during the frenzy associated with this pandemic – the work that consumes many club teams is rarely inspired by the desire to convey reliable service predictability. Rather, an unintentional approach has taken over and attention to the critical details is left to drift by the wayside. So, if a club’s operational compass needs to be repointed in the direction of doing the intentional work of delivering service predictability, where does one start?



First, realign the team around a clear purpose. Hold an all-hands-on-deck meeting and make the bold statement that, from this day forward, the club will focus on staging each day like it’s opening for the first time: Every day will be grand opening day, and every space will always be prospect ready. These mantras will help rally the troops and shape leadership’s expectations in a way that the team is sure to understand, and thereby advance. Second, use tools to reinforce a clear compass. Regularly circulate photos that illustrate and further define the mantras. Routinely stage spaces to provide examples of precisely how they match expectations. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, manage by walking around. In fact, start by making the rounds to look for those broken tees and cigarette butts. Operators who haven’t been to their turf care facility, inspected an on-course restroom, taste-tested the chef’s special, or checked the TV station in the golf shop on any given day most likely don’t have visibility to the matters that members want most. Polishing up will undoubtedly improve member satisfaction, build a foundation for tackling a renewed commitment to service predictability, and take a critical step forward in setting the club apart from the competition. B R

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Keeping the Bubble from Bursting

Making Risk Management a Priority During the Good Times and, potentially of most interest to private clubs, damaged brand reputation are all real-world consequences of not understanding and addressing the risks your club faces. Effective enterprise risk management also Collins wrote that “as companies move into Stage 3, internal warning helps the club be more agile in response to a signs begin to mount, yet external results remain strong enough to exchanging market or to achieve strategic goals. plain away disturbing data. Stage 3 leaders discount negative data, amFor example, innovation can open new sources plify positive data, and put a positive spin on ambiguous data.” of revenue, such as the pivot to food delivery So how do club chief operating officers ensure that they do not unand pantry services during the pandemic, but consciously move into Stage 3, as Collins defined it? With record setting innovation requires taking risks. When a club activity at most clubs across the country, it seems understandable that has a strong risk foundation, it can effectively the last thing club boards want to spend time on is enterprise risk manmonitor the environment and set up alerts for agement…yet that is precisely what we at RSM are seeing happen at risk controls—and adjust those controls based on many of our highest performing clubs. monitored data. Board leaders at these clubs have been challenging management to 2. Educate staff about rising cybersecurity risks. formalize and institute risk management processes. These requests Consider these data points from our recent arguably are brought on by what board members have experienced in Middle Market Business Index Cybersecurity their corporate lives, and often they fail to allow for the fact that their Report: Ninety-eight percent of cyber insurclubs don’t have the depth of resources to conduct a rigorous corporate ance claims come from small and midmarket approach to risk management. companies; 33 percent of midmarket companies As with many board initiatives, though, that fact doesn’t mean club reported a ransomware attack in 2020; and 51 chief operating officers cannot rise to the challenge. In this article, we percent reported a social engineering attack. will suggest some basic steps to help chief operating officers think about Cybersecurity is a growing risk, and one that building out the risk management framework at their clubs. clubs often aren’t prepared to effectively manage Club leaders have a lot on their plates. With multiple and constantly on their own. As clubs increasingly accelerated varying pandemic challenges and more regulatory issues to manage, their digital transformation due to COVID-19, they cannot address everything on their own. They need cooperation became more reliant on cloud services and third from the entire club, including the board, committees, and key personparties, and had more employees working renel, to provide the resources necessary for a strong enterprise risk manmotely while more members were logging on, agement strategy. they opened themselves to more opportunities They also need to ensure employees are compliant and risk aware to for data breaches, including ransomware, social fully protect their clubs. Today’s increasingly complex work environment engineering and other malicious attacks. can make raising awareness about managing risk and maintaining reguIncreasingly connected clubs need to evaluate latory compliance challenging. the security of their IT systems and communicate 1. Discuss how enterprise risk management benefits the club. the necessary steps and procedures everyone Not having a strong, comprehensive risk program can be costly both must follow to address vulnerabilities. These acin the near term and long term. Non-compliance, cyberattacks, mistions are particularly critical for clubs, which are managed new amenities and other negative events can result in conseincreasingly at risk for cyberattacks. quences that prevent your club from meeting its strategic goals. Legal fees, regulatory fines, unmet budget expectations, operations downtime SEE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE | 115

In his book “How the Mighty Fall,” Jim Collins identified five stages of decline for enterprises. Given the current buoyant state of the club industry, the third stage – denial of risk and peril – is one that many club leaders would do well to review.



s e i g e t a r Club St that Stick Over the past year, clubs ha ve attracted new members at record-b reaking rates.

Make sure they stick aroun d. Now is the time to survey your members, both old and new, to unde rstand what they need and want from their club. Th en, get a strategic plan in place with strategies an d action items to create a sticky club experience with programming, offerings, amenities, servic es, and branding that keep members glued to the club. Let’s stick together. Contact 262.661.CLUB for a free consultation.

Strategic Plans | Surveys | Member Engagement | Operations | Branding | Search

ED DOYLE Ed Doyle is president of RealFood, Hospitality, Strategy and Design, a Troon Company. He can be reached at or (617) 876-2100.


Today’s Kitchen Staffing Challenges Dear Chefs, Our Creativity Is Not Lost

As chefs, our creativity is not lost. It’s simply time to put our culinary ingenuity fresh ingredients, or natural-cut potatoes and onions for easier preparation. to work in a new way. In fact, the quality is often better and more As a trained professional chef, ingenuity and imagination have energized consistent than some of the outputs we see in my culinary career along the way. That same creative drive is not dormant kitchens around the industry. It’s simply an extoday. It is alive with a new challenge at hand: redefining kitchen operations to ercise of creative delegation. Many of us grew deal with pervasive staffing shortages. up with “everything made from scratch” but And the best way to tackle the crisis is with our creative culinary minds. As sadly, those days are dwindling. Keep in mind, we work to thrive in these challenging environments, especially within resort nobody is making Buggy Whips any more— and club operations, we are called to stop “doing what we have always done” times change and we need to as well. and to start asking better questions. Reflect: Does my current team have a susAs an industry, we have little short-term control over staffing shortages tainable workload? and increased labor costs, but we do have authority over our own kitchens Another place we need to rethink is ensuring and our ability to adapt to keep our creativity and quality at the forefront. Reour kitchens are a place where people want to thinking what is “important” is clearly the place to start. work. Operate the kitchen in a way that allows Ask: What are the signature elements of my club’s culinary operation? kitchen staff to maintain quality of life, to learn Begin with defining what makes your property’s dining and culinary experithe mastery of the culinary arts and back-ofence special (not what you think makes you special, but what your diners say house operations, and even enjoy their time makes you special). Identify and star these signature elements and then put while on shift. them aside. The days of the yelling chef, 80-hour work This list distinguishes the dining experience at your property; these pillars weeks and meager pay are gone, and we need make up the core of your culinary operation. They should be etched in stone, to lead that charge and that change. As an inand then everything else is up for creative disruption. dustry, we must help our staff members create Identify: Which steps in my processes can I outsource, so I can reallobalanced lives, have sustainable workloads cate the internal labor to a place that has the greatest impact on our memand, ultimately, enjoy their time as part of our bers and guests? culinary teams. This is hospitality, and if we We walk into countless kitchens, and the chef is standing in the back cutting expect our teams to deliver it, we, too, must steak while lamenting about labor shortages. We ask, “Why are you cutting the deliver it. steak?” The answer: “Hand-cut steaks are a signature to our concept.” MeanYour team is also a valuable source of inwhile, the line cook is 10 minutes behind schedule, entering the quicksand of formation. Sit down with them and ask better dinner service and overcooking these “special” hand-cut steaks. questions. There is a better solution. The chef should be spending time where it makes Ask your team: What slows you down in a difference—on the line observing, plating, communicating and teaching… your daily work? Is there anything we can do instead of portioning steak. more efficiently? That labor can be outsourced to a best-in-class vendor who offers porThis is not a question of the capabilities of tion-cut proteins to spec. And (sorry Chef) that butcher likely does it better the people in your back-of-house positions; it’s with a higher level of accuracy and uniformity. Not only does this reallocate a question of the productivity of your kitchen labor; it helps with waste management and inventory control and, most imenvironment. We need to rely on our teams to portantly, it contributes to the consistency that members and guests look for help us find solutions that drive efficiency. in a club setting. With the right tools and equipment, we can Question: Which menu items are made from scratch? Is there a top-quality slim down the hours to complete many of our product that can be sourced to replace a labor-intensive product? processes. Make 100 pounds of ratatouille We see this same kitchen conundrum with made-from-scratch soups and every week? An automated vegetable-dicing sauces, as well as hand-cut French fries, onion rings and other sides. There is a wide selection of vendors that make soups from scratch with stocks and all SEE F&B COMMITTEE | 115 46


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Bonnie J. Knutson, PhD, is a people watcher. A professor in The School of Hospitality Business, Broad College of Business, Michigan State University, Dr. Knutson is a member of the Country Club of Lansing and the Michigan Athletic Club. She can be reached via email:

Our Life Beyond Skinny Jeans


Not long ago, I was listening to our neighbor’s teen- Squad. For a mere $600,000, you can be the proud owner of one rare agers opine about the fact that they absolutely large-sized Wallace and two regular-sized Wallaces, a Cashew and a Huggy. Apart from being nostalgic and very rare, there is nothing about needed to shop for new jeans. them that warrants such a price tag. Not because the ones they currently have are worn out or don’t fit anymore, but because they just “couldn’t be seen” wearing their old skinny jeans when flared, bell-bottoms, wide leg and boot cut are the new “in” fashion trend. New? Trend? Not from where I sit. There are two things wrong with these teens’ supposition. First, there is nothing new in flared, bell-bottom, wide-leg or bootcut jeans. If you doubt that, just rifle through those old photos that are stuffed in a shoebox or filed away in some album and probably collecting dust on a basement shelf. Or even pull out the one pair that you saved from a bygone era and stuck in the back of your closet because “someday” you will wear them again. News flash! There is an old saying that if you remember wearing it before, you are too old to wear So what does all this have to do with our clubs? Simple. To make it again. (Our daughters reminded me of this more smart decisions about how we allocate our resources – our time, our than once.) talents (staff and members), and our treasure (revenues) – we must Second, the change in the leg width of a pair of recognize and understand the difference between a trend and a fad. jeans is not a trend. It is a fad that is nothing more A fad, by definition, is a short-term event, what some may call a flash than a reincarnation of what some of us probably in the pan. In fashion, of course, it can be a color, or the length of a wore in the 1960s. Ditto with that lava lamp that hemline, or our skinny versus bootcut jeans. maybe sat on a television set in our or our parents’ A trend, on the other hand, has the potential of becoming a longhome. term influence on the future of a business; it is also directional. That is, Remember those? One lighting expert thinks it increases (sustainability) or decreases (formality) over time. Clubs they are back in fashion. “After the horrible year need to focus their time, talents and treasure on trends, not fads bethat has been 2020, it seems people are seeking cause the lifespan of most fads is notoriously short. a touch of nostalgia, with lava lamps making a This difference between a fad and a trend can easily be seen in the comeback,” says Julian Andriuta, CEO of Smart wellness movement. When scientific evidence demonstrated an inverse Lighting Industries. relationship between health and obesity, fad diet plans emerged as did Those bubbly items are hot items in college faddish exercise devices (as still pop up on late-night infomercials). dorms today. Dinner plates covered with a 12-ounce steak and a large baked poAnd don’t forget Beanie Babies. They started tato laden with butter and sour cream started giving way to the healthy out as kids’ toys and have been reincarnated as plate guide of one-quarter protein, one-quarter grain, and one-half highly sought-after collectibles. fruit and/or vegetables. But the food is not the trend. The trend is livIn fact, the most expensive Beanie Babies in the ing longer and living better. The opportunities clubs find in that trend world are reportedly the Large Wallace and his SEE MEMBERSHIP MUSINGS | 52 BOARDROOM | NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021

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tional roles and had to learn new skills. More than half of consumers say the one thing they need more of is time, the second is energy. are different from those found by the QSR indus- Thinking beyond making a dinner reservation online or setting up autotry or the vending industry or even the beverage matic monthly payments, what can you offer members to make it easier industry. to spend their time at the club? The long-term trend toward health and well-beCustomization. While we all want to be part of a community, we ing has affected not only clubs, but wearables, also want things personalized. This trend is perhaps the easiest trend agriculture, energy, indoor recreation, technology, on which you can capitalize because, as the old saying goes, “They mental health…ad infinitum. In fact, some say that may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made the difference between a fad and a trend is the them feel.” number of industries it affects. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. My husband, Bob, always rememA fad often appears in a single industry and bered how special he felt when a server brought out a birthday dessert. rarely crosses over into others. A trend crosses Instead of the traditional cupcake with a candle stuck in the middle, a over into virtually all industries – including clubs little molten lava cake was presented to him on a rimmed white dinner – but offers different opportunities to each. plate. In chocolate script across the top of the plate was written Happy The recent pandemic has accelerated some Birthday; on the bottom, Bob. Simple. Personalized. Effective. trends and diminished others more rapidly than Compelling. This trend brings back one that had its genesis with the we have experienced at any time in history. This publication of “The Experience Economy” and encompasses commuwas confirmed by Accenture’s recent survey of nity, convenience, and customization. And it has fully arrived. more than 25,000 consumers. “Much has changed over the last 20 years, of course, yet one conMore than half say that the pandemic caused stant has persisted throughout: a shift away from merely producing them to rethink their purpose in life and re-evaland purchasing goods and services, to a focus on creating and consumuate what is important to them. They are applying ing experiential value. Witness the many new-to-the-world experiences this new mindset to where, what, and how they that now exist, such as Apple Stores, Airbnb, TopGolf, and Tough Mudbuy. This is what is often termed a generational der, to name a few examples. marker that alters how we think and behave. This “Today thousands of escape rooms, rage rooms, salt rooms, scream is not a short-term fad. This is a long-term trend. rooms, and countless other genres of experience fill the landscape…We How can your club take advantage of this tsunow consume time most of all. Time is the currency of experiences. namic trend? Here are what I call the Fab Four “People value two forms of time: time well saved and time well spent. Trends affecting clubs today and tomorrow: As less time (and money!) is spent on goods and services, less time in from Membership Musings | 50

A fad often appears in a single industry and rarely crosses over into others. A trend crosses over into virtually all industries...The recent pandemic has accelerated some trends and diminished others more rapidly than we have experienced at any time in history. This was confirmed by Accenture’s recent survey of more than 25,000 consumers. More than half say that the pandemic caused them to rethink their purpose in life and re-evaluate what is important to them. They are applying this new mindset to where, what, and how they buy. This is what is often termed a generational marker that alters how we think and behave. This is not a short-term fad. This is a long-term trend. Community. People are social animals; we are not meant to be loners. This makes your club the perfect third place for members. Thinking beyond book clubs and golf leagues, put your creative hats on to develop creative ways for members to connect. Convenience. The old saying that time is money is a driving force as we all have taken on addi52


stores and with call centers, people simultaneously spend more time (and money!) on experiences that engage them in a personal and memorable way.” I could not have said it better. So, the bottom line is this: Trends give rise to new, unique, and value-laden opportunities for your members. What do you see for your club? Your bottom line will thank you. B R

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Frank Wolfe, CAE, is a writer, speaker, and CEO of Hospitality Financial Technology Professionals, a global nonprofit association. He can be reached at

A Dark Side of Digital These criminals rely on websites and email and use social media and Are you or your club unknowingly giving terrorists money and your personal information with your dig- marketing strategies to connect with audiences and exploit audience vulnerabilities, including online questionnaires, free online games, sports ital behavior? gambling, miracle drugs, and political websites. The people who access For those who read my technology column in these sites or respond to certain types of email tend to be predisposed to BoardRoom, funding terrorism is not something I certain feelings and behaviors. would normally address. However, as I write this Information is scraped from different sites and the data is used to (weeks before publication), it is the 20th annivercreate even more accurate profiles of users. Once established, terrorsary of the collapse of the World Trade Center’s ists leverage a combination of online and offline channels to influence Twin Towers. customer behavior. These channels provide cheap and easy access to Quite frankly, I was so shocked at the methods counterfeit, inferior or stolen items and the terrorists are masters at marused by terrorists (and other criminals) to fund keting them. their operations it seemed a disservice if the inforSometimes products and solutions exist; other times the sites are mation was not shared. a temporary front and shut down before anyone realizes they are I recently had a chance to speak with a neighbor, fake. Sadly, these sites have already collected many individuals’ personChristopher Wilder, Moor Insights and Strategy, ally identifiable information (PII) and sold it on the dark web. who is a true hero. For security reasons, all I will say What can be done about it? about him is that he has put his life on the line to 1. A professional website does not equate to a legitimate business. save other lives...multiple times. If there is a company that seems like a new business partner that Today, he is the bestselling author of “Influencing is online, check the domain name using the WHOIS database with the Influencers,” a cybersecurity expert, provider of companies like Network Solutions. If you receive a professionglobal physical security and author for multiple pubal-looking email, hit the reply button and then check out the sendlications, including Forbes and The Boston Globe. er’s domain address. With his permission, I adapted part of his re2. If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is. The internet is ramsearch and his writing, which included former pant with fake merchandise sold as the real thing. No one sells counterfeiters, law enforcement, security profeswine, art, whiskies, and other items that a club normally purchases sionals, intelligence members, and even a former for pennies on the dollar. Chances are very good that these are al-Qaida/ISIS member, now an informant, to offers to buy counterfeit or nonexistent products. understand how terrorist and criminal networks 3. Don’t fall for “clickbait” in an email, text or on social media. Banks are funded and offer simple steps to reduce their don’t send non-secure emails asking to verify the club’s balance, successes. and the club manager is not going to send an invoice that needs to be paid while on vacation. HOW DOES IT WORK? 4. If you use credit cards to make purchases online, use a credit Experts estimate the market for counterfeit card with a low limit that is easy to cancel. Criminals can make goods worldwide is over $520 billion and accounts purchases within seconds of getting a legitimate credit card numfor nearly three percent of the global econber. Although illegitimate charges are typically backed up by your omy. Counterfeiting rings have become bolder credit card, it’s always a hassle to replace a credit card. and more sophisticated, especially during the pan5. Freeze your credit to stop new accounts from being opened illedemic. In many cases, criminals work directly with gally. Although it does create more work to notify credit reporting the originating factories based in Eastern Europe, agencies that you are opening a new account, adding an extra layer Southeast Asia, or elsewhere to “white label” an of security is always a good practice. identical product. Regardless of who is on the other end of the channel, a criminal, a From there, criminals set up clean companies to terrorist, or a jokester, you can never be too careful with your personal purchase the newly labeled products that typically information. Plus, you might even be helping prevent terrorism. BR come from preferable jurisdictions lenient on know your customer (KYC) constraints. 54


BoardRoom magazine Recognizes the Private Club Presidents of the Year By Ellery Platts Now in its 13th year, BoardRoom magazine annually recognizes the world’s top private club presidents, captains and chairs as Private Club Presidents of the Year, for their outstanding work, their understanding of the industry, and role and responsibilities of the club’s board of directors. In this continuing series, BoardRoom introduces five of the top 28 presidents for 2020. The Distinguished Club President was featured in the January/February issue. Private club board presidents play a huge role in professional operations of their clubs as a volunteer working diligently with their board of directors and general managers, striving for well informed, but not emotional decisions. This recognition by BoardRoom magazine has attracted board president nominations from clubs and other nominators around the world. These outstanding presidents exemplify the focus on the leadership responsibilities, the accountability and the management of the board providing a healthy respect for the club’s macro management. They are cognizant of the importance of working, effectively and efficiently, with their volunteer boards and the dedication required from everyone with whom they work. Key elements of a “good” board include commitment, competence, diversity, collective decision making, openness, transparency, effective communication with the management and the membership, fiscal responsibility, development and establishment of the clubs’ mission, vision and policy direction, especially through establishment of a strategic plan. A successful board president draws upon the expertise of other board members, the club’s institutional memory and stewardship of the club’s resources. As well the board president provides new board members and future board presidents with information they need to perform effectively as board members. Congratulations to these outstanding private club board presidents. See pages 58 & 59. View the Distinguished Club Presidents from the past 12 years: TOP PRIVATE CLUB PRESIDENTS SPONSORS




Chris Novy is the true embodiment of the club culture so many aspire to have. He constantly puts his club family first without questioning how it might work out later. To Novy, this family’s security and happiness is everything. His desire to allow this kind of community to flourish paired perfectly with the mixed emotions felt by all in March 2020. “Knowing that the board would later agree, he took the risk of keeping the entire staff fully paid for every day we 56


were closed because of the pandemic, and even approved increases,” says Evanston Golf Club general manager Bryan Polletta. “He wasn’t concerned about what other area clubs were doing, just wanted to provide for our amazing staff and knew they would be loyal in return.” Their gratitude was well expressed, and the club has not just survived but thrived. His generous personality doesn’t end there. When tragedy struck the course with the news that Polletta had lost his youngest child, he sprang into action to give support any way he could. “The board approved the establishment of the Frankie V. Polletta Charitable Foundation and its mission to help at-risk teens dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide,” says Novy. The club has raised nearly $230,000 since the foundation’s creation and hopes to host a second fundraiser soon. “Over the years, Novy has also become a sponsor/endorser to many prospective members with his personable and outgoing attitude,” says Polletta. “Evanston has been referred to as a ‘family’ and perspective members pick up on this feeling immediately.” Recently, the Evanston Golf Club has been experiencing an influx of newer, younger member families. As a result, Novy has moved to approve renovations that will give the club a more modern look and feel to appeal to this growing demographic. Novy joined in 1992, 10 years after his father Fredric joined and was first introduced to club life. His love for all things Evanston rubbed off on those around him, leading to his brother James joining in 1995. He had served as golf chairman and vice president before he became president in 2019, but I think members and staff alike can all agree that the title of president suits him best. His exemplary leadership will be noted for years to come and will forever leave a positive mark on the Evanston community. B R






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During Richard Straughn’s four-year term at Mountain Lake, which ended in April, he successfully re-energized a renovation plan that has been underway at the club’s Colony House for the past 10 years. By insisting on transparency and a “no personal agenda” environment, a plan was developed, vetted by the board and delivered on time and under budget. “In a small and exclusive environment like Mountain Lake, the president must check his ego at the door, empower the leadership team, and make decisions that are of the best interest of the whole membership, including navigating the safety proto-

cols brought on by COVID-19” said Straughn, whose approach has led to a culture of positivity, according to the club’s COO Eric Dietz. “Mr. Straughn’s leadership style is that of empowerment. He subscribes to the belief that in his role, he is charged with identifying the right people, securing their commitment, giving them clarity of direction and his enthusiastic support to let them do their jobs,” said Dietz. One of the most successful initiatives under Straughn’s leadership has been to raise the quality of the Mountain Lake experience, something that is hugely important for the short and long-term. The club has enhanced the quality of each area of its operations and made a series of significant capital investments that both improve the club’s aesthetic and give staff the tools necessary to deliver a higher quality member experience. The result has been increased participation, higher top-line revenues, real inventories at a 25-year low and greater overall member and guest satisfaction. Through Straughn’s efforts, a long-range planning committee was established and a long-range plan is in active development. The club’s board meets five times per year to set policy and focus on strategy and vision, leaving operations to Dietz and his team. “I have been in this business for over 30 years and have never worked with a leader that is not only my president but a mentor, an adviser and a friend. He is encouraging, helps me stay within the “navigational beacons” and has been instrumental in the many short-term successes that we have enjoyed,” said Dietz. A native of Winter Haven Florida, Straughn practices law. He graduated from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Straughn and his wife Tammi make their home at Mountain Lake and are parents to children Marie and James. BR

KRISTI THOUTT, PRESIDENT | RANCH COUNTRY CLUB | WESTMINSTER, CO Thoutt was able to achieve not one, but two major accomplishments during her tenure as president – The first, the development of a strategic plan, and the second confirming a financially secure and long-term future for the club. The Ranch’s strategic plan led to the sale of the club, and in turn its acquisition by Concert Golf Partners. This sale was completed after the member’s voted 97 per cent in support, which further illustrated her vision for their future as the premier family club in the Denver area. “Members now feel secure in the future and direction of the club, which allows them to focus on creating memories,” said general manager Kate Karnik. “The club has become a place for members to bring guests, and to recommend their friends and colleagues. Membership growth is now natural, and the ambience of the club is KRISTI THOUTT, PRESIDENT KATE KARNIK, GM social and connected.” Not only has Thoutt become an impeccable president, her approachable manner Kristi Thoutt kick-started her career more than two and experience have created a space for the membership to connect with their leaddecades ago when she became a business owner in ership on a deeper, more personal level. her home state of Colorado. An active member of the “She has been an inspirational and hands-on leader, and her approach from the community she not only was she running her own beginning has been to learn as much as possible from the staff and the professionventure, but she also gained experience in governals, which served to provide her with valuable insight for making decisions and sugment contracting. gestions,” explained Karnik. She has served on numerous committees and Thoutt was able to revive the club during her tenure through her supported non-profit boards, which have aligned her thinking communication and collaboration, as well as her consistently encouraging ideas for perfectly for her role as club president for the Ranch growth. The current governance model has been based on the strategic plan that Country Club in Westminster, a suburb of Denver. The Thoutt sculpted as the ideal model for the board. The plan allows the board to chancommunity outreach and work to enhance the world nel its focus toward strategy while the general manager and management team around her have guided her motives at the club. handle the club’s operations. By doing this, the transition to Concept Golf Partners “I believe there are different reasons why people has been seamless and allowed members to continue to have autonomy in running choose to volunteer their time,” said Thoutt. “For their club’s operations with access to capital and top of industry leadership. some, it is self-serving, others a civic duty. For a When Thoutt isn’t working, she is focused on her family. Thoutt and her husband few, there’s a desire to help others, to receive nothBrian are the proud parents to three wonderful children. BR ing in return - this has been my intent.” 58


SCOTT URDANG, PRESIDENT | DESERT MOUNTAIN | SCOTTSDALE, AZ capital initiatives to transform our facilities,’ said general manager Damon J. DiOrio. “We have yielded record financial success and transformed our member culture into a positive and desirable club and community. We are honored to be recognized as a top club in North America.” Urdang has provided his members numerous opportunities to directly engage with matters at Desert Mountain, allowing them to communicate with both the senior management team and the board. They are able to do this through monthly forums, open sessions to discuss topics of their choice, and monthly ‘coffee talks’ that allow for a deep delve into individual matters. “Scott Urdang is a highly professional, caring and fully engaged leader who is a good listener and excellent collaborator,” added Damon J. DiOrio. “He is a brilliant SCOTT URDANG, PRESIDENT DAMON J. DIORIO, GM business executive and possesses a servant leadership style that gives credit to everyone else for the success the club has attained.” Scott Urdang took on the role of club president DiOrio explaned that Urdang is not only excellent in business leadership but four years ago but has done nothing but impress demonstrates sincerity with fair and consistent thought to the best interest for the the club’s membership since the first day. membership. To begin, he made it clear that Desert Mountain “Mr. Urdang never has a personal agenda, and always wants to fulfill our vision for needed a transformation. Urdang was able to everyone’s benefit,” said DiOrio. achieve this through the governance model that Aside from the transformation, Urdang updated the club’s 2021-2025 strategic was put in place to focus the board on long-range, plan, and it will be updated annually, preceding the budgeting process. Ideally this strategic initiatives while also being able to delewill lead to the ‘harmonious collaboration’ between senior management, the CEO, gate operating matters to the club’s CEO. Within this transformation Urdang was also able and the board. Urdang earned an MBA in finance from Wharton Business School and a Ph.D. in ecoto introduce a membership vote that initiate renomics from the University of Pennsylvania and taught both at Wharton for 25 years. writing the club’s bylaws. Urdang has set an example for his membership on what a leader should look like and “President Urdang partnered with senior management to reimagine our brand, establish a marketing aspire to be. He has proven himself time and time again in the last four years that he is not only motivated but driven to make positive improvements at Desert Mountain. BR and communications place and develop long-range




“I have always believed in people - culture, tradition and experience - they all begin and end with people,” said Country Club of Buffalo president, Robert C. Walter. “Whatever success we had in 2020 was because of the collective effort and spirit of many.” Before entering the workforce, Walter graduated from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Now, Walter has done many things with his time as club president, the most notable being his empathy and care for the employees at CCB. During 2020, the club was presented with an opportunity to step

up and show the rich tradition that comes with the experiences provided by the club’s employees. “CCB is a great place to work in the good times, it shall be the only place to work in the difficult times,” said Walter on many occasions. Walter created a ‘culture of caring’ at the club that was vital during the trying times presented in 2020. By putting others first, Walter created an experience that attracted the best in the hospitality industry to his team. Throughout 2020, he was able to bring a unique perspective to the club. This perspective was gained when he was a young man working as a caddy, spending years as an active and engaged member of the club community. “Walter was steadfast in supporting our most treasured asset, the staff of CCB,” expressed general manager Nicholas Markel. “Once restrictions began to lighten, he supported and encouraged the team to be creative in providing services while remaining reverent of the rich traditions that make CCB one of the finest clubs in North America.” Walter joined the club back in 2008, and three short years later was named club champion. He has not only served as president, but he initially joined the board after being both nominated and elected to the role in 2018. However, his experience at the club is not a recent development. His time at the Country Club of Buffalo has now spanned five decades in total. First beginning as a caddy, secondly a guest and third a proud member. His time and knowledge of the club itself has proven helpful in the last few years. His understanding of the people around him, along with their needs, sets himself apart from many in his position across the United States. B R



Private Club Industry Has Offered Kevin Reilly A Most Rewarding Career By Dave White, editor

Where does the future lie for the private club industry? “To look forward, we need to look back,” exclaimed Kevin Reilly, a partner with PBMares, LLP. “The industry has changed much over the years and it’s impossible to think that anyone could recognize the current platform. From a bunch of members (usually male) just splitting expenses to the massive businesses many have become is unimaginable. “Since 2000, we’ve had a recession and a pandemic, and the picture of the industry has changed as well. Competition is fierce. From an industry dominated by member-owned private clubs, many more participants are involved now. These range from member-owned clubs to developer-owned to municipal courses to private equity investment to other recreational facilities such as top golf,” Reilly explained. “However, many areas still have too many clubs ... clubs struggling to survive. While not as bad as 2012-2015, public and private clubs continue to close, and more are expected, with the pandemic driving many of the closings. Reilly believes that things for clubs began to turn around in 2015 and that has continued. “When we first started looking at the numbers for 2019, we were very impressed. It happened to be 60


a good year for the club industry. Spending per member was up and back to pre-recession levels. “Membership continued to grow, but still at a very slow pace. Some of the premier clubs had waiting lists again. The economy in general, while good, shows a bigger divide between the haves and have nots and the income disparity increased. Clubs experienced the same trend. The premier clubs succeeded while many other clubs have struggled,” Reilly noted. Then 2020 hit and the COVID-19 pandemic decimated private club activities. “Clubs were forced to close, then things started to pick up over the summer and with the increase in COVID-19 cases in the fall, some states began to pull back again. “The club industry needed to adapt and, all things considered, did so fairly well,” expressed Reilly. “City clubs were impacted the most not only because they had to close, but also because no one was working downtown to use them, even if they did reopen. In addition, much more of a city club’s revenue comes from non-dues sources, which are directly impacted by the closure. And since, in most cases, the cost to join a city club is not as much as a country club, members are more willing to drop the membership,” Reilly suggested. “Businesses also are revisiting the need for maintaining a membership in a club if much of the workforce is working remotely,” as has happened during the pandemic. However, it’s been somewhat different for country clubs that receive around half of their revenue from dues. “This source of funds remained consistent during the shutdowns and reduced service. It also was easier, although not easy, for country clubs to establish remote methods of serving their members, including everything from food-to-go to online bridge clubs to remote committee meetings. It’s also interesting to note that for the successful clubs, they may have more touches with their members, although remotely, than in a normal year,” Reilly explained. Gradually clubs have experienced more flexibility and that has continued into 2021. “Golf rounds remain high and other outdoor activities have taken off. Most country clubs operated summer camps and many of the spa classes moved outside. “Foodservice has taken on a whole new look. Food does connect us and the lack of or reduction of in-person dining has a great impact both with the interaction among members and the bottom line. While in-person dining has come back, clubs continue with food-to-go and added additional outside dining because many members still are hesitant to eat indoors,” he added. So, where does the industry go from here? That raises many more questions for an evolving industry.

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“How do clubs remain relevant for their members? How does the industry adapt to a changing demographic with Millennials now representing the largest age group in the United States? How do clubs go after women, juniors and those who neither play golf regularly nor grew up in a club environment?” queried Reilly. “Generally, successful clubs are those that address this issue creatively. For example, clubs have become more family-friendly over the years and realize they must continue to evolve and change to be successful. But, again, with potential members traveling less, it could be an opportunity for a club to expand its base,” Reilly noted.

Another factor is competition and for clubs that will force change, especially for city clubs. “City clubs need to find ways to reach more people working remotely. In addition, these clubs need to adapt to the new normal. City clubs are becoming much more business-oriented and that may continue in future. With more people working remotely, city clubs will provide flexible office space away from home, but this will require a substantial investment in technology,” Reilly predicted. “The philosophy of these clubs is that business flows out of relationships and it’s important to provide for that access. The generations coming up also do not work a normal workday, so access to the city clubs will move to a 24-7 type of activity. While there will always be room for the traditional city club, there will not need to be as many in any one city. It’s Reilly’s opinion that “Country clubs will bounce back quicker, and stronger in some cases, and the strong will become stronger, but many of the weaker may not survive. These clubs need to keep the creativity they showed during the pandemic and expand on it.” For Reilly personally, it’s been a great experience working with PBMares, one of the top 100 accounting firms in the country. So today, as BoardRoom magazine celebrates its 25th anniversary of involvement in the private club industry, it also marks a long working relationship. “We’ve had an excellent relationship with BoardRoom magazine over the years. We have written numerous articles for the magazine before developing the column – Facts and Figures – that we now do three times a year. In addition, I particularly like being asked for comments for John Fornaro’s Publisher’s Perspective. “Most of my clients read the magazine and I have received comments on specific articles that appear. Finally, working with Gordon Welch (president of BoardRoom Institute, the online education program for a club’s board of directors) has been a lot of fun,” Reilly added. Coming out of college years ago with an accounting degree, Reilly said, “I never thought that I’d end up where I am today.” He left the Chief Counsel’s office of the IRS in 1984 and joined the national accounting firm Pannell Kerr Forster, which had a very large private club practice. He also began to work with the Club Management Association of America, including his first speaking the annual conference in Hawaii in the mid-1980s. “Not a bad way to start my speaking career in hospitality,” Reilly recalled. “My dual experience of hospitality and international tax provides the best of both worlds. I get to travel internationally regularly, and I visit the most prestigious clubs around the country. My career didn’t follow the normal route of an attorney/CPA and I have enjoyed it thoroughly. “The biggest highlight is working and networking with all the professionals who touch the industry in some way. When you can work with leaders such as these, it makes the years go by quickly. It’s always enjoyable to work with a club providing strategic direction so that it can move forward. To take a struggling club and work with management to help turn it around is always a pleasure. “The professionalism of the leaders in the industry just continues to increase and the tools that are now available would surprise even the managers of 10 years ago. Clubs are small businesses (and some not so small), and the biggest change is that they are beginning to be operated that way. “Boards of directors realize that they have a fiduciary duty to the members and the good clubs have boards that look strategically at where the club is and what it will need to do to survive. Board orientations that most clubs go through now were unheard of not that long in the past. “The advent of the pandemic has caused management and boards to focus on survival and how they can truly serve the members. Relevancy has never been more important. While it’s been a tough year for clubs, they seem to be bouncing back and the good ones are coming back stronger,” he added. SEE REILLY - 25TH ANNIVERSARY | 114




Leadership training and coaching g

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Helping Private Clubs Succeed The Hallmark for Steve Graves and Company By Dave White, editor “What most people don’t know is that in 1980 and age 23, I borrowed $110,000 at 21 percent interest to become the head golf professional at Manhattan Country Club in Manhattan, Kansas. “I owned everything at this member-owned club (carts, driving range, pro shop, a percentage of green fees and locker rentals),” explained Steve Graves, owner of Creative Golf Marketing And that venture launched Graves onto a very successful path in the private club industry. Today his firm, CGM, is one of the industry’s premier consulting firms. Earlier this year, BoardRoom featured a story about Henry DeLozier, who eyed a career as a professional golfer but then used it to launch a career as a consultant in the private club industry. “Like Henry DeLozier, I too was a talented amateur golfer and wanted to put my talents on display at Oklahoma State University. We both attended OSU and I enjoy saying that I was a ‘walk on’ and Henry was an All American,” Graves related. “Like Henry, I knew that if I couldn’t beat the other 11 players on the OSU team, I certainly would not be able to make a living playing golf. So I took the similar path of getting into the golf business as a ‘golf professional’ rather than a ‘professional golfer.’ That decision to work at private clubs ended up being the springboard to Graves’ current career as a private club consultant. “Owning everything at the member-owned Manhattan Country Club allowed me, at a very young age, to be in the board room watching the dynamics that played out. And did they play out! Very smart businessmen/women making really bad business decisions about an industry they thought was not very complex or comprehensive. Since I had invested a lot of money, I was allowed to attend and speak up,” he added. “Everyone who knows me knows that I’m not shy to speak up. My time at Manhattan gave me the knowledge and courage to start a marketing/consulting company because I believed that I knew more about running a private club than the doctors, bankers, lawyers, accountants, and insurance agents that were tasked with overseeing the club’s short and long-term success.” And today, as BoardRoom magazine celebrates its 25th anniversary of involvement in the private club industry, it also marks a long working relationship with Steve Graves and Creative Golf Marketing. “My relationship with John Fornaro and BoardRoom magazine probably is similar to most who have been involved with the magazine over the past 25 years. When I met John, he shared his vision and goals about a magazine specific to the private club industry. “John has always been a visionary and someone who, when he recognized a void, has been quick to come up with exciting and unique ways to fill that void. John recognized that no magazine, at that time, was designed to speak specifically to the ‘member-owned private club dynamic.’” Graves explained. “And the name of the magazine portrays the specific peculiarities and dynamics of the goings-on and happenings inside the board 64


room. John understood how poorly the dynamics of those board rooms functioned and he has had a desire to educate the industry through a magazine that’s very specific to ‘member-owned clubs.’ “But John needed companies to believe in his concept and to spend advertising dollars on a new magazine that, at the time, only happened to be a vision. I believe that Dick Kopplin (simply then Kopplin Search) and Creative Golf Marketing were two of his first advertisers. “Dick and I are both very grateful to John for getting us involved early with his vision. It’s ended up being a win-win-win relationship for all three of us. My relationship with John and BoardRoom magazine has been very beneficial to the growth and success of Creative Golf Marketing,” Graves enthused. The highlights of this relationship are very simple, Graves says. “When I’ve advertised with John and the BoardRoom magazine, the phone would ring off the hook. The magazine is so well-read and so well respected that all of us who have advertised enjoyed a big boost in interest in our organizations because of the advertising and editorial content we contribute. “The editorial content has been an enormous benefit to all of us consultants,” Graves explained. “The platform we are given is very powerful and provides us with the gravitas associated with

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being recognized by BoardRoom magazine as worthy of offering our insights and recommendations. “We couldn’t wait for the BoardRoom to be published and mailed out every issue because the phone calls were absolutely palpable. Twenty-five years ago, CGM was a two-man band. “With my long-time friend and partner, (Kevin Morganfield), very few clients, very little revenue, and nothing at all of an advertising budget we needed to be validated. Our involvement with BoardRoom magazine literally put Creative Golf Marketing on the map and has been an enormous springboard to our current success,” Graves emphasized. But how have Graves and his cohorts at Creative Golf Marketing been able to penetrate the private club market? 66


“I asked John, how the heck can I get private clubs to use my company’s services? He looked me in the eye and said, ‘They won’t call you until they feel pain. Without pain, the dynamics in a private club board room is to not want, need or use consultants.’ It’s a phrase I’ve used for 25 years,” Graves intoned. “’Advertise and message toward the perceived pain in the board room,’ John said. Best advice I’ve ever been given. “When private clubs started to need more members, we simply advertised that CGM would bring them more members. If someone has a headache, tell them you can make their headache go away. So we advertised early and heavily about producing new members and the revenues associated with such growth. That message still resonates to this day.” It’s been an interesting 25 years for Steve Graves and company. “Lots of competitors have come and gone, but 25 years later, with John and BoardRoom magazine as our partner, Creative Golf Marketing has successfully performed marketing consultations for 1,600 different private clubs (out of a potential pool of around 3,500!). “I’d also like to highlight the fact that our son, Jonathan, has come on board as our ‘creative director.’ His involvement with the company has taken us from a marketing company to a marketing agency as CGM has become more comprehensive and sophisticated with the creative services we offer to our private club clients. Having my son as an integral part of the success of our organization has made me very happy as an owner and very proud as a father,” Graves raved. “The most significant highlight for my Creative Golf Marketing team has been our involvement in furthering the success of private clubs and the professional success of the marketing teams at the club for whom we have performed marketing consultation. “Interestingly, all of our consulting relationships involve increasing the revenues of our private club clients. We are proud that those revenues provide a climate for positive strategic planning success and implementation by our private club clients,” Graves emphasized. So, where does the future lie for Graves and the private club industry? “The future of the private club industry is very, very bright. However, that prediction is not simply hope but rather being aware and cognizant of what has happened to the private club industry when there have been economic downturns or catastrophic events. “When you look at the most recent catastrophic events in life (September 11th, financial crisis of 2008 and the pandemic of 2020/21), we’ve always found the private club industry to be resilient and the fall back ‘third place of comfort for affluent consumers,’” Graves related. “Whenever times are bad, affluent consumers recognize how important relationships, safety and quality lifestyle opportunities are to them and their families. When life is good, many other competitors attempt to lure the discretionary time and dollars of affluent consumers. “I admire the efforts of private club leaders to continue to improve the many lifestyle benefits of private club life. However, when you focus on the core component of private clubs, relationships, then the private club industry will continue to flourish, regardless of short-term circumstances such as Covid19,” Graves predicted. The private club industry has also had a great impact on Graves’ personal life. “Although I’m a very outgoing individual, I’m rather reclusive in my hometown. My personal and professional life are almost identical. Some of my dearest and closest friends have come from my 31-year relationship in the private club industry. “One of the most humbling aspects of my career in the private club industry is how club leaders, managers and fellow consultants have treated me as more of a friend than as a ‘vendor.’ “The respect and kindness that has been so commonly and generously extended to me has brought me as much personal friendship and joy as the SEE GRAVES - 25TH ANNIVERSARY | 114

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Craig J. Smith ASID is founding partner and co-creative director at C² Limited. Craig is an award-winning designer who is widely known for bringing his out-of-the-box, all-things-possible strategic planning approach and creative eye to every assignment the firm takes on. As a hospitality designer, Craig has garnered acclaim for his luxurious and experiential designs infused with interior architectural detailing that create a sense of space and place uniquely positioned for each clubhouse and campus.

Strategy-Based Design: Master Planning After COVID As a designer and clubhouse stylist, I always enjoy discovering new approaches and trends to aid our country club partners. Just as 9/11 changed air travel, COVID has transformed the private club industry. As a result of the pandemic, people want to escape to where they feel safe and secure. Unable to vacation in far-off places, they are spending their disposable income locally. Private clubs offer the perfect solution, idyllic settings with incomparable lifestyle offerings. Clubs with golf facilities allow players to distance outdoors socially. With the reopening of the golf courses and club amenities, it is essential to have a master plan for project visioning and implementation; we dubbed it “Strategy-Based Design.” Strategy-Based Design is the opposite of “quick-fix solutions” that clubs experience during economic downturns. Well-intentioned members suggest fast and easy décor choices that do not necessarily resonate with the architectural vernacular and history of the club. They also may not be made of durable commercial-grade materials or are sometimes not compliant with fire codes. These quick fixes often result in spending without substance or context to your clubhouse, member demographic, or club DNA. We define Strategy-Based Design as a universal approach to the artistry and stewardship of club design. The club’s unique brand, membership demographic, and overall long-range planning strategies dictate the aesthetics and execution of each design change and facility upgrade. Strategy-Based Design has proven to be a primer for implementing positive growth at any club. Whether it is a well-tuned club operation that has fallen on hard times or even an emerging club property in the early stages of development, Strategy-Based Design is the common thread. Post-COVID, this new model of thinking will position a club for long-term success. B R



Six Key benefits of Strategy-Based Design 1. Provides a systematic approach to your clubhouse design aesthetic via long-term strategic planning, enabling you to identify, vet, and support every property change your team is considering implementing. 2. Provides design solutions that exude clubs’ brand and uniqueness, ensuring the improvements you implement align with your club’s DNA, message, and any geographical or historical significance. 3. Provides a multi-phased aesthetic road map that can be implemented over time depending on available capital. 4. It moderates the integration of technology and trends, ensuring you weigh which trends and technology are suitable for your club and member demographic. 5. It maximizes the use of and return on capital expenditures; Strategy-Based Design makes you more efficient and your decisions more effective. 6. Ensures you maintain your competitive edge the key to any operation. It will keep you ahead of the competitive curve. No matter your club’s geographical location, member demographic, or value proposition, your clubhouse and facilities need to stay relevant and fresh as it relates to your unique club DNA to maintain membership count. It makes an operation more efficient with time, the expenditure of the resort’s staff and consultants hours, and ensures that a clubhouse effectively budgets and spends its capital wisely. B R


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Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace Continues Expansion

Michael G. Smith, CCM, CCE, ECM joining KK&W as a Search & Consulting Executive Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace continues to methodically add the brightest roles at The Union League Club of Chicago, Hilton and most accomplished industry executive talent to the team. We would Restaurant Group, the Country Club of Ithaca in NY, like to welcome the esteemed Michael G. Smith, CCM, CCE, ECM who will be and as GM/COO at Penfield Country Club in NY. Most recently, while leading the team as GM/ joining us in January, 2022 as a search and consulting executive. COO at The Country Club of Rochester, Michael Smith has been an industry professional for 30 years—managing has achieved several notable accomplishments . . . clubs for more than 20 of those. Most recently he is serving as the • He was instrumental in leading a $6 milGM/COO at The Country Club of Rochester in NY; a club nationally lion-dollar club capital improvement project, recognized by Platinum Clubs of America and BoardRoom’s Distinwhich added key amenities that focus around guished Clubs. Smith’s extensive career in club management has profamily and state of the art facilities for casual dinvided him the knowledge and experience to work with clubs seeking ing, pool and fitness. to establish a road map to the future. He brings a wealth of industry • Smith led the process in establishing capiand community expertise to the firm and will soon put that knowltal budgeting procedures, which was instrumenedge to work for you. tal in planning for future capital projects at the “Michael represents the continued organic growth of our company club and recently lead a $3 million-dollar capital and our practice has been to add quality people, not only when there is campaign in 2021. a need, but also when we think their skill set and personality would be SEE EXECUTIVE SEARCH SHOWCASE | 91 additive to the KK&W team and culture. Michael grew up in the private club world, observing and learning from his mother, Mary, who was also an accomplished club general manager. He has demonstrated 20-plus years of leadership in the club industry, earning his CCM and CCE while being awarded the ECM designation. We believe Michael’s skills, experience and connectivity will make him an outstanding partner for our clients and candidates,” stated the KK&W partners. “I have been incredibly fortunate throughout my career in the private club industry. The connections and relationships I have built - with both club members and colleagues both nationally and internationally - speak to the remarkable nature of this profession. Club management has always been incredibly rewarding for me. As a leader in this field, I recognize the necessity of mutually beneficial practices. I know the importance of creating a supportive and collaborative working environment, where staff and peers are encouraged and lauded in their professional development and exchange of best practices. I fully anticipate my experience will continue as I transition to my new role with Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace. I am excited and honored to be joining the KK&W team. I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with Tom Wallace and Sam Lindsley on various successful projects throughout the years and have always enjoyed the educational opportunities KK&W have provided. I am thankful that I will be among a group of colleagues that has shown me the stalwart mission of their great organization,” Smith responded. Smith began his career in hospitality at The Rochester Yacht Club. From there, he furthered his career in management and leadership 70


“I would highly recommend that all Club leaders attend a President’s Council event. The opportunity to discuss such relevant data-driven information that is supported by decades of hands-on experience from the industry’s most highly regarded experts is truly indispensable in our quest to remain on top of our game and provide our members with the most exceptional day-to-day experience.”

Attendee at the CLA President’s Council November, 2021 Carmel Country Club, Charlotte, NC














Specializing in GM/COO, CEO, Assistant General Manager/Clubhouse Manager, Director of Food and Beverage, Executive Chef, Director of Golf/Head Golf Professional, Golf Course Superintendent/Director of Agronomy, Director of Tennis/Director of Racquets, Fitness & Wellness Director, Chief Financial Officer, Director of Finance, Controller, Human Resources Director, Membership and Marketing Director Searches, and Consulting Services for Private, Resort and Developer Owned Properties, Clubs and Communities as well as Senior Living Communities and Property Owners Associations.



















Dave Doherty is CEO and founder of the International Sports Turf Research Center, Inc. (ISTRC) and holds three patents regarding the testing of sand- and soil-based greens. He can be reached at (913) 706-6635 or via email:

The State of the Industry Editor’s note: This article was first published in the Nov/Dec issue of Boardroom in 2011. Today we have weather and COVID issues. These words apply as much today, if not more so, than they did in 2011 because the article relates to the entire staff, in the clubhouse and on the grounds.

The last few years have been the toughest, roughest, most stressful and difficult years the sports turf industry has ever known. First, the recession that started sometime in 2008 and continues today. In many parts of North America the recession concerning employment and available recreational dollars is worse today (November – December 2011) than in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Most would agree that this difficult time has been ongoing for over three years and shows no signs of getting better in the near future. Most golf courses and other recreational facilities have had to cut their maintenance budgets by 10 to 40 percent during this period. On the maintenance side of the industry it is understood that cuts are necessary, and most golf course superintendents and sports turf managers have adjusted and are doing a remarkable job with less funds, staff and other resources. Earlier I had written an article about a general manager of a golf course in the Midwest part of the United States and pointed out that one of his first actions as the new general manager was to call a meeting of the department heads. In that meeting he informed them that “they would each have to do a little more with a little less.” I’m still involved with this course, and this mindset of doing a little more with a little less has been very successful and the morale of the staff and the club membership is steady at a very high level. This club has a staff from top to bottom of personnel that think and operate together in a calm, rational manner and base their decisions on knowledge, science and experience. In addition to recreational dollars being at an all-time low, Mother Nature has been extremely cruel in many parts of North America and the rest of the world. We have had extreme moisture followed by heat that has set all-time records, and in some cases the moisture and heat have come at the same time. In areas such as Texas we have had over 60 days of 100-degree temperatures and severe drought. As a result,



the stress on bent grass facilities has never been greater. With the prolonged heat, we were, in most cases, unprepared and suffered a tremendous amount of lost turf. We learned from 2010 that in such heat-induced stress conditions our plants needed more air movement on the surface and more oxygen to the root system. With this knowledge, we were better prepared for the heat and stress that came to us in 2011. In most cases, the greens just needed better surface air movement and more oxygen in the root zones. Courses that suffered severe damage in 2011 because of heat/moisture stress need to look at the physical properties of their soils as well as the soil chemistry, disease and insects. In 90 percent of cases, if science shows that our physical and chemical properties are acceptable, we have no disease or insect issues and our irrigation water is acceptable, then that only leaves tree root invasion, lack of oxygen in the root zone and or lack of air movement on the surface. Shade or lack of sun accounts for the other nine percent of turf loss. I have no clue what would cause the other one percent, except for maybe equipment malfunction or moisture barriers left in place too long in low-lying areas around the green. Whew, there’s more to this thing of having healthy greens, tees and fairways than one would first think. The state of the industry is what it is and it’s not going to change very quickly. We need to learn from the past and improve our surroundings and our future based on science and common sense. B R

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Angela Hartmann is GCSAA associate director, communications To learn more about GCSAA’s wide range of continuing education opportunities for the golf course management industry, visit

Solutions for Golf Course Management Coming to February’s GCSAA Conference and Trade Show Known as the Golf Industry Show since 2005, the event Education, networking and the latest industry innovations will was rebranded as the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show be showcased at the 2022 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in June. It will continue to offer a dynamic week of unparalFeb. 5-10 in San Diego. leled education, networking opportunities and access to golf The Golf Course Superintendents Association of course and facility management solutions for golf industry America is producing the event along with presenting professionals. partners the Golf Course Builders Association of Amer“The GCSAA Conference and Trade Show rebranding was ica (GCBAA) and American Society of Golf Course Arnot about changes to the event but is based on the strength chitects (ASGCA) and participating partners the United of the GCSAA brand,” GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans said. States Golf Association (USGA), National Golf Course “As GCSAA’s brand recognition has grown over the years, Owners Association of America (NGCOA) and National it makes sense to have our premier event share in that. Along Golf Foundation (NGF). with our partners, we’ll still feature opportunities for collaboration and team building among superintendents, architects, builders and more.” The 2022 GCSAA Conference will return to an in-person gathering after the 2021 event was held virtually due to the pandemic. The event will kick off with the GCSAA Golf Championships Feb. 5-7 in San Diego and will include play at Torrey Pines, site of the 2021 U.S. Men’s Open. The conference portion will begin with a welcome reception on Monday night aboard the U.S.S. Midway. The bulk of education and the trade show will be condensed to Tuesday through Thursday in order to offer attendees the full event experience while requiring fewer days away from work and home. In addition to the physical conference, virtual education opportunities for your whole facility will take place after the live event for those who can’t get away, want specialized education for their crew or just want to learn more. “We are working with San Diego officials to ensure a safe environment, and we remain vigilant in monitoring federal, state and local conditions. We will keep attendees informed about specific measures or mandates that may be required during the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show,” Evans said. “We are confident that the 2022 GCSAA Conference and Trade Show will provide an engaging and informative atmosphere along with the peace of mind that the highest standards of safety will be in place during our conference and show.” For more information, to see the complete education lineup and to register, visit BR 74


STEVE SCHENDEL Steve Schendel is vice president, Golf Maintenance Solutions. He can be reached at (630) 220-5977 or via email:


Hiring – The Next Level We all know that finding good labor has historically been a challenge. Every year and with each visit to golf courses throughout the country, finding and retaining good people is a priority. The pandemic has brought new challenges to the labor market, and finding help is more difficult than we ever imagined. There have been numerous articles and discussions about how to fill your roster and many new good ideas are emerging. Like it or not, the game has changed and how we hire has had to evolve. Labor has been and continues to be an important part of how we do business in golf course maintenance. That good labor is hard to find is not new to us, and we continue to look for new ways to ensure we have proper levels of staff to produce quality maintenance standards.

may be fewer quality superintendents available. When helping golf courses look to hire new superintendents, we still usually field a fair amount of resumes for the position. I do think that the number of quality resumes has reduced though over the years. There are good candidates out there, but it does seem that as the industry and the world continue to change, so does the labor pool for management positions at golf courses. As good superintendents get closer to retirement there may be even more of a shortage of quality candidates. The reality is that while finding good hourly labor is a challenge, so is finding good salary positions, such as superintendents and assistant superintendents. So how can you make sure that you will have quality managers for your golf course maintenance operation?

As we near the end of 2021, start planning who will be the next employee to get to “the next level” in 2022. We know that hiring good employees at all levels is becoming more and more difficult. This is a trend that doesn’t appear to be getting any easier in the near future, so keep building your bench and plan ahead for when you may need to fill your “next level” positions in golf course maintenance. Something that also has been changing is the need for hiring at “the next level.” Our hourly wage employees are very important when it comes to producing a quality product, but what about the next level of employees? By this I mean what about superintendents and assistant superintendents? Even before the pandemic, we began to see a job market that had more demand for assistant superintendents and less supply. This is because of various reasons, but when looking at turf programs, the number of golf course maintenance students has been on a downward trend over the past five to 10 years. As a result, the ability to hire quality turf students has become more and more difficult. The demand is still there for good assistant superintendents, but the supply seems to be shrinking more and more. Now let’s jump ahead to the next level after assistant superintendents. Finding good superintendents. As you can imagine, with fewer turf students and fewer quality assistant superintendent candidates, eventually there 76


It really starts with building your bench now. Many clubs have excellent golf course superintendents in place but making sure you are training up your assistant superintendents and other key employees to get to “the next level” is one of the best ways to ensure you have continuity and sustainability in golf course maintenance at your club. While most superintendents do a good job of training their assistants to become superintendents, it’s important to start looking at other quality employees on your staff and identify who may be your next foreman or assistant. As we near the end of 2021, start planning who will be the next employee to get to “the next level” in 2022. We know that hiring good employees at all levels is becoming more and more difficult. This is a trend that doesn’t appear to be getting any easier in the near future, so keep building your bench and plan ahead for when you may need to fill your “next level” positions in golf course maintenance. B R

Are you looking to hire a new director of tennis or racquet sports at your club? USPTA DirectorSearch has the expertise to conduct a comprehensive selection process that ultimately leads to a great hire. NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021 | BOARDROOM




Melissa Low, CAE, is the senior director, communications and advocacy, for the Club Management Association of America. For the latest information on these and other issues affecting the club industry, please visit CMAA’s Legislative Report blog at

Legislative and Regulatory Update The rollback and implementation of impactful federal regulations affecting the club industry continued into the fall. Here’s the latest information on the Waters of the US, the tip credit, and recently announced and forthcoming health and safety guidance and mandates by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Department of Labor (DOL). Waters of the US In June, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its intentions to revisit the definition of the Waters of the US (WOTUS). The EPA announced that it planned to initiate a new rulemaking process that would restore the definition in place before the implementation of the 2015 WOTUS rule and ultimately develop a new rule to establish a “durable definition” for the future. This new process was expected to dismantle the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (2020 NWPR) which has been in effect and enforceable in most states since June 2020. The 2015 WOTUS rule dramatically expanded federal jurisdiction over waters and wet areas in the US, including most water bodies on golf courses. It was repealed by the Trump Administration and replaced with the 2020 NWPR. The NWPR provided clarity about what waters fall under federal versus state jurisdiction and instituted clear rules for property owners. In August, the EPA began soliciting general comments about the rule and gave interested parties 30 days to respond. Meanwhile, pending litigation was resolved in Arizona when a federal district court vacated the 2020 NWPR, effectively dismantling the rule nationwide. Following the ruling, the EPA has indicated it will return to using the pre-2015 rules for enforcement and implementation. Further, the EPA is expected to officially repeal the 2020 rule through the official rulemaking process in the fall. The entire process leaves property owners, including golf courses and clubs, with a lack of clarity moving forward. DOL proposes new rule to clarify use of the tip credit On June 21, the DOL announced a proposed rule that will limit the amount of time that tipped employees can perform non-tipped work when an employer utilizes the tip credit. This marks a move away from the 80/20 guidance previously used by the DOL. An employer can only use the tip credit when a tipped employee is performing labor that produces tips and labor that directly supports tip-producing work, as long as it is not performed for a substantial amount of time. The proposed rule defines a “substantial amount of time” as either (1) exceeding 20 percent of the hours worked during the employee’s workweek or (2) performing for a continuous period of time exceeding 30 minutes. Once an employee reaches this threshold, the em78


ployer must pay the federal minimum wage. In the proposed rule, the DOL provided specific examples of tipped work to provide more clarity to employers. The examples for servers and bartenders are especially relevant to the club industry. For servers, tip-producing activities include waiting on tables, cleaning tables to prepare for the next customer, folding napkins, preparing silverware, garnishing plates before serving food to customers, and sweeping under tables if it is performed in and limited to the dining room. Activities that are not tip producing include food preparation and cleaning bathrooms. For bartenders, tip-producing activities include making and serving drinks, talking to customers, preparing fruit to garnish prepared drinks, wiping down the surface of the bar and tables in the bar area, cleaning bar glasses and implements used to make drinks behind the bar, arranging the bottles behind the bar, briefly retrieving from storage area a particular beer, wine, or liquor, and supplies such as ice and napkins. Activities that are not tip producing include food preparation and cleaning bathrooms. This action is a continued effort by the DOL to reexamine and amend the 2020 Tip Final Rule. The DOL accepted comments on the proposed rule through Aug. 23. The final rule could come as early as early winter. OSHA: COVID-19 workplace guidance and vaccine mandates Through the year, OSHA provided updates on workplace safety guidance related to COVID-19. In August, OSHA expanded information on worker protection measures for higher-risk workplaces with mixed-vaccination status workers, particularly for industries where there is often prolonged close contact with other workers and customers. Of note for club workplaces, OSHA made two additional recommendations: • Fully vaccinated workers in areas of substantial or high community transmission should wear masks in order to protect unvaccinated workers • Fully vaccinated workers who have close contacts with people with coronavirus should wear masks for up to 14 days unless they have a negative coronavirus test at least three to five days after such contact. Further updates should be expected as OSHA has committed to regular reviews of the guidance every 30 days. In early September, the Biden Administration directed OSHA to develop a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any unvaccinated workers to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to implement this requirement and provide more specifics on employer qualification and implementation. B R

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Collaborative Governance the Key to Success At The Club at Admirals Cove “However, newer and younger members had fresh Collaborative club governance can be the roadmap to success at your ideas and wanted to be innovative and be relevant. private club. They wanted more kids’ activities, restaurants open That’s because collaborative governance lays down the roles and later and year-round family events. responsibilities of the club’s board of directors while leaving the “We faced the challenge of these younger members day-to-day operation to the club’s general manager/chief operating not being represented on the board and I had to be officer and senior managers. their voice. As a GM, you don’t always have to agree This means the board establishes the overall direction to ensure with the board, but remember, they are looking for the club meets the club’s member experience goals as laid out in the leadership, not ‘yes’ people. The board is looking at you club’s strategic plan. And that’s the way it is for Brett Morris, chief opto guide the club. It’s not always rosy, but as long as you erating officer and general manager, and his president, Joe V. McCart, have an agreed-upon vision and mutual respect, you and board of governors at The Club at Admirals Cove in Jupiter, FL. will be successful,” Morris opined. “I have worked with numerous boards throughout my career. Some “There are numerous keys to our success at Admirals were hands-off and some were very hands-on,” Morris explained Cove. First, it’s crucial that, as GM, you have a strong recently. relationship with your club president. I speak to my “It’s those early career lessons that have helped me become sucboard president regularly, day and night, and I will tell cessful at Admirals Cove. We believe in a collaborative governance you he is the most engaged and supportive president model. The board and I discuss strategic planning, our vision and the with whom I’ve ever worked. I use my board members financial outlook of the club. The board sets the policy and holds my as my eyes and ears. They give me regular feedback... management team and me accountable for the daily operations.” some of it great news and at other times areas of “The board’s responsibility is to set policy, support the general concern. This data is valuable to make sure we are manager and hold them accountable,” concurred McCart. “In addelivering on our strategic direction and membership dition, you need a strategic plan with proper financial controls and experience.” board oversight. McCart agreed. “An important point: the board’s decisions should be driven by what’s best for the club rather than contemplating what you think the members may say or think. To me, that’s a very poor thought process because the members elected the board to make decisions, not to try and guess what the members may want you to do. “You must have thick skin as a board member because no matter what decision you make, there will be a certain portion of the membership that will disagree. So make the best decisions you can as a fiduciary to the club and you can find comfort in knowing you acted in the best interest of your club and members,” McCart added. THE VISION “Our vision is to provide our members with a world-class membership experience. However, we cannot rest on our laurels. We must always deliver the highest quality of programs, facilities and be up to date with the latest trends in our industry,” Morris said. “It’s important that the general manager maintains a very open relationship with the board, allowing for open and honest communication, even when you disagree on different approaches. I worked at one club where the average age was significantly older and therefore, they wanted things done a certain way...’ the way they had always done it.’ 80


“Brett and I speak daily and often multiple times a day. We have problem-solving meetings and other times just discuss improving or enhancing our members’ experiences. “A frank and collaborative relationship between the board and management is crucial to success. This has been especially true during the pandemic where we were in uncharted waters. So it was a perfect storm almost immediately after Brett joined management and I was elected to the board and elected president,” McCart added. “We were hit on multiple fronts – COVID-19 causing the closure of all our facilities, some multiple times because of positive COVID-19 tests among employees, to some dissatisfied members and a general lack of confidence in the board and management. “Fortunately, after a fairly difficult process and listening to the members’ concerns and addressing the real issues, communicating through various forms, the members responded resoundingly in support of the positive changes from the board and the general manager,” explained McCart, one of BoardRoom’s most outstanding president selections for 2020. “You cannot internalize the negative comments. You need to be open to constructive criticism and take that feedback and do something about it. You are working for the members and it’s your job to make sure you are delivering on the club’s promise,” Morris injected. “There is no room for complacency. You cannot wait for a board member to share a complaint; you have to go out and solicit them.” MEMBER FEEDBACK Morris explained that every six months, the club surveys its members. “Instead of one long survey that covers every part of our operation, we fragment them so that we get more engagement. So, for example, one survey can focus on golf and our racquet program while another can be devoted to food and beverage and our events. “Member feedback holds us accountable. We share this information with our board and discuss where we are missing the mark or how my management team and I plan to adjust,” he added. “Being nimble is crucial to our success. Think about what we all learned during COVID-19. A good crisis plan is one thing but being prepared for a worldwide pandemic is another. “I knew what we needed to do, and it had to happen quickly. The board and I got together and put in a testing facility on-site for members and staff. We expanded our to-go options, changing menu options weekly; we hosted drivethrough events and updated our communication, so everyone was in the loop. Health and safety stayed at the forefront of what we accomplished while having some fun during our season of social distancing,” Morris said. The average age for members at Admirals Cove is 59. But the club has seen a massive influx of younger families moving in to enjoy the first-class amenities and lifestyle. “We have nine board members, selected by a nominating committee, who are members in good standing, and that have participated on a club standing committee,” he explained. “The nominating committee is separate from the board, and the role of the nominating committee is just that – to nominate a person they feel would be a great addition to the board. The goal is to nominate well-intentioned members who are not driven by personal agendas. You want people who are interested only in what’s best for the club. I believe having a diversified board is important so that different age groups, areas of interests, etc. are included,” Morris stressed.


JOE V. McCART, PRESIDENT It hasn’t always been the case for Morris during his time as a general manager. “At one club where I worked, there was a member that did not like the food. Her goal was to get on the board and make radical changes to our food and beverage program. But, think about what would have happened if she and her like-minded colleagues got on the board? There would be total disruption and the club would suffer.” Morris also feels board term limits are important. “If you have a board member that stays on too long, it can stymie growth. A lack of fresh ideas halts innovation and can affect how you stay relevant and up to date with the latest trends. “It’s also not healthy to have a board where more than 50 percent of your board turns over yearly. This puts you on a hamster wheel where nothing gets done. If you create a vision or a strategic plan and the new board members disagree, you are back to square one. Staggered term limits help avoid this challenge. “I update my board monthly and provide detailed reports on operations and our govSEE ON THE FRONTLINES | 112 NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021 | BOARDROOM




Jarrett Chirico, USPTA, PTR, PPTA, PPR, PPTR was until recently director of racquets at Baltimore Country Club, Baltimore, MD. He is now director of racquets at Royal Oaks Country Club, Dallas, TX.

Staffing in the Age of Racquets - Part II Let’s face it, we’re living in the Age of Racquets. It is no longer enough to just be great at running tennis programs. The consistent growth in other racquet sports, such as pickleball and paddle, has led to an unprecedented demand for racquets. It’s not an easy challenge to be required to be an expert in multiple racquet sports, but it holds enormous opportunities to separate you from the crowd. It is possible to become a total racquets expert by investing in your staff, which all starts with the decisions you make as a director. Your staff is the key to building your overarching knowledge of the racquets industry and connecting all racquet sports to one another. Your team can show members how pickleball helps their tennis, how tennis helps their paddle, and overall, how general racquet skills build on one another. On average, there is a 30 percent crossover rate from one racquet sport to another when clubs are staffed with “racquets,” not just tennis, pickleball, or paddle professionals. Which means if 1,000 members play tennis at your club, when you add pickleball, you will average 300 people crossing over to play both sports. This is monumental for your programs but more importantly to your club as a whole. Racquets is one area of the club that can grow member utilization across the board through all areas and amenities. Racquets — tennis, pickleball, paddle, squash, padel, pop tennis — create more amenities, creating more value to your members. The more your amenities grow, the more opportunities members will have to use the club and for staff to teach and connect yet more racquets. Alternatively, imagine the contrast if a director opts not to invest in racquets — you completely lose out on the opportunity for so many benefits to members and staff by simply providing what everyone else offers as a minimum. I have seen this firsthand all over the country when managers tell me, “My director doesn’t want to try pickleball.” Or they say, “We have no room to build facilities.” A person who has played a pivotal role in my career has always told me, “We need to see things not for how they are but for how they can be.” The clubs that have invested in racquets have seen unprecedented growth during the COVID-19 pandemic while



the clubs that have taken a passive approach are struggling. The result is staff at some clubs have risen to new heights while staff at others have felt nothing but uncertainty. As a leader, your greatest responsibility is to your staff. Your people will define you, and you have the ability to define them. To staff for success you must always remember that it all starts with you. Push yourself for more, want more, expect more, and I promise you will attract the people that share those same qualities. Never forget you hold the ability to set the pace. What you do matters. Invest in yourself and your team. I regularly attend and speak at conferences, hold certifications from every notable teaching organization, and certify pros around the country. I don’t do this for the stamp of approval on a piece of paper. I do it to grow new relationships that benefit my membership and team. As your staff begins to understand the value all of this brings, they will follow your lead. This all goes back to the adage, “a leader always leads by example.” If you lead by example, you will never struggle to find and hire the people who make the difference. There is no question that the Age of Racquets is going to be defined by extreme successes and quick failures. Challenges will continue to hold endless opportunities, which means how we choose to approach them is what matters. I believe every obstacle can be viewed as an opportunity. It was the continual decline in tennis that was the foundation for the racquets boom. If tennis hadn’t consistently declined, there would be no pickleball, paddle, or other racquet sports that have come onto center stage in recent times. If you think back to the ‘70s and ‘80s, this fact is obvious. Yet, it is racquets as a whole that will ultimately lead tennis to its highest participation numbers in history. And it is staffing that is the foundation to success that holds the key to the future of racquets. B R





Echo Lake Country Club Westfield, NJ

STUDIO JBD & JEFFERSON GROUP ARCHITECTURE Peter Cafaro / 401.721.0977 / PCafaro@JBDandJGA .com

THE GREAT [CULTURE] RESET As our industry continues to rapidly evolve and clubs struggle to find and keep talent, your culture must support and advance the club’s goals and strategies with an intense focus on employee engagement and retention. | 623.322.0773

We use state-of-the-art technology with proven evaluation and training principles to deliver the culture and member experience you want. Contact us today to reset, refresh and restart your club’s culture.

Is it time for a RESET? ❏ Is turnover high? ❏ Has organizational chart changed? ❏ Has business model changed? ❏ Is decision making inefficient? ❏ Are employees engaged? ❏ Are there dated processes?



PAMELA RADCLIFF Pamela Radcliff, SHRM-SCP, CAM, can be reached at


The Ultimate Guide to Employee Engagement Culture. Compassion. Corporate citizenship. The timeless pillars of every employee engagement strategy are more important today than ever in the club industry. The pillars must stem from your club’s vision, mission and core values. While vision and mission provide the what and the how, your values give you the why for what you do. Deliberately weaving a fabric of culture, compassion and corporate citizenship based on your values will lead to the highest form of employee engagement. Of course, your first step is to acquire talent whose values align with your club’s values. You can always teach what is needed to achieve your vision and mission. But your values are the heart and soul of your club and are intrinsic to the individual. Well-defined and shared values create your foundation. Aligning individual values to those of your club is just the greens fee to get on course. The real work is ahead of you every single day. With statistics stating that 84 percent of employees do not feel engaged at work, boosting employee engagement will continue to be an important focus in human resources trends. This article reveals three critical areas of focus to deepen your club’s connection with your most valuable assets: your staff. Culture: Keeping employees satisfied and engaged in the workplace involves changes in organizational culture. Culture is learned and built through every interaction that occurs in your club. Your employees span at least four generations, from pre-Boomers to Gen Z. Millennials and Gen Zs place more importance on collaboration and feedback. In fact, 60 percent of Gen-Zers want to touch base with their managers daily. They want to feel as though they have a voice at work and feel empowered to speak up. To assure you have the culture you want, ask and analyze the results of these questions: • What collaboration tools or processes do we have in place? • How can we better include employees in our decision-making processes? • How can we best provide club insights on how we are run and our strategy implementation? • How are our managers role modeling the culture we want to create based on your shared values? 84


Guiding your staff to ask sincere questions and listen to one another with interest will put you on a path toward success. Compassion: Practicing compassion in the workplace is a key trend in employee relations. Because of the collective distress the pandemic has caused, it is vital that managers check not only what their employees are doing but how they are doing. The power of a kinder workplace has a profound effect on morale, productivity and ultimately the financial bottom line. Ask these questions: • How do our managers specifically show that they lead from the heart? • How are we inspiring others through kindness, flexibility, support and empowerment? • How can we make kindness and compassion fun? “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop Corporate citizenship: Employees want to feel that they make a difference, both at work and outside of work. A strong corporate social responsibility program can provide the answer to both, while simultaneously strengthening the fabric of your club’s culture. It can also be an effective recruitment tool as new hires look for organizations that give them volunteer opportunities. Consider an in-season project as well as an out-of-season project, when some charities need help the most, such as food pantries. Ask your leadership team: • What is holding us back from engaging in a social responsibility program? • How do we overcome it? • How can we reward those who participate? The path forward: This all sounds good, but lip service isn’t going to cut it. As leaders, it is your responsibility to live and breathe the culture you want to create. And in true employee engagement fashion, it’s important to remember that your people are watching you – every day, and in every interaction. Is your leadership team ready to role model? You might jump to answer “yes, of course.” However, you can’t truly be certain unless you have had the deliberate conversation. Luckily, this is very easy to do. Dedicate 20 minutes in your next staff meeting – for many, that leaves two to three minutes for each de-

DAVID W. LACEY David Lacey is a member of the Philadelphia Cricket Club. He served two terms on the board of governors and chaired the tennis and paddle committee.


Why Is Feedback and Coaching An Emerging Management Practice? Money is no longer the dominant motivator for professional/ managerial employees. That may surprise many club managers. In fact, a survey conducted by BambooHR says that 85 percent of employees prefer an effective feedback and coaching (F&C) process. F&C has emerged as the number one management practice. What factors have led to the preference for F&C among professional/managerial employees? Here is what’s driving this preference. By the end of 2021, people between the ages of 25 and 38 will make up about 40 percent of the workforce. This cohort tends to be motivated by three drivers of job satisfaction: 1. Mastery. The process of getting better at their craft or profession. Some define mastery as relentless and continuous improvement in how they do their work. F&C is a perfect practice for identifying professional development actions that help a person add to their capabilities and become more valuable to the club. 2. Purpose. The organization has a unifying mission that goes well beyond a person’s self-interest. In the club world that sense of purpose is captured by striving to be a Distinguished Club, recognized by BoardRoom magazine. Management-driven acts striving for that designation help to align department priorities with that goal. Again, F&C is an effective practice to advise leadership team members on whether their results are leading to a Distinguished Club designation. 3. Appreciation and recognition. F&C places a significant value on individual or team applause for accomplishments. Frequently the leaders at a club will take pride in the excellence of the member experience. And rightfully so. But the key to repeating this excellence is feedback to employees via in-person, verbal comments from a direct manager. It is via this one-on-one process of recognition that results in excellence being repeated. In fact, an overwhelming percentage partment head to speak. Lead the discussion by saying, “I want us to purposefully create a culture based on _______. What are your thoughts about how to do that? Should we add anything? What’s one thing you can do today to start role modeling the culture we want?” Make culture an agenda item for each meeting and do a brief check-in with each department head on a regular basis.

of employees, 85 percent, are seeking this kind of direct feedback. F&C creates the opportunity to applaud success. Yet 40 percent of professional/managerial employees complain that their bosses only offer criticism or undeserved negative feedback. It is certainly true, and even obvious, that it is more pleasurable to applaud contributions of your employees. I applaud the 60 percent of direct managers who offer applause for contributors by their team members. One Distinguished Club created the Employee Success Index as part of its F&C process. A successful employee was defined by the club as someone who: 1. Consistently contributes to team success and is not a “prima donna.” 2. Is given the most responsibilities to get things done fairly, on time and on budget. 3. Receives recognition from peers for making a difference on the team. 4. Receives applause in one-on-one F&C conversations with the direct manager for their contributions. 5. Earns significant increases, well beyond an annual cost of living adjustment. It is worth noting that four of five statements defining employee success at this club have nothing to do with money. These statements underscore the motivating power of contributing to team success and receiving applause for doing so from a professional’s direct manager. F&C is rapidly moving from the status of emerging practice to the preferred practice for motivating your team regardless of age to achieve excellence on a continuing basis. The payoff for club leaders to move F&C from emerging to preferred practice is substantial. Employee/team success is directly connected to F&C. Focus on F&C with purpose and commitment. You will enjoy the many benefits of F&C. BR

To really ensure success, consider assigning each element (culture, compassion, corporate citizenship) to a department head to champion, leading the effort. However, all need to be held accountable for achievements. We all know what gets measured, gets done. So, incorporating these elements as part of your strategic plan and performance management process will help get the job done. B R NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021 | BOARDROOM




Whitney Reid Pennell, president of RCS Hospitality Group, is a celebrated management consultant, educator, and speaker. RCS continues to offer innovative solutions through, an online virtual training portal for employees and managers. For more information, phone (623) 322-0773 or visit the RCS website at

Is This the New (Staffing) Normal? The nationwide labor shortage continues as the hospitality and club industry emerges in a post-pandemic world. Most labor studies and staffing experts agree that the workforce shortage will remain for at least two more years. “Pay more” is a simplistic response and will not help clubs solve the crisis. WHAT HAPPENED? Experienced club employees who were furloughed, let go or not rehired have moved on to jobs in other industries with companies offering a stark scheduling contrast (no holidays, nights, or weekends), greater work-life balance, increased benefits and pay. The soft skills many club employees embody are highly sought after in other industries, especially those leveraging increased technology and artificial intelligence (AI) in their service systems. Personable, friendly, and empathic workers who are adaptable, optimistic, and have good communication skills are in peak demand. According to a recent LinkedIn Job Insights survey, 66 percent of new jobs will rely on soft skills, putting the club industry in competition for talent with all industries. Most of these lost employees are not expected to return to the service industry, much less to the positions they held pre-COVID. And while unemployment remains high, most of the existing workers have minimal club experience, entry-level skills, or little interest in jobs that are suddenly available. The gift of the pandemic is that we have learned a great deal about staffing opportunities that were emerging pre-COVID. Teenagers, who the service sector relied upon for seasonal help, were already opting to work in “gig” jobs. Requests for flexible schedules increased as time became more valuable than wage rate to many. Pay competition forced high turnover or made hiring lower-skilled new hires a necessity and meeting the changing needs of dual-income employee families has proven challenging to operations that are open nearly 24/7 year-round. Now we are forced to better understand how these trends are contributing to a staff shortage in a post-pandemic world. What can we do? Be aware of manager/leader burnout: Forced time off allowed our leaders to spend time with families and friends and realize how much they were missing. For those who continued working in 2020, have been called 86


back or were recently hired, leaders at every level have done their best to manage and contribute when short-staffed, pitching in as needed to open and then expand services to meet member demand. Our club leaders are reaching severe burnout. Many were also tasked with recruiting employees and managing member communications while often retooling policies and procedures with changing guidelines and regulations. The Mayo Clinic cites lack of control, unclear job expectations, dysfunctional workplace dynamics, activity extremes and work-life imbalance as contributing factors for burnout. The pandemic provided the perfect storm for leaders to reach their breaking point. Small bonuses for additional time worked, extra paid time off, a spa day or other recognition of their efforts during these trying times will go a long way. Market our jobs as a career choice: What we do matters, and we need to instill a sense of purpose and pride in our current and potential workforce. Many potential employees are unaware of club industry career opportunities or what your club can provide. • Promote company culture • Highlight opportunities for advancement; build clear pathways to get promoted • Advertise ongoing training prospects. Revamp your recruiting and hiring process: • Advertise your exceptional health and safety standards • Promote your community involvement • Confirm that potential employees can research your club and that your culture shines through (club information is often within a members’ only login website) • Invest resources into training and onboarding so that less experienced or first-time employees are given opportunities to learn on the job quickly • Evaluate your inclusive hiring practices and remove barriers to entry, such as a lengthy application process, wait time for interviews or hiring time. Evaluate scheduling practices: • Post staff schedules in a timely manner, allowing employees to plan their personal time • Explore alternative scheduling practices, such as three 10-hour days, four eight-hour days, shorter shifts early morning, mid-day, or late night to accommodate students, appointments, children’s activities, or second jobs • Get creative to give every manager a weekend off and rotate holidays. Leverage technology: Scheduling tools that use AI, payroll systems, applicant tracking tools, and virtual training are a good place to start. Ensure the systems now in place are used correctly and not contributing to staff frustration. With sharp focus on the right things (and not just the easy answers, like “pay more”), we can emerge stronger than ever—for the benefit of our staff, leaders, and members. B R

CONTEXT : kitchens designed for efficiency, function, flow and style become

venues for parties, classes and intimate chef’s tables. The hub of the club. Architects. Planners. Interior Designers. Private Clubs, Recreation, Hospitality, Community + Education 44 North Main Street : South Norwalk, Connecticut : 203 354 5210 :







Nancy Berkley is an expert on women’s golf and junior girls golf in the US. Nancy is a member of the World Golf Foundation Women’s Committee and the National Golf Foundation. She shares news about women’s golf — along with her opinions — on Nancy has served on the governing boards of two golf clubs and is on the green and marketing committees at Frenchman’s Creek Beach and Country Club. She is a contributing writer for LPGA publications.

Does Your Club Have a Short Golf Course? It should! I learned to play golf in 1958 at the University of Minnesota. All college freshmen were required to take a physical education course. No one in my family played golf, but golf was in the local news. President Eisenhower was an avid golfer, and Patty Berg, a founder of the LPGA, was from Minnesota. The choice was easy. I signed up for the golf class and became a golfer. After graduate school, marriage and a move to New Jersey, I played golf in the late ‘60s with other young moms at a local public 18-hole course in northern New Jersey. The course is still there, with the new name of Pinch Brook, and is managed by Troon Management. The course was redesigned by the golf course design firm of Rees Jones, Inc. It plays as a short par-65 and is advertised as “fun and enjoyable.” There is a lesson to be learned from Pinch Brook and Troon Management. Unlike rules that govern baseball diamonds and football fields, golf courses are individualized works of art and design. The challenge for BoardRoom Distinguished Clubs in the coming years will be to keep all that is great about this game while at the same time making it “fun and enjoyable” for more golfers. A headline in The New York Times on Sept. 10, 2021 put it this way: “Traditional Clubs Seek to Reinvent Themselves.”




Golf has a history of reinvention. Reinvention, however, can take time. In 1933, when Alister MacKenzie designed Augusta National, he lobbied for an adjacent par 3 course. The club leaders considered a short course too “trendy.” Twenty-five years later, in 1958, Augusta National reinvented itself by adding a short par 3 course designed by George Cobb. One of MacKenzie’s famous short courses is the nine-hole Northwood Golf Club in Monte Rio, CA, designed in 1934, one year after Augusta National. The 12th hole, named the “Golden Bell,” is the shortest hole on the course, playing 155 yards but challenged by a creek, wind and MacKenzie’s famous shallow bunkers camouflaged around the green. The newest in fun courses - choose your tee. In July, I visited PGA National Golf Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Jane Broderick, the general manager of the resort’s golf operations, is a longtime friend. PGA National was recently sold to Brookfield Asset Management of Canada for the reported price of $233 million. One of the resort’s five courses, The Squire, was a tired and poorly draining course. The Squire is now two different and trendy courses designed by Andy Staples, a creative golf course architect. One course is a short par-3 renamed The Staple, with holes that are short and greens that feature challenging slopes and bunkers. The other new course, The Match, is a short par-4 also without designated tees. The key word for the courses is “fun.” The resort is managed by ClubLife Management, a division of ClubCorp. My club, Frenchman’s Creek Beach and Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, a Distinguished Club, just added 100-yard tee markers on one of our two courses. I met with Wes Dillard, our golf course superintendent, to review the new tees. The tees range from 88 to 137 yards from the green center but were placed to preserve challenges in the Jim Fazio design. For example, on the first hole and depending on the pin placement, golfers must decide whether to hit over a green-side bunker or take an extra shot to go around it. Total yardage is 1,951 yards. It’s going to be fun. Are BoardRoom Distinguished Clubs offering short courses? Are they offering fun? There was no easy way to find the answers except to visit the websites of the 200 or so Distinguished Clubs. I was looking for clubs offering one of four categories of short courses: the par 3 with nine holes playing about 1,000 yards; the Executive Course, generally about 2,000 yards; Junior Tees and Family Tees; and short par 4 courses that play in less time because of the absence of long par 5 holes. I also reviewed the clubs’ scorecards to identify any short courses on women’s tees that might qualify as a “short course” for this artiSEE NANCY’S CORNER | 112

TOM NEILL Tom Neill is president of Private Club Historical ( His company creates strategic historical plans, discovers club history, designs historical exhibits, displays, books and historical videos. He may be reached at (949) 497-6543 or via email:


Display Your History at No Cost to Your Club Clubs have great stories to tell. Many times, however, they do not allocate the funds needed to tell these all-important stories. Sadly, many clubs pass on displaying their history and miss out on the benefits: increased member pride, retention, brand value and, most importantly, creating a home away from home for members. So how can you display your history at no cost to your club? Create a member fundraising campaign. The benefits are immense – creating a legacy with members to celebrate the history of your club and raising the money to do so – all without any assessments or raising fees. Many general managers have remarked on how willing members are to be involved and contribute. All they had to do was ask.

from a trophy display case to a historic hallway capturing the history of your club. Identifying these projects and their estimated costs will help you set your fundraising goal. 2. Enlist volunteers. Members could come from a certain subcommittee or they could form a committee specially for the fundraising campaign. Their efforts are to spread the word through phone calls, emails, or letters to members. 3. Create campaign package tools. The elements needed for a successful campaign include a donation pledge form, messaging to members, progress displays, announcements for email and your newsletter, banners and displays. 4. Get the word out. Announce and spread the word through the club newsletter, email, direct mailing, billboards at the club and, of course, the volunteers canvassing members via phone. 5. Track contributions and keep spreading the word. Keep members updated on the ongoing contributions with a lobby thermometer display, via email and your newsletter.

“Some clubs don’t see the value of their heritage, but I’ve visited over a thousand clubs and the ones which stand out are the ones that have effectively presented and promoted their history. A club’s history is a humanizing force for their brand, as it tells stories of the members, who have worked together to build its legacy. As a club, its members, and its reputation grows over time, so does the importance of effectively managing the history, and this unique way of funding a historical program would benefit any club.” – John Fornaro, publisher and founder of BoardRoom magazine The money raised will allow members to make history happen at their club, and the acknowledgments for their contributions will be on display for years to come. Here is a step-by-step process for how your club can make this happen: 1. Make a plan by creating a mission statement. This statement will identify the projects to be funded at your club and the benefits of doing so, along with the name of the campaign. These projects could range

6. Throw a party. Once the campaign has reached its goal, celebrate with members and recognize donors. 7. Put your funds to work and keep your members updated on the progress of your newly funded projects. So clearly, without creating a budget for displaying history, let your members proudly contribute to their legacy and their club with a fundraising campaign. B R



JOSEPH SARACINO Joseph Saracino is president of Cino Security Solutions and can be reached at (516) 932-0317, extension 311 or via email:


Protecting Your Club Against Cyberattacks • If they are deploying some cyber measures, they are being impleUntil recently, we had not heard of a cyberattack against a private club. That changed in January, mented by in-house information technology (IT) staff or the managed when we learned that one of the United Kingdom’s service provider (MSP) who maintains their IT systems. Many private clubs follow this pattern. Their staff members generally most exclusive golf clubs, Wentworth, had been hit have minimal knowledge regarding key IT systems and cyber terms. by a ransomware attack. For example, canvas your club’s board members and staff and see how The personal data of the club’s 4,000 members many understand the role of a virtual private network (VPN); know what (i.e., names, dates of birth, home addresses, email phishing, malware, SQL injection, session, point of sale, video conferaddresses, phone numbers and last four digits of ence and keylogging attacks are; or could identify encrypted URLs or their bank account details) was breached. The cy- suspicious emails. bercriminals sought a Bitcoin ransom. You will probably find few that are fully informed. Further, ask yourIt is unknown if it was paid. What is known is self: that ransomware attacks are increasing and will • Does your club have cybersecurity policies in place? continue to pose the greatest cyberthreat to all • If so, do you have a strictly enforced privileged access policy limitentities, including private clubs. The costs of ing access to confidential data? these and other cyberattacks are also increasing. • Do you have a third-party cybersecurity firm managing your sysAccording to data compiled by the Ponemon tem’s security? Institute and reported in IBM Security’s Cost All of these areas represent cyberattack landmines that could lead of a Data Breach Report 2021, the average to a breach like Wentworth experienced and the costs associated with cost of a breach increased 10 percent year breach notifications, cyber extortion (ransom payment), proprietary over year in 2020. It is the largest increase in data leaks and potential litigation. Additionally, there could be serious the last seven years. reputational damage and subsequent loss of members. These costs totaled $4.24 million. Personally identifiable information such as that exposed in MEASURES TO PROTECT YOUR CLUB the Wentworth breach is the most common type We are all vulnerable to cyberattacks, but there are measures that can of record lost (44 percent of all breaches) at a lessen the risk and exposures. Benchmarking your system is the first cost of $180 per record. For board members and step. This is done with a vulnerability assessment and penetration testsenior staff, it is important to recognize the vuling performed by a third-party cybersecurity specialist. nerabilities associated with private clubs and what If internal IT staff or MSP conduct these measures, objectivity will measures should be implemented to minimize suffer. The vulnerability assessment evaluates the system in terms of its cybersecurity risks. risk level based on various vulnerabilities identified. Penetration testing CYBER VULNERABILITIES While ransomware attacks on large organizations have gained widespread coverage, smaller entities are most targeted. From Jan. 1-Aug. 1, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners reported that between 50 to 75 percent of ransomware attack victims were small businesses. The reasons for this include: • They spend less on cybersecurity • They have few, if any, cybersecurity policies in place • Their employees are not trained in cybersecurity practices 90


or ethical hacking determines how easy or difficult it is for a cybercriminal to enter your club’s IT systems (i.e., network, ports, database, emails, etc.) and inflict a breach. Based on the findings of these two measures, the cybersecurity consultant will advise club management regarding technologies that should be deployed (e.g., firewalls, encryption, endpoint protection, multi-factor authentication, password and SSH key management, and solutions to lock down access to proprietary data). Additionally, he will recommend high-level cybersecurity measures, including developing a cybersecurity policy manual, conducting awareness training for all board members and staff, and developing a backup data recovery plan. By being proactive and vigilant, clubs can mitigate their cyber-risks and exposures considerably. B R

TILL VON RUEXLEBEN To discuss applications for your club and to find out what other clubs are doing, contact Till von Ruexleben, COO, CISSP, CeH, CSA, CCSK, Vivid Leaf, at (239) 293-6699 or via email:,


Benefits of Leveraging Artificial Intelligence in Private Clubs Robert Sereci from the Medinah Country Club is an early adopter of The ability of computing devices to devise decisions based on a broad information base, artificial intelli- AI. He tracks progress against his team objectives, membership feedback gence, is leveraged by businesses all over the world. and highlighted results of 360 reviews in real time and gets alerted if deExamples are automated support by telephone or on viation from his goals or his timeline is detected. A broad application field for AI is sustainability. Monitoring thousands websites, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. of data points from a club’s utility meters and comparing it against, for This article discusses potential applications for example, climate data to see whether unusual usage occurs is clearly the private club industry and the chance to leverage something a computing device can do – even in real time. That way, the AI for exceptional membership experiences. club’s administrative staff can receive an early warning of devices about Private clubs have started leveraging AI for “inter- to fail, leaks or other technical problems. nal” use cases. Membership feedback can be analyzed To the left is a graph from a Florida club, where AI detected an about to aggregate both positive and negative impressions to fail compressor before a problem occurred. and to summarize the results for club leadership; this AI and sustainability also work well together when it comes to measurextends to automatically generated reports for 360 ing progress and comparing efficiency of operations with literally milreviews, scorecards and tracking of board, leadership lions of data points, normalized and computed. For example, calculating and membership goals and objectives. CO2 emissions per round of golf played or per clubhouse square foot. New, inexpensive technology, like LoRaWan (Long Range Wide Area network), allows clubs to monitor even remote areas for humidity, temperature, usage, water quality and more. The data generated is usually too large to comb through by hand. The Vivid Leaf sustainability platform integrates the information, analyzes it, and informs club leadership about trends and issues. Looking at how AI could be used to improve membership experiences, the possibilities include faster reporting and tracking of problems (including malfunctioning equipment), analyzing usage patterns of the club’s assets and expanding those that are in high demand, and answering member questions. For example, what time today will the course/fitness center/pool/tennis courts be the least busy? As technology evolves, we shall see many more AI applications. B R from Executive Search Showcase | 70

• Smith worked with his team in establishing the Thistle Promise, a service excellence program which has set the highest level of standards for the team’s service culture at The Country Club of Rochester. • Smith and his team worked to developed premier manager-in-training and internship programs, which have attracted the highest quality young professionals interested in private club management. These highly regarded accomplishments have become a standard for local and national clubs. Smith’s professional accomplishments in his 30-year career include receiving the 2008 Willmoore H. Kendall Scholarship; achieving his Club Management and Chief Executive Certifications, serving six years on the board of directors for the New

York State Chapter of CMAA, including two years as chapter president, the 2018 Rich Regan Club Manager of the Year Award by the New York State Chapter of the Club Management Association of America, and the 2019 Excellence in Club Management Recipient of The Mead Grady Award presented annually by the McMahon Group and voted on by a panel of industry experts. Smith has spoken on local and national panels for CMAA and the National Club Association. Smith also serves as a mentor to young professionals in the industry including students at The Rochester Institute of Technology’s Saunders School of Business and Niagara University’s Student Chapter of CMAA. Please join us in welcoming Michael to the Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace team. B R Michael G. Smith is a search and consulting executive with Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace. He can be contacted at: or (585) 794-6150 NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021 | BOARDROOM


HENRY DELOZIER Henry DeLozier is a partner at GGA Partners. He can be reached via email:


Difficulty in Finding Staff to Fill Positions Forcing Clubs to Adapt Right now, it’s a workers’ market. That was the headline stretched across the top of the Sept. 5-6 edition of the Austin American-Statesman. Of course, golf and club managers didn’t need a newspaper or anything else to tell them what they already know: They’re living through what many say are the most challenging labor conditions they’ve ever encountered. More troubling – they know they’re outnumbered. “This is the toughest labor market for hourly staff I have seen. When we run an ad that would usually attract 20 to 30 candidates, we’re lucky if we get two applications – and if one (candidate) shows up for the interview,” said Loraine Ellis Vienne, the general manager and chief operating officer of the Hampton Hall Club in Bluffton, SC. Whitney Crouse, a founding partner of Bobby Jones Links, an Atlanta-based golf and club management company, shares the frustration. “Across the board, in all departments, it’s harder to find and retain good staff, but in the hourly (non-exempt) area, particularly F&B and maintenance, it’s really tough,” he said. Crouse said the situation became so critical at one point earlier this year that the company was forced to limit the number of diners on certain days, as some restaurants have done. And it’s not just at lower-level positions. “On the managerial front, it’s also hyper competitive for good people, even at some very prestigious clubs,” Crouse added. Labor shortages across the board Of course, golf and private clubs are not unique when it comes to the hardships brought on by current labor shortages. Across the US, and in a wide range of industries, employers are hard-pressed to find workers to fill open positions. Especially hard hit are state and local governments, education, transportation/ warehousing/utilities, manufacturing and arts/ entertainment/recreation. 92


A surge in labor demand saw available positions at businesses, state and local governments, and the federal government spike from 7.1 million in January to 9.3 million at the end of April, according to the latest job openings and labor turnover survey. Barron’s reports that the speed and magnitude of the increase are “unprecedented” and that the number of posted openings has now shattered the previous record set in November 2018. The Bureau of Labor Statistics did have some slightly encouraging news in its latest report, which showed the unemployment rate declined by a 0.2 percentage point, to 5.2 percent, in August. The number of unemployed persons edged down to 8.4 million, following a large decrease in July. Both measures are down considerably from their highs at the end of the February-April 2020 recession. However, they remain above their levels before the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, myriad factors are keeping people out of the labor force and those will take longer to resolve, experts say. They include the large share of workers who decided to switch careers during the pandemic or who opted to retire early after layoffs. COVID-19 fears and federal unemployment checks also made it easier for many to delay their return to the workforce. David Autor, a professor at the MIT department of economics and co-director of the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future, suggests another theory, one that is potentially more far-reaching. “People’s valuation of their own time has changed. Americans are less eager to do low-paid, often dead-end service and hospitality work, deciding instead that more time on family, education and leisure makes for a higher standard of living, even if it means less consumption,” he wrote. Damon DiOrio, CEO of Desert Mountain Club in Scottsdale, AZ, doesn’t believe pandemic-related concerns have played a significant role in creating openings in his 780-person workforce. He says unemployment benefits, which ended in August, were far more influential. “The hesitancy in coming back had nothing to do with the virus. Lucrative federal unemployment benefits had a lot of people thinking they would take the summer off and spend some time with their kids and worry about starting to find a job in September,” DiOrio said. Elephant in the room Then there is the obstacle that seems insurmountable for the club industry, the veritable elephant in the room, which DiOrio was reminded of recently. After addressing a group of hospitality students enrolled in Club Management Association of America programs at various universities, many of whom were seniors eager to enter the hospitality field, DiOrio opened the online discussion for questions. “Mr. DiOrio, what are the opportunities for kids like us who want to get into the club business but who want to work from home?” His answer:

“There aren’t any,” he said. “We can provide flexibility; we look out for our team members. But if you’re looking for a job where you can walk your dog in the afternoon and then log back on, it’s not happening in the club business.” Working remotely or a combination of home and office work became increasingly popular during the pandemic and is a priority for many job seekers. Researchers from Stanford University and the University of Chicago estimate that from April to December 2020, half of the working hours in the American economy were supplied from home. They believe that share will eventually fall to around 20 percent, which is still four times the amount of work delivered remotely in 2017 and 2018. Economist Paul Krugman, writing in The New York Times, is among those who suggest that explaining the future of work in this country goes beyond COVID-19, stimulus checks and remote work. “Many Americans don’t want to go back to the way things were before,” he wrote. “After a year and a half of working from home, many don’t want to return to the stress of commuting. And at least some of those who were forced into unemployment have come to realize how unhappy they were with low pay and poor working conditions, and are reluctant to go back to their previous jobs.” ‘First, we have to pay more.’ Solutions to the imbalance in the current labor market will require some fundamental shifts in the way club managers hire and retain employees. And it starts with compensation, according to Crouse. “First, we have to pay more,” he said. “This is a classic demand and supply issue. The market is speaking to us. Personally, even though I have conservative leanings, I think this is good for the country. How do families live off of $10 per hour?” Vienne said her club now competes with local restaurants for staff. “We have fitness attendants leaving to be cooks for $19 per hour plus tips.” DiOrio said Desert Mountain Club has “had to totally ratchet up what we were doing from a wage and benefits perspective. You can’t have Target stores coming out nationally and saying their bottom wage is $14 an hour and expect to compete. Now I don’t have a single job in this company (that pays) under $16.25 an hour.” And as far as supplementing salary with tips, which the club industry traditionally has relied on to attract workers, DiOrio predicts those days are numbered. “People want safety, security and known tangibles in their life,” he said. “They got scared during COVID, and they want to know where that paycheck is coming

from, how much they’re going to make and not have this wild fluctuation in tip and gratuity pools.” In addition to higher wages, Vienne said Hampton Hall is complementing workers’ salaries with “referrals, bonuses, better benefits and increased earned time off.” Time to get creative The difficulty in finding staff to fill positions across the board at most clubs is spawning a wave of creativity on the part of managers. Crouse said his company’s goal is to be the “employer of choice” in his clubs’ markets. To encourage and support the culture that attracts the type of worker Bobby Jones Links seeks, the company has taken a page from the employee-training handbooks at Ritz-Carlton and Chickfil-A, both known for outstanding customer service and welcoming cultures. “We’re proving that it’s possible to get teenagers and Millennials to smile, say ‘My pleasure’ and do it with authenticity.” At Desert Mountain Club, which has weathered the pandemic without furloughing any staff, DiOrio said his team is implementing “extraordinary” measures from a benefits and culture standpoint, including an on-site healthcare clinic and a new member food-and-beverage minimum that will reallocate more money directly to staff working in the resort’s 10 restaurants. It’s even considering doggie day care. “You have to think creatively, and if you don’t, you’re going to be left out. Or you’re going to get a B class of labor pool,” he said. Hampton Hall is finding that cross-training employees to handle multiple tasks in more than one department is helping to even out labor shortages. “It’s benefiting us immensely,” Vienne said. “We’re utilizing fitness attendants and bag/cart guys to fill unmanned shifts, along with maintenance staff. It’s become a win-win as we cross-train and provide a team and staff family atmosphere.” Long criticized for its reliance on traditional practices, the golf and club industry also needs to think more progressively about hiring and maintaining staff, starting with a warmer embrace of technology and tools that make identifying and vetting candidates more efficient and precise. “The days of assistant superintendents posting jobs for greenkeepers and then doing the interviewing and vetting – and that’s probably 80 percent of clubs in North America – are dead in the water,” DiOrio said. “They’re working backwards because they don’t have the skills and the sophistication to share the merits of the industry, and to draw out the extroverted talents and teamwork required of these roles.” Opportunity, not a crisis The labor scarcity the US is experiencing is real, but it also represents an opportunity, according to those who subscribe to the “never waste a good crisis” philosophy. Krugman said the pandemic disruption of work was a “learning experience.” “Many of those lucky enough to have been able to work from home realized how much they had hated commuting; some of those who had been working in leisure and hospitality realized, during their months of forced unemployment, how much they SEE GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES | 112 NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021 | BOARDROOM




Gordon Welch, president of the Association of Private Club Directors, has over 20 years’ experience in private clubs and 12 years of experience as an association executive and registered lobbyist. For more information or to discuss your orientation, you can reach him at or (918) 914-9050

Boardroom Integrity In my travels, I have experienced different boards and different styles of meetings and governance. Boards and clubs have tradition and let’s be honest, board presidents have their own style, which changes for the club annually. Sometimes there is a seamless transfer and other times you can feel it throughout the club. The transfer of power is a difficult task for a GM/COO because of the personality difference. I want to emphasize that every club is different, and each club’s needs are different and ever changing. Some of the clubs I work with have GMs who are club managers, but the title supersedes them. In other words, they don’t have the power or confidence to be true leaders and go to the board with everything.

the part and was cordial, kind and I tried to speak in a positive manner when I should have been straightforward and not sugarcoated the issues or my true feelings. The truth is, we aren’t perfect, and it is so much easier if we just live up to who we are. The club and the GM will benefit from being real. And being real in the boardroom is most important. You’re running a multi-million-dollar business and sometimes business hurts and other times it prospers. It is guaranteed that if you’re open, honest and forthright, your business will be better off, and you will find that board members are in business with you instead of trying to micromanage you and your business. Board members are also challenged to let go and let your professional staff run the business. A good example is a club in the Midwest that had a board that tried to manage the club and felt like it was their duty to make every little decision. The management team had identified needed changes in pricing and wanted to make the changes. The board wanted to be involved in these decisions, but that is not the board’s role. That is a business or oper-

Board members are also challenged to let go and let your professional staff run the business. A good example is a club in the Midwest that had a board that tried to manage the club and felt like it was their duty to make every little decision. The management team had identified needed changes in pricing and wanted to make the changes. The board wanted to be involved in these decisions, but that is not the board’s role. That is a business or operational decision that senior staff and the GM/COO should be making without question. Other clubs have a true GM/COO or CEO who is in charge of the operation of the club. Again, all clubs are different and have differing needs and styles. I’m not faulting either one, but the true GM gets the job done and runs a business. Personally, I refer to the GM/COO as the CEO. The position is a CEO role and many of your clubs are over $10 million operations. One important thing to remember is to be yourself. Be true to yourself. In my younger years as a GM, I tried to be perfect. I dressed 94


ational decision that senior staff and the GM/COO should be making without question. Board members and club executives have busy lives. You have a lot on your plate and you need to support each other. You are professionals and you need to be treated as such. Board members, know that your club is in capable hands and support your club professionals. If your club is not in capable hands, maybe you need to consider professional development or an orientation to help build trust. The boardroom is a place of trust and integrity. If yours is not, you have a long road ahead of you. B R

RITA BARRETO Rita Barreto is an engaging, motivational speaker on the national stage. She also has 30+ years as an award-winning human resource executive for a Fortune 500 company. Don’t hesitate to visit, and then give Rita a call to book a free 20-minute consultation.


Compassion Is the Club Manager’s New Superpower The global COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed people’s priorities and their attitudes toward their work environment. The crisis has afforded many people the time and space to focus on all aspects of their lives. Surveys reveal that a quarter of workers are less satisfied with their jobs. It is incumbent on the club’s leadership and managers to reshape the workplace to accommodate the new sensitivities of their employees. Workers have developed a higher sense of concern. Many are overwhelmed with the challenges of caring for sick loved ones, coping with the loss of family members, dealing with their children’s fears. Those who are juggling both children and elderly parents carry a new level of anxiety. Compassion at every level is needed, and it starts at the top. Leaders need to understand that there has been a major shift in attitudes, mental health, and behavior. Compassionate leaders innately understand that flexibility and empathy are essential for business continuity. The new era of engaging the workforce means employees need to feel: • Supported • Comfortable • Reassured • Trusted • Valued • Safe • Happy. Clubs in states that have warm weather have experienced new growth in membership and in real estate sales since the pandemic set in. The best states for year-round weather, including California, Arizona, Texas, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida and even Delaware, report a surge in members and daily play. They cite several factors. Businesses across the country closed, giving many people the choice to opt for early retirement. Also, as executives started working remotely, they found

that managing their schedules allowed them to get in a game of golf or tennis during the day. Many also had the need not to isolate at home, and the opportunity to get outside and get some exercise was a driving force. Finally, the lure of good weather, away from the northern winter lockdown, became the motivation to move to areas that promised more ideal weather and space for outdoor sports and dining. Private clubs have risen to the challenge. Savvy club managers have added new amenities to attract members and energize employees. They expanded outdoor dining facilities, added more outdoor socials and ninehole outings, provided outdoor gyms, aerobics and yoga. Some clubs even built outdoor kitchens for casual eating, special events and weddings. Touchless technology and strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols have become the new norm. The challenge for the club workforce and managers has been two-fold. Clubs experiencing a loss of membership and other clubs experiencing a boom in membership. The human factor of managing expectations and employees has seen dramatic change. Solid leadership has never been more important, and to survive, managers need to step up the way they communicate with employees who are fearful, stressed and overwhelmed. A well-trained, professional and caring staff is the backbone of a successful club. Club employees are valuable assets you don’t want to lose. Perhaps, never have we seen the urgency for clubs to adapt or fall behind. Steps compassionate club managers would be wise to consider: • Providing designated private spaces that are calm and quiet for employees to take restful breaks, make personal phone calls, or just breathe • Redesigning offices to provide more space • Offering time off or remote workdays when requested • Revising schedules to provide split days when people work at the club • Providing time and access to both active and meditative exercise • Dedicating space for group Zoom meetings to build camaraderie • Strictly following COVID-19 protocols • Increasing compassionate communication. We believe that a compassionate mindset can be learned. Compassion is empathy with positive action. It’s the ability to do hard things in a human way. It’s about leading your workforce to thrive in their professional and personal lives. It’s a manner of leading that is transformational and energizing. It’s a leadership tool that draws a fine line between compassion without compromise. It begins with the intention to see as others see and feel. Take time to assess your gift of leading others. It won’t happen overnight, but we do know it will increase performance and profitability. Embrace the philosophy of compassion and begin taking the steps to launch the superpower of compassionate leadership. B R



MARIAN MCGILL Marian McGill, CCM is assistant general manager, Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club, Gold Canyon, AZ. She can be reached via email:


From Traditional to Family-Friendly Club Two of the biggest topics buzzing around our industry these days are the resurgence of golf and how to make the sport, and private golf clubs, more inclusive. Our core demographic is changing and if your club isn’t actively looking for ways to attract and retain the next generation of members, you should be. Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club, in Gold Canyon, AZ, like many golf clubs, was designed as a traditional private club. Its resort-style amenities and events have been highly targeted to older adults, often retirees and, in our case, snowbirds. That trend has been steadily shifting over the past few years and even more so since the pandemic. Largely because golf is a COVID-friendly sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels, the industry has been seeing amazing growth. And with growth, must come change. Traditional clubs need to shift focus to cater to both their existing, core membership and the new golfer – including young families. Memberships: Offering a variety of membership levels is one way clubs can attract new blood. For example, our associate membership is available to people 39 and younger. This option helps break down one of the most common barriers to private club membership for this demographic by reducing the initiation fee and decreasing monthly dues. Upon turning 40, the member will be bumped up to paying full membership dues. In the past year, we went from 10 associate members to 40, which is our current cap for this level. Dining: For a majority of traditional clubs, most kids’ activities were designed for visiting grandchildren and often planned around family holidays. In many cases, dining at the club was a white tablecloth event with a strict dress code. While there is still a time and place for this type of occasion, clubs must learn to diversify. In fact, we’ve discovered that fine dining alone isn’t enough anymore. Casual dining and special events are becoming more and more popular.



One way we keep our members excited about our dining program is by hosting pop-up nights. Members RSVP to a dining event but won’t know where or what until the night of the event. From dining under the stars in the courtyard to progressive dinners that travel to different locations on the property, it’s a fun way to enjoy elegant meals in new, perhaps unexpected, settings. A relaxed dress code that allows denim in the main dining room at all times can also go a long way to making the club your members’ go-to spot to fill their social calendars. And really, that’s our goal. We want members to look to the club first before seeking dinner and entertainment elsewhere. Events: When your club is not outfitted with a lot of kid-centric amenities, you may need to get creative to keep young families excited and engaged. In our case, it was a 100-foot slip and slide on the event lawn. Private club members of olden days may be rolling over in their tweed jackets, but it was a huge hit. At the end of the day, it’s all about diversity and trying new things. From live music and happy hour events to cooking classes and offsite wine tastings, you must have something for all levels of your membership to enjoy. FOR LOVE OF THE GAME Making golf fun for a variety of ages and abilities is key to retaining membership at any level. Our junior golf program has been booming as younger members want their children to be able to join them on the course. We also host clinics and personalized instruction sessions to meet every golfer where they are in a non-intimidating manner. Our golf pros and instruction team can also work with professional-level golfers looking to take another stroke or two off their game. Within our two Nicklaus-designed courses, we have an executive course and a par-3 option. This allows us to keep the integrity of our award-winning courses – and keep it challenging for skilled golfers – while offering the ability to get in a faster round or adjust the difficulty as needed. As we continue to enjoy a more diverse demographic among our membership, our team will continue to find new ways to keep members engaged and excited about their club, and this game that we all love. B R





Bruce Barilla has 20 combined years of golf locker room experience at The Greenbrier and Butler National plus 50 professional tournaments. He is president of Locker Room Consulting.

State of the Locker Room Before venturing out to provide on-site locker room evaluations with staff training, I worked at Edgewood Valley Country Club (La Grange, IL) and Butler National Golf Club (Oak Brook, IL). Both have fine locker rooms, with features and amenities that members and guests would expect and deserve at a private club. It wasn’t until I began to see other locker rooms that I realized what I thought was the norm was actually the exception. Here are trends based on 52 on-site consultations and visits to 65 more locker rooms over a 10-year period. TRENDS 1. Newer locker rooms are not as big as older ones. 2. The locker room staff is not always allowed to accept tips. 3. Many clubs are not staffed from before the first golfer arrives to after the last golfer is off the course. 4. Very few clubs have a steam, sauna, whirlpool, massage room and business center. 5. Large fitness centers open to both men and women are very popular. 6. Not all clubs provide single-use bars of soap. 7. Locker room staff need accountability. 8. It is uncommon to see the locker room manager’s picture included on the club’s website. 9. Clubs do not realize just how much better the locker rooms can be. 10. Robes are not provided or sold at most clubs. 11. Men’s locker rooms have more features and amenities than women’s, except for Liberty National Golf Club (Jersey City, NJ). 12. Most shoeshine rooms would not pass a neatness test. 13. Inexpensive dollar store brands cheapen the experience. 14. Water volume and pressure in the showers is not always that good. 15. New showerheads with the water limiters removed are often overlooked. 16. No men-only grill in the locker room at every club. 17. A good choice of sink and shower amenities is lacking and quite often not neatly arranged. 18. Better-quality colognes are not featured because of theft by members and guests. 19. Grooming stations, if any, are inadequately supplied. 20. Full-size tall wood or metal lockers and shorter metal type with two doors are preferred over double stack. 21. A barbershop is impressive but only a handful of clubs have one. 22. Some clubs do not provide washcloths yet only offer shower gel. 23. Locker room managers provide their personal cellphone numbers for better service. 24. On course food and drink deliveries are part of the service. 25. Manager and board meetings do not necessarily include the locker room manager. 26. Shower towels with soiled-towel drops are not always conveniently located by each locker cove. 98


27. I have never seen a tall glass door refrigerator for dry-chilled bath towels by a steam, sauna or whirlpool. 28. No club I have been to offers heated towels or heated robes by the showers. 29. Annual locker fees range from under $100 to over $300. 30. Employee suggestions are not always implemented when major renovations are done, causing low morale. 31. Clubs say they want to be the best but will not spend the money to be such. 32. There is a shortage of guest lockers and at times lockers for members. 33. Few have separate sinks for the showers and separate sinks for the bathrooms. 34. Other than The Greenbrier (White Sulphur Springs, WV), no club has a walk-in shoe drying room. 35. Placing shoes on locker tops is not always allowed or possible. 36. Scented damp-chilled washcloths are rarely seen. 37. Some clubs provide a dry cleaning and laundry service, but this is not the standard. The locker room should be as important as any other department. It can bring significant revenue to the club in annual locker fees, guest play income and new members joining. Not having full-time locker room staff diminishes the overall club experience, worth and reputation. However, at fully staffed clubs, the locker room manager/attendant is still a confidant and friend who makes members and guests feel special. This has been a trend for years which, thankfully, will never go out of style. B R

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Keith Soriano, MBA, PGA is a career consultant for the PGA of America serving the Colorado and Utah sections.

What Does the Labor Shortage Say About Our Workplaces? Our industry has long relied on cheap labor, particularly in the front-line A quick Google search for “labor shortage” offered more than 81,600,000 results. To say service and entry-level roles, and assumed it would always be abundant. To that finding employees to fill roles in our tra- be fair, we’re not the only industry that has operated under this premise. It seems clear that the era of bottom-line friendly labor is quickly coming to ditional business models is top of mind for a close. If you combine a shift in values with an aging population, lower birth many would be a massive understatement. rates, and the rapid expansion of gig-economy opportunities that provide For those of us in the golf industry, the flexibility and lifestyle choices that people seek, the labor pool isn’t just shalstartling lack of staff and the exponential low, it’s draining. growth in club activity and interest in the And don’t forget, it’s not just unskilled laborers working at Uber or Doorgame of golf is the perfect storm for staffDash who take advantage of the gig economy. Highly skilled professionals and ing hardships. craftsmen can leverage their skills to provide consulting services and contract While there was some hope that the end work. of extended unemployment benefits would So, where does this leave us as an industry? drive people back to the workplace, if reWell, we’re certainly not giving up. The PGA of America’s Career Services cent data is to be believed, the impact isn’t Department recently hired four additional staff members to augment the 22 nearly what employers had anticipated. consultants already in the field to provide outreach, awareness, and onboardStates that ended benefits early have ing to attract individuals to our industry and get them connected. seen little benefit. Both Britain and conIt’s a start, but as an industry, we will need to continue to address comtinental Europe are seeing similar labor pensation, work-life integration, and advancement opportunities across the shortages despite only modest expansions board. to unemployment benefits associated with It falls to all of us to be proactive in multiple ways to face this new era: the pandemic. • Retain. Take good care of the staff you have. Pay them well, treat them So, what’s the answer? Where have all well, develop them and mentor them. The replacement costs will far outweigh the people gone? Why does a recent JPthe additional financial burdens involved in retention. Morgan study show that half of the people • Recruit. Stay aggressive in your approach to adding talent to your team. who lost jobs during the pandemic aren’t Use your network, manage your brand, and approach recruiting like a marketlooking for a new one? ing activity, not a human resource activity. The answer may be more complicated • Reinvest. Your current employees are your best recruiters. Make sure than simple dollars and cents. you invest the time and money to develop, engage, train, and challenge them. Many of the people we are looking for There is no quicker way to turn a labor shortage into a labor crisis than earnhave a different perspective on the valuaing a reputation as a toxic or dead-end workplace. tion of their time. Individuals seek oppor• Reinvent. Wendy’s is opening 700 new locations that are drive-thru tunities that connect with their values and only. A special purpose acquisition company recently invested $100 million lives and are less willing to sacrifice other in ghost kitchens for delivery only and locations with no dining rooms for parts of their lives to appease their wallets. BurgerFi. It’s time to reimagine how you can operate your business with less Americans are less eager to engage in human capital. New technologies, efficiencies and, most importantly, managlow-paid service and hospitality work and ing consumer expectations will be essential. Facilities will have to decide what have decided that more time spent on fam- is critical and what is nice to have and adjust accordingly. ily, education, and leisure provides a higher The end of this labor shortage isn’t in sight, but with savvy business acustandard of living, even if it means less to men, genuine care for your people, and a specific plan to engage them, we’ll the bottom line. see the other side of it together. B R 100


KRIS BUTTERFIELD Kris Butterfield is director of membership, communications & public relations at Bethesda Country Club and president of PCMA. She can be reached at (301) 767-8252 or


The Importance of Background Screening for Private Clubs Private clubs have a new definition of “coming out of the woodwork.” People who never considered joining a private club are now drawn to personalized service and the safety and security of a private membership base. As clubs benefited from an increase of cold inquiries, many maneuvered around membership referrals as the preferred and primary source of new members. As a result, membership professionals have spent more time qualifying leads, navigating a shorter buying cycle, educating prospects on terms like assessments and refundability, helping prospects transition from client mentality to owner mentality, and detailing an adjusted onboarding process. New members are joining private clubs with the mindset of a customer versus an owner, causing the onboarding process to be more inclusive and educational. Now memberships are being sold quicker and without buyer hesitation. As we expand our membership base, it is critical to maintain our prerequisite for high caliber character which makes our club exclusive and desirable. Rapid expansion of club membership requires us to thoroughly vet new members before onboarding begins. An influx of membership applications can mean great things for revenue but with new members comes added risk. As owners and operators, it is imperative to remain socially and financially responsible to the club. Ensuring new member affordability with a clear background will maintain the organization’s reputation, culture, and sense of community. Recognizing this need for thorough and compliant background vetting, Bethesda Country Club engaged Reliable Background Screening to facilitate comprehensive review for members. For over 30 years, the team at Reliable Background Screening has been protecting corporations, private clubs, and member organizations as a nationwide provider of background checks. President Rudy Troisi states, “Not all background checks are the same and no single criminal database covers the entire country. To best mitigate the risk of ac-

cepting a dangerous individual, thorough and compliant background screening, designed specifically for member organizations, should be considered a top priority as private clubs work to strengthen their operations and grow their membership bases.” The best practice for private club background searches includes all legal names and counties where an individual has lived for the past seven years. Troisi remarks, “As no criminal database exists that covers the entire United States, it is important to supplement a criminal database check with non-instant county criminal searches, especially when those counties are not regularly updated in the database.” Furthermore, searching all legal names – past and present – is important, as most criminal records do not have Social Security numbers attached to them. In addition to thorough criminal searches on prospective members, a credit report is helpful as it illustrates the financial capacity and responsibility of new members. To maintain legality, make sure to engage a background screening company that is also a consumer reporting agency (CRA) and can provide authorized reports to your country club, yacht club, golf club, or other private membership organization. For country clubs that attract members abroad, hiring a background screening company with access to international credit reports and records databases is also vitally important. Member safety and security is a fundamental expectation and most members take it for granted that their security is assured. Unfortunately, without performing thorough background checks on new members, private clubs place their existing members, employees, and brand at great risk. Conducting thorough background checks on members is one of the best tools private clubs have at their disposal to help protect their members, staff, reputation, and bottom line. B R



RYAN MAIONE Ryan Maione is president, MembersFirst. He can be reached via email:


The Waiting List Game You Can’t Afford to Lose It wasn’t that long ago that clubs were searching for the key to unlocking the puzzle posed by member recruitment and marketing in a digital age. Forward-thinking clubs implemented modern club marketing efforts, and for some that meant real questions about the sustainability of membership numbers in the face of an aging demographic. Then came the spring of 2020 and with it all of the challenges a global pandemic presented, including a surge in new and unexpected memberships at clubs nationwide. For those prepared to handle that surge, with digital tools and processes in place, this event posed an enormous opportunity. And as the 2020 season progressed—and from all indications 2021 has been much of the same—fervent interest in club memberships continued. Waiting lists returned, and for many clubs, they were created for the first time. Membership waiting lists in the digital marketing age are uncharted territory for most clubs. So much so that I’ve even heard that clubs have stopped responding to membership requests because their waitlist is “full.” This self-imposed cap is not doing clubs any long-term favors. At some point membership directors will be replacing outgoing members with new prospects, so they should continue to fill the top of the sales funnel with high-quality candidates, nurturing them along the way. To keep that funnel full, your club website should continue to accept online membership inquiries, with enhanced messaging to keep expectations in line with when memberships will become available. Once received, membership inquiries should be answered, ideally with an automated email marketing campaign so as not to create more work. Modern marketing best practices would also advocate you track this information in a CRM so that nobody waiting gets lost in an old Excel file, and that new inquiries are reacted to intelligently. Much like a garden, a waitlist needs to be tended. Yes, there might be a few seeds that will eventually bear fruit from the rain and sun alone, but if you want a full harvest, the seeds will need consistent care. A list of prospects needs to be communicated with on a regular, albeit less frequent, basis.



Your club is a place your prospects want to join, so keep them up to date on larger club events, capital planning projects, and upcoming club improvements to maintain their interest. Send updates every other month for a total of six emails in a year. If that is too much, consider a quarterly prospect newsletter. Does your club have a time during the year when memberships are most likely to become available? This is when you really want to send out direct emails to those at the top of your waitlist to gauge interest. Some prospects will have moved on, and that’s to be expected, but those that are likely your best candidates will wait in anticipation of a soon-to-open spot. Social media has been a focus of membership directors for the last five years and attracting members through beautiful Instagram posts and stories has proven effective. If your waiting list is full, should you still promote the club through these channels? Yes, because now is the time to capitalize on your full roster. Club life should be bustling and what better time to get photographs and videos to share on social media to raise the reputation of your club? Every post doesn’t need to use the hashtag #RequestMembership, but your followers will be watching and wishing they were taking part in the fun. Your crop of new members is also a gold mine for creating member testimonials. They joined the club during a really tough year and probably found refuge in the amenities that only a club was allowed to offer. A video interview with new members could be featured in your waiting list email newsletter. To keep your waiting list engaged and uncover prospect intelligence, it might be a good idea to send out a survey to ask what these future members look forward to most at the club, how often they hope to visit, whether they have had a change in lifestyle and other information that might help you prepare a better onboarding experience when they are able to join. If your club has a waiting list today, remember that these are the members of tomorrow. The likelihood that these prospects will one day be your club’s biggest asset and promoters starts with how they experience your club, even if it is from the outside looking in. B R

TED ROBINSON Ted Robinson is a partner with Private Club Associates and can be reached at (478) 741 7996 or via email:


What’s Next When it Comes to Building Lasting Member Loyalty? “Whatever you do. do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.” – Walt Disney “Customer satisfaction is worthless. Customer loyalty is priceless.” – Jeffrey Gitomer “The more you engage with customers, the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.” – John Russell Thanks to the COVID-19 golf bump, many clubs now have full memberships or are approaching their limits. It has been a long time since clubs have seen this level of demand for membership – and the emergence of waiting lists. However, as many of us who have been in the private club industry for many years know, the membership flow can quickly change to “out” instead of “in.” Remember 2008 and the following years when members walked away from six-figure initiation fees, and refund lists and club liabilities grew exponentially? Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again – or at least to that magnitude, but to quote Lee Child’s protagonist, Jack Reacher: “Hope for the best; plan for the worst.” So, what should we as membership staff be doing? I think now is an excellent time to deep dive into member retention. “Depending on which study you believe, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one when times are normal. It makes sense: You don’t have to spend time and resources going out and finding a new client – you just have to keep the one you have happy.” – Amy Gallo Now is the time to analyze what steps, processes and efforts your club must take to build lasting loyalty in your current members. Step one is doing continuing (but not burdensome) research. Ask your members what they value. What would drive them out? How happy are they with their club? What more can you do to enhance their member experience? What do they want next year? Every good company learns what makes customers tick and measures how well the company is doing. This week, I

answered three surveys on the effectiveness of “the agent who handled my call.” Have you hosted regular “discussion groups” with members to take the club’s temperature and solicit ideas that would enhance loyalty? Does the club’s governing process (committees, board) encourage getting members involved – or is there excessive inbreeding? Step two is making sure every member is folded into the club’s fabric. Does each member, and that member’s family, have multiple opportunities to be in “their crowd”? Is the club truly welcoming? We were engaged to facilitate a strategic plan and were initially informed that this was the friendliest club in the market. When new members, former members, and neighbors were polled, the club received an “as friendly as a wounded alligator” rating. What new programs or services have you added to enhance members’ perceived value, to make the club their “third place”? Step three: Do you engage members if their club participation declines? Do you follow up if a member has no charges in a 45-day period? Step four is tracking your attrition rate. As well, do you conduct exit interviews and stay in touch with resigned members? These four steps can be a guide and checklist to encourage and assist membership directors to prepare for a “just in case” scenario. “The future depends on what you do today.” – Mahatma Gandhi B R



MIKE PHELPS Mike Phelps is CEO/co-founder at Pipeline Agency. He can be reached via email: mike@pipeline.agencymike


Improve Your Club Website With Easy Ways to Fix Your Site This year, we’ve helped more clubs redesign their websites than ever. It seems clubs are taking advantage of the increase in online interest by freshening up their online presence, updating their story and messaging, and modernizing their websites to reflect current navigation and design elements. These design elements must also be balanced with how search engines will rank your website – in other words, how well the content and technical details of your site are interpreted by Google and other search engines. Once people find your site, you still only have a short amount of time to grab their attention. On average, people will read 20 percent of the words on a page. If your website is cluttered and doesn’t have a clear message or call to action, visitors won’t be sticking around long. Here are seven quick ways to enhance your website, increase conversions, and improve your search engine optimization. 1. Value proposition The value proposition tells the visitor what you do and why you do it. Put your value proposition on your home page, in your headline if possible. Add it to your contact or about page. Let visitors know exactly what they will be getting if they join your club. Here are two examples of how to structure your value proposition: • [Our club] is where [our audience] can [what benefit/ outcome]. • [Our club] is the only club that offers [benefit/outcome] for [audience]. 2. Website navigation The navigation on your website serves two purposes: It helps users find what they’re looking for, and it helps your search engine rankings. Your visitors should come first, search engines second. Be human. Use descriptive navigation instead of generic “What We Do” text. Descriptive navigation that uses key phrases is better for two reasons. Here’s where SEO and conversions come in. • Descriptive labels in your navigation are good for search engines The navigation bar is a key place to indicate relevance to search engines. Since your navigation appears on every page, the descriptive label shows Google that you are truly about that topic. 104


• Descriptive labels in your navigation are good for visitors Your navigation bar is visually prominent, so it communicates instantly. When it lists your main products or services, it will be obvious, at a glance, what your company does up front, so they’ll know they’re in the right place. Use your main navigation as a place to start telling people and search engines about how members enjoy the lifestyle your club provides. Use labels with top-of-mind phrases for visitors – words that your visitors would use and words that your visitors are searching for. Remember that your visitors may be new to private clubs, so try to stay away from internal terms or club lingo. This creates fewer clicks for the user and helps search engines indicate your relevance. 3. Call to action text The call to action, or CTA, is huge. You’ve got your users on the site, they’re interested, now what do you want them to do? Tell them. Buttons are for actions, like Download Our Lookbook, Schedule My Visit, Add My Name to the Interest List. The text on the button should begin with a verb. Otherwise it’s not a call to action, just a button with some text on it. “More Information,” for example, is not a call to action. Use the first person voice (I, me, my) to let the users tell the CTA what to do. For example, Download My Lookbook. Another effective approach is to say that the words on a button must make sense after both the interrogative “Would you like to…?” (where the publisher speaks) as well as the conditional “I would like to…” (where the user speaks). You should be able to evaluate every button you create using this test. 4. Carousels According to studies, user interaction greatly decreases after the first slide in a carousel. Not really shocking, but almost no one makes it to the fourth or fifth slide. If you decide that your site needs carousels, keep it to three at most. Studies also warn against auto-forwarding slides. Top conversion rate experts agree that while it seems counterintuitive, motion from carousels actually distracts visitors. The human brain is hard-wired to notice the onset of motion, which makes rotating banners especially distracting. We literally cannot tune them out – mainly because carousels

don’t tell a story or engage users in the same ways that video might. Does that mean you shouldn’t have a carousel on your site? Not necessarily. Take into account the message, context and design. Using a carousel for image galleries on an interior page may make sense, especially for mobile designs. 5. Team pages We all want to know, like and trust you before we are willing to buy anything from you – especially before we join your club. Let your website visitors know who’s behind the scenes in your club and, most importantly, what your culture is all about through the eyes of your team. At the end of the day, people want to join a club where their beliefs and values are shared – not only among fellow members, but also among your team, within the experiences they are motivated to create for members. 6. Forms We tend to caution our website clients against asking for too much information on their website forms. Too often we see clubs asking for details that aren’t relevant for the initial stages of interest. Do you really need to know a prospect’s birthday or the type of membership they are interested in before you’ve ever had a conversation with them? Sometimes, in order to get a site visitor to convert, you might need to capture much more than just a name and email. In these cases, instead of using a longer form, break

your form up into multiple steps with easy to digest sections. Once the first form is submitted, a new form appears with the next set of questions. Multi-page forms boost conversion rates and help to gain higher qualified website inquiries. In all cases, however, your sign-up forms should be visually prominent and promise something specific. Make it clear what people are signing up for. 7. Bundled versus unbundled websites Our industry is served by a handful of website providers that include websites as part of a bundled suite of back-office software. While the bundled approach can streamline things, there are shortcomings when it comes to website design, messaging, measurement, and SEO. We’re seeing many clubs shift towards best-in-class website design, SEO and hosting – relying on specialized agencies to enhance their online presence. Unbundled websites can offer the same integration and technology benefits, with built-from-scratch website design and done-for-you copywriting, advanced technical and on-page SEO, and ongoing content and visual updates. The rest of your existing bundle (member portal, reservations, member billing, etc.) remains as is, minimizing disruption. If your club is considering a website refresh, consider how unbundling your website can help your club stand out to prospective members and employees. BR



GREGG PATTERSON Gregg Patterson is founder and president of Tribal Magic. He can be reached via email:


Communicating Change The change adventure! Change is happening — and the pace of change is accelerating. Change is an adventure — a journey filled with uncertainty, emotional angst, operational turmoil and painful surprises. Anticipating changes and responding with enthusiasm can be — with the right change mindset — a joy for the management team. Change leaders — those who see change coming, who love the opportunities change offers and who create the future — will flourish. But change is all about uncertainty and uncertainty is scary for those who are affected by change. Change and the possibility of change make The Impacted cautious, twitchy, negative and combative. The Impacted cling to what is because they know what is, have adjusted to what is and have accepted that what is is effortless, pain free and good enough. The challenge for Changers is to make The Impacted receptive to change and to make the changes stick. And job one of doing change right is understanding the five parts of the change journey. The change journey Managers and boards who’ve done change right appreciate that every change involves a five-step process. Step one: Identify and prioritize change possibilities. Change leaders know lots of things need changing. They identify the change possibilities, prioritize and communicate the list and the priorities and listen for feedback. Step two: Approve the change. Feedback is collected, pondering takes place and the changes are approved — and the what, why, why not and how are communicated and feedback is collected. Step three: Make the change. The changes are undertaken, the process is communicated — and feedback is collected. Step four: Debrief the changes. Input is collected and pondering gets done — and insights are communicated and feedback is collected. Step five: Changing the changes. After doing the debriefing and pondering the feedback, the changes are tweaked as needed — and the what, why, why not, how and when of the tweaks are communicated and feedback is collected. To be effective, each of these steps needs to be properly communicated. Here’s how. Start with a philosophy People need to know what needs changing, why it’s needed, why it’s not needed, how it’ll happen and what’ll be done if the change doesn’t work. These people — The Impacted — want info. 106


Therefore, a philosophy of change communication is needed. Simple. Easy to remember. Easy to explain. Easy to publish. Easy to follow. Here’s a powerful first principle when a change is considered, approved, executed, debriefed or modified: Tell lots of people, lots, early and often, encourage feedback and change the change if more change is needed. A communications philosophy is a must have before Changers start making changes. It’s the roadmap needed to ensure receptivity and stick. Who does the communicating Spokesmen are needed to communicate the changes and to engage The Impacted in reasoned conversation. There are formal spokesmen — insiders who speak for the club, including the general manager, supervisors, the board of directors and committee members. And there are informal spokesmen — members and staffers who are key influencers, the alpha dogs and queen bees of the club community, who are outside the formal chain of command but are visible, listened to and believed by the general membership. Spokesmen need to be educated in right communications and energized to deliver the message with enthusiasm and conviction. They need to know the whats, whys, why nots, hows and whens of the changes being made. They need to be practiced in the art of verbal repartee, armed to defend themselves when The Impassioned Impacted get agitated. And they need to be buzzed about the future those changes will help create. Identifying and educating The Spokesmen needs to be done consciously and methodically. Doing spokesmen right is the foundation of change communications. Who needs to hear what’s happening Everyone impacted by the change — directly or indirectly — needs to hear the message. These people, The Stakeholders of Change, include the committees, the members and their families (their support network), staff and their families (their support network) and the neighbors who’ll be affected by the change. Caution — because each of these stakeholders hears differently, the tactics for delivering the change message need to be customized and personalized for each stakeholder group. And if there’s ever a question about who is a stakeholder, The Changers need to err on the side of caution

and assume that the questionable are in fact stakeholders in the change adventure. Too many who know the facts are far better than too few. Why The Impacted aren’t hearing Changers often say that The Impacted aren’t listening to the message they’re delivering. Knowing why they’re not receptive will help The Changers create tactics for overcoming the no-hear mindset. For example, they don’t care about what’s happening. They don’t want to hear what’s being said. They’re hearing what they fear and have wax in their ears. They’re too busy to listen closely. The wrong messaging medium’s being used. The message is confusing, needlessly complex or misleading. Bad change experiences in the past have made the stakeholders suspicious. They don’t like the people proposing the changes. Or they’re just curmudgeonly negative types who’ll never say yes because no feels better. It’s critical that Changers know why The Impacted aren’t listening and consciously develop strategies and tactics for capturing their engagement. Big wants of The Impacted The Impacted have wants when it comes to change communications. The Impacted want insight. They want to know the what, the why, the why not, the when and the how of the changes being considered and they want it all explained clearly and simply. They want to be convinced that the changes are important, needed and timely and that the pain they’ll experience and the angst they’ll feel is worth the trauma they’ll experience. They want The Changers to be upfront and honest about possible downsides to the changes and they want to be told what’ll be done if those changes go negative. And they want The Changers to communicate enthusiasm and emotion for the changes they’re pursuing. The Impacted want input. They want to be heard during each step of the change journey. They hunger for two-way communication, for an interactive exchange of ideas and comments. The Impacted want to hear from The Changers directly — eye-to-eye, in the hallways, on the first tee, in the bar, in the locker room and in the parking lot. They want to see that their ideas have been communicated to others. And they want to know that their input has been digested by The Changers. The Impacted want insights and input. Tactics are needed. Here are a few. The communications package Change receptivity — the softening of opposition — requires communication. A package of tactics is needed for use during each of the five stages of the change journey. This communications package consists of The Yap, The Scribble and The Visual.

The Yap: The Yap is about spoken, interactive, verbal communications. Here are a few Yap opportunities: • Walking and talking • Committee meetings • Board meetings • Staff meetings • Member forums • Member round tables • Staff round tables • The visible, accessible and inviting office • Weekly meetings with the prez • Monthly meetings with the chairs • Manager/president open table lunch. What’s said is fleeting — talk is a vapor. The spoken word is powerful and emotional but it’s local and open to misinterpretation. The Scribble is needed. The Scribble: The Scribble is about written communications. Here are a few scribble opportunities: • Explanatory letters from the board and/or the manager to The Impacted • The suggestion box • White papers • Weekly board update • Board/committee annotated agendas • Newsletters • Personal letters/notes/emails from the board and manager • Written response to comments made — the complaint cycle • Social media. The Scribble is forever, can be distributed and is an opportunity for reasoned discussion. But The Scribble lacks fire. For fire, The Visual is needed. The Visual: The Visual is about seen communications, and what’s seen has emotional power. Here are a couple of visual opportunities: • Changer interactive presence throughout the club • Photography and graphics — online and in-house • Videos — online and in-house. The Visual — particularly when combined with words and music — have high emotional impact, are easy to understand and are quick to absorb. And futurists tell us that videos are the communications wave of the future. Communicate the change Change is happening — and will continue to happen. People will be scared. Communications are needed to improve change receptivity and to ensure that the changes stick. Change leaders are needed to identify change, communicate change, execute change and modify the changes made. Those who do change right and have mastered change communications will flourish. And those who flourish will feel the buzz and are guaranteed to enjoy the journey. B R NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2021 | BOARDROOM




Bill Boothe is president and owner of The Boothe Group, LLC, an independent consulting firm that helps clubs understand computer technology, make good decisions and receive the highest value from their technology investment. During his 28 years in the club industry Bill has assisted more than 400 private clubs. Bill can be reached at

Member Communications Don’t Get Carried Away

Don’t get carried away: Once you get Using technology to communicate with and engage members is a well-estabyour email/text program targeted, you might lished trend in the private club industry. be tempted to overcommunicate with your Unfortunately, a great number of clubs are misusing these tools in a members. This is one case where more isn’t well-intentioned effort to increase member engagement. I’m specifically necessarily better. A good rule of thumb is to referring to email and text messaging, which have become the mainstay for limit targeted messages to one or two a month. clubs to keep their members up to date and informed. So, to avoid the pitThat way you can keep your target audiences falls of electronic communications, here are a few tips to help guide your informed without pestering them. member engagement strategy. The unsubscribe trend: Increasingly we’re Target your communications: It’s okay to send a weekly or monthly hearing where members are choosing to email to all members highlighting what’s going on across the club’s amenunsubscribe from club communications. As ity spectrum. But that should be it for the “shotgun approach.” Unless it’s might be expected, members become weary of an emergency notification or a very special occasion promotion, all other receiving information on topics they have no communications should be targeted. That means sending topical emails/ interest in. The predictable result is to unsubtexts to members based upon their specific interests. scribe. Targeting requires some work on your part to create an easy and obviOf course, you should always allow members ous method for members to tell you what interests them. Most common to unsubscribe from the club’s communicaare “opt-in” lists offered on the club’s website or mobile app. Members tions, but in a way that offers them the option can quickly indicate their areas of interest and agree to receive communito continue receiving information on some cations on those topics. You may also issue a brief online survey to your topics and not others. Offering just a simple membership requesting that members choose which topics they would like “unsubscribe” option encourages a blanket to be kept informed about. rejection of all club communications. When unsubscribing, members should always see the target topics available so they can make informed choices. In some cases, members intending to unsubscribe will actually add topics to their target list while opting out of others. Email versus text messaging: Numerous studies have shown that text messaging (a.k.a. SMS) is more effective than email for communicating in a simple, straightforward manner. Open rates for texts are around 98 percent, while email offers a much lower open rate of 20-25 percent. However, longer more complex communications tend to lend themselves better to email. An effective strategy will involve a mixture of emails and texts to maximize effectiveness. Bottom line: If you want to maximize your electronic communications with your members, without aggravating them, follow this simple rule: Target but don’t overdo it. BR 108


from On the Frontlines | 81

ernance as well as anything else that is pressing. The goal is to make sure every board member is in the know and that we are all on the same page. These updates also strengthen our relationship and help us to work together more cohesively,” Morris intoned. The Admirals Cove GM also explained that new board members go through orientations, which introduce them to the club’s governing documents and financial objectives and provide them the guidance to understand their exact responsibilities. “For example, we want our board members to focus on the big picture, not how much mayo is in the tuna salad. You may think that I’m joking, but have you ever managed a club in Boca Raton, FL?” Morris queried. Besides orientations, the club also holds annual board retreats. “These are designed to keep the club’s board members aligned with our goals and objectives, review our vision and mission statement and make sure everyone knows what it is they do and the role they play,” Morris explained. from Nancy’s Corner | 88

cle – perhaps for good junior golfers. Golf clubs that drew my attention not only highlighted shorter tees but also described “family” or “junior golf” programs and included photos. Millennials want to be with their families. How many Distinguished Clubs identified a short golf experience on their website? Did it include having fun? Only 16. I reviewed the scorecards of the Distinguished Clubs. The most common short courses were identified as a par 3; Family Tees and Junior Tees were also often noted. The term Executive Course was seldom used. Of course, I did not see monthly newsletters or special mailings, and I apologize to those clubs I inadvertently overlooked and neglected to mention. Following are the Distinguished Clubs with short courses (including junior golf programs) that are well identified and promoted on their websites. • Barton Hills Country Club, Ann Arbor, MI • Chartwell Golf and Country Club, Severna Park, MD • Columbus Country Club, Columbus, OH from Global Perspectives | 93

had hated their old jobs,” he wrote. “And workers are, it seems, willing to pay a price to avoid going back to the way things were. “To the extent that this is the story behind recent labor shortages, what we’re looking at is a good thing, not a problem,” he continued. “Perversely, the pandemic may have given many Americans a chance to figure out what really matters to them — and the money they were being paid for unpleasant jobs, some now realize, just wasn’t enough.” 112


“Communicate with your membership openly, honestly, and in a straightforward manner with no ambiguity. Although it may be uncomfortable at times, I have found it is the best strategy to develop trust with the members as the president and the board. The communications need to be frequent, especially when you’re dealing with significant issues within the club,” McCart stressed. “During the pandemic, we were unable to meet in person, and we found that Zoom meetings with an open forum for members to participate were particularly effective to have open communications with the general manager and the president. As a result, by sharing specific information and answering the members’ questions in such a straightforward manner, many members were surprised at our candor,” McCart added. “Governance is different at every club you go to but remember, as a GM, you play a pivotal role in what it looks like and how it’s implemented. So, use your voice and remember why you choose to be a private club general manager,” Morris concluded. B R

• • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Country Club of Fairfax, Fairfax, VA Forsyth Country Club, Winston-Salem, NC The Clubs at Houston Oaks, Hockley, TX Manchester Country Club, Bedford, NH Medinah Country Club, Medinah, IL Nashawtuc Country Club, Concord, MA Northwood Club, Dallas, TX Pinehurst Country Club, Pinehurst, NC LedgeRock Golf Club, Mohnton, PA The Bridgewater Club, Carmel, IN Desert Mountain Club, Scottsdale, AZ Mizner Country Club, Delray Beach, FL Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club, Brewster, MA The Plantation at Ponte Vedra Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL • TPC Treviso Bay, Naples, FL (Bay Tees) I also want to encourage all of the Distinguished Clubs to provide the greatest opportunities for their members to learn and enjoy the game. Short courses are fun. BR

DiOrio said the pandemic-inspired learning lessons work both ways. “I don’t think this is a death blow to the industry – it’s not. But it’s going to put far more pressure on the industry to do a better job of vetting and recruiting, something that by and large the club industry has done poorly. “During the housing crisis of ‘08, ‘09 and ’10, we had to think creatively to survive. This is no different. The clubs that want to stay the course, stay the same, pay the same rate and don’t change the way they think, don’t change their recruitment strategies are going to fall back dramatically. We just have to adapt.” B R

Thank you Boardroom Magazine Staff for all your support the past 25 years. Here’s to the next 25! #1 Provider of Member Images for Club Use Since 1945.

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30 Years



from Reilly - 25th Anniversary | 62

from Graves - 25th Anniversary | 66

“I have thoroughly enjoyed the people I’ve met, the variety of work I have done, the places I’ve seen and the support of the people I interact with regularly. I’ve had the opportunity to write, teach, speak, mentor, develop colleagues and generally do a variety of activities that are far beyond my wildest expectations. It’s been a very rewarding, gratifying and fun career. “It has given me the opportunity to do things with family and I’ve made some very close friendships over the years. I’ve gone scuba diving in Australia with my daughter Erin, hiked the Rockies and Alps with my son Patrick and traveled extensively with my wife, Alice. It’s been fun. Now I get to be a grandparent and that’s one of my favorite roles,” Reilly concluded. BR

financial elements of business. I’ve found a profession and people within the profession that bring me considerable joy. Consequently, I never feel as though I’m going to work,” he confided. Still, Graves’ life balance has not always been what he’s desired. “Unfortunately, balance between personal goals and professional goals have been not quite as good as I would have liked. However, my wife and I have made a concerted effort to spend a week each year with our two grown boys and their spouses. “But I have many regrets about the personal/professional balance decisions I made throughout my career. “Like many in our profession, it is my biggest regret and one for which I hope all who follow me will give much better consideration to their life balance. “Everyone tells how they could not have been successful without their spouse. Well, my story is the same. My wife has given me unconditional support and love to pursue my professional goals and dreams.



“The greatest thing that has happened to me personally lately is COVID-19. I used to travel 100-150 days a year (for 30-plus years) and thanks to COVID-19, I’ve had the absolute privilege of spending more time with my wife over the last 18 months, sequestered together in our house, than I have spent in 44 years of marriage. “I have enjoyed the quality time with my wife and rediscovering just why I fell in love with her 44-plus years ago. I believe she is still just as cute as she was back in college. But I have truly rediscovered how her sense of humor, caring nature and extraordinary outlook on life are her true beauty that I have missed while being on the road. My thanks to Covid-19 for reuniting me with her,” Graves expressed. And for Steve Graves, the golfer, his career in the private club industry there’s been another bonus… the opportunity to play golf with some “cool and famous people. “Sam Snead, Vince Gil, Bruce Jenner and Arnold Palmer, to name a few. Never would I have enjoyed such opportunities without my friends in the club industry,” Graves recalled. B R

from Executive Committee | 44

from F&B Committee | 46

3. Encourage leaders to take a future-focused perspective. Strong enterprise risk management today sets up the club for a better future, especially if major new amenities or services offerings are planned. Clubs with an established risk management strategy and culture are often more attractive to potential lenders because they have established compliance and governance processes in place. They also reduce the likelihood of costly disruptions and fines that could delay the rollout of new facilities or programming, hiring initiatives or other strategic plans. 4. Support your concerns, needs and strategy with data. Benchmarking reports and technology risk assessments can be valuable tools to demonstrate a need for change. They help clubs understand how they stack up with their peers and highlight high-priority areas for change. Such assessments can be comprehensive or specific and can cover IT systems, physical security, cybersecurity, data governance and privacy, and regulatory compliance management. 5. Get started. In recent years, new cyberthreats, a global pandemic and various supply chain disruptions have led risk leaders to rethink their approach to addressing potential threats. Club leaders should review the risks at both the strategic and operational level. By engaging their departmental teams in the risk management process through facilitated discussion sessions, club management can identify risk themes and develop a risk universe. Club leaders can then develop scales for risk, impacts, likelihood and controllability, ultimately leading to a prioritized risk ranking. All of this might seem overwhelming given the ongoing daily challenges of running businesses that are currently booming, but risk management is a real ongoing battle for all businesses. Don’t let fear of the process stop you from embracing risk management as a core leadership competency at your club. As Sam Snead remarked, “Of all the hazards, fear is the worst.” BR

machine, like the Robot Coupe CL50, allows the chef to consistently dice all that zucchini, summer squash and eggplant, opening up time to redistribute to perfectly cooking and seasoning. Many automated solutions deliver a more consistent output and save hours of prep time, all while the locally grown vegetables that might be a pillar of your club’s culinary experience remain intact. Investigate: What does my data tell me? One of the best indicators for making decisions within a kitchen operation is the data. Understanding covers by meal period and by hour within the meal period allows for better management of the kitchen and better decision-making around the hours to be open and serving. Back-of-house productivity can be measured using labor hours per cover (total labor hours/total covers). This is one of the most important staffing metrics. It allows for more efficient scheduling, and it provides a standard of measurement to consistently evaluate an operation, driving decision-making around menu modifications and job responsibilities. Data drives efficiencies, and makes for easier management decisions. Challenge: How can I rethink my culinary operations? Historically, labor has been abundant in the hospitality industry. The solution to any problem has often been to add more staff. More covers, hire more staff. Seasonal menu changes, hire more staff. More weddings, hire more staff. Additional hours during peak season, hire more staff. In today’s climate, the go-to solution of hiring more staff is no longer feasible or reliable—they just are not there to hire. It’s time to rethink and think again, relying on the creativity that got us chefs here in the first place. BR



from Publisher’s Perspective | 10

And committees, as club work units, take work in their areas of expertise and break it into meaningful and manageable chunks that are of value to members. “Board committees - such as audit, finance, nominating, strategic planning - are accountable to the board while operating committees - such as golf, greens and grounds, racquets/tennis, swim, house - are accountable to the club’s manager. The guiding principle in sound governance behind this approach is aligning authority and accountability,” explained GGA Partners Henry Delozier. “Board committees study issues and recommend policies that support decisions at the board or strategic levels. Operations committees serve the GM by offering critical member (customer) input and in sharing the workload by helping with events and activities,” he added. “Each committee should have a carefully developed charter, which describes what the committee is to do and not do. The charter sets the term of service for the committee, states its position (as a board or operating committee), and its reporting responsibilities. “Committee responsibilities and authority should be carefully described because so many committees struggle to maintain focus and alignment with the club’s strategic plan, which guides the club’s future,” DeLozier stressed. And there’s agreement on another significant point: Committees function in an advisory capacity.

“Committees are purely advisory. They consist of members interested in a particular area of the club and assist the board by studying in-depth issues the board lacks time to address. But, with few exceptions, they lack authority to act independently of the board,” explained CB’s Mona. “Committees aid in the process of governance, not in operations or management. A committee studies issues and makes recommendations to the board in policy matters. The staff then makes recommendations on implementing policy and resources needed to accomplish the committee’s recommendations. The committee’s goals should be tied directly to the club’s strategic plan established by the board of directors,” Mona added. So, who should be placed on committees? “Ideally, committee members should be level-headed, active users of the club who understand the advisory role of committees and have a desire to set aside personal agendas for the benefit of the entire membership,” exclaimed Matt Lambert, general manager at the Country Club at Mirasol, Palm Beach Gardens, FL. “A successful committee representing a diverse membership would consist of members of different ages, genders, and membership levels. Committees should report to a club’s board of directors and serve in an advisory capacity only.” In Wallace’s opinion, it’s very important whom clubs place on committees. “The best and brightest clubs use a leadership development committee to aid in the nomination process. This

Well-formed board members are able to put personal preferences aside, understand their individual roles as board members and as fiduciaries, acting with good faith and making decisions based on what is in the best interests for the entire club community. Committee members privately communicating with members can also be troublesome, especially because of the optics. If board members individually communicate with members on certain topics, it may be interpreted as if one board member is speaking on behalf of the entire board when that’s not necessarily the case. “Committees are advisory and should work to support the priorities of the board and general manager. In addition, committees are the conduits of communication from the GM to the membership. It’s our opinion that in private clubs, the annual goals for the board should be set by the outgoing board members and the master goals for the committees should be set by the board and the GM,” recommended Wallace. “Committees only provide input and make recommendations. They are assigned projects to conduct research, gather insight and make recommendations,” he added. 116


committee serves as the nominating committee for the board for a few months out of the year. The rest of the time, the committee is actively interviewing candidates for committee service and searching the membership for the best members to serve. “At the end of the day, you don’t want anyone on a committee that you don’t think has the potential to be a great future board member. The only exception is if a member is selected to serve on an ad hoc committee because they are a specific expert needed for a specialized project,” Wallace said.

“Committees can be beneficial to the leadership of a private club, assuming they understand their roles and functions. In addition, a well-managed committee can be a great source of information and feedback for leadership and management to better understand the needs of a diverse membership,” emphasized Mirasol’s GM Lambert. And while there’s not total agreement, it’s apparent most feel a board member should chair a committee. “To ensure that the direction of a club’s board of directors is communicated clearly and without agenda, it’s optimal to have a board member serve as a committee chair or serve alongside a committee chair as a board liaison,” Lambert added. “Absolutely yes,” stressed Wallace. “If for some reason a club doesn’t have enough board members to ensure a board member is the chair of each committee, we think it’s important to have the committee leader give a report to the board monthly. This way, the board is still in the loop of what the committee is working on and how the committee is progressing on its assigned tasks. Without this regular communication, committees can get off topic or out of control.” GGA’s DeLozier doesn’t feel it’s necessary to have board members chair the committees, “but committee chairs should be prepared to dedicate substantial time to the work of the committee. Often, board members lack adequate time for committee service alongside their board responsibilities,” he explained. And while many private clubs operate with committees, can clubs function without committees? “Yes. In such a structure, the board members serve as a committee-of-thewhole regarding the four corners of board responsibility - finance, governance, strategy and leadership - which details the board’s duties and the management team serves as the operating committee function,” commented DeLozier. “A lot of clubs operate without committees, but they employ alternatives to still function effectively. For example, they put together ad hoc committees ➤ as needed and use focus groups to

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from Publisher’s Perspective | 117

gather input from the membership. They also do more frequent surveying of members, so they maintain the temperature of the membership on certain issues,” explained Wallace. “Clubs that don’t have committees or only have a few committees have well-structured strategic plans, highly regarded department heads and are clubs that tend to have enough people (labor) to do the work of committees,” he added. “A club absolutely can operate without committees, and I would argue that if the club’s leadership is doing their jobs effectively, it can operate more efficiently and at a higher level of membership satisfaction!” intoned Mirasol’s Lambert. “At Mirasol, the original board of directors eliminated all operational committees at the time of turnover from the developer. As a result, we currently only have membership, finance, audit, and grievance committees. The rationale of doing away with the other operational committees has been to preserve the existing culture of accountability and efficiency, as well as the high level of membership satisfaction created while under the developer’s control. “We were fortunate to have a visionary developer who understood the importance of member satisfaction and balanced it with the efficiency and accountability necessary to operate a large business. Thankfully, our first post-turnover board had the foresight to recognize the benefits of that business model and trusted and respected the ability of our professional team,” he added. “This foundation for our club governance is still in place today. We have a diverse membership at Mirasol, and our management team understands that our “committees” are the entire membership and not just these small, organized groups! “It is our responsibility to listen to everyone and lead our teams to deliver what is best for the majority of our members within our approved business model. As a result, our department leaders are more efficient with time and are held accountable for their results, as they are directly responsible for the planning and execution of their operation and cannot hide behind a committee’s recommendation,” Lambert explained. And it’s much the same for Michael McCarthy, CEO of Addison Reserve Country Club in Boca Raton, FL. “We believe in fiduciary committees: Audit, finance, grievance, legal, leadership development, membership. However, I do not believe, nor does the AR Board, that committees are productive. Professionals should be responsible for operating the day-to-day business without committees. However, on the other hand, we do support the fiduciary committees,” McCarthy stressed. And we leave the final word to Club Benchmarking’s Steve Mona: “Committees have defined parameters. Individuals should serve on only one committee to maximize the number of members participating in the club’s committee structure. Committee terms should be for one year at the pleasure of 118


the club’s president, and members should be limited to three consecutive years of service on any committee for the sake of continuity but also to allow others to serve. “Properly designed and implemented, the committee system is a critical component in the functioning of high-performing clubs. Like any other club asset, it must be continually evaluated, nurtured and enhanced to stay relevant and effective in a dynamic, ever-changing world.” PUBLISHER’S FINAL THOUGHTS In addition to providing valuable assistance to the board, committees also involve more members with personal experience in the governance process, resulting in a stronger, more involved club. As a bonus, they provide committee members with valuable association governance experience, making committees a hands-on training ground for new club leaders. Well-formed board members are able to put personal preferences aside, understand their individual roles as board members and as fiduciaries, acting with good faith and making decisions based on what is in the best interests for the entire club community. Committee members privately communicating with members can also be troublesome, especially because of the optics. If board members individually communicate with members on certain topics, it may be interpreted as if one board member is speaking on behalf of the entire board when that’s not necessarily the case. As well, words can be easily misconstrued – if a committee member tells a club member that someone else hasn’t paid dues for many months, that could be exaggerated to say it’s because of someone’s failing business or because of other personal issues. It certainly can exacerbate the situation. It’s also useful to remember that board members are only empowered to act when they are convened in a properly called meeting or when carrying out duties consistent with club policy. Other than that, a board member is a regular member. Understandably many board members are well-educated people who have spent years devoted to their various professions, with an education specifically aligned with the career they have chosen. Many have been members of corporate boards and/or 501(c)3 charity boards. But, now on a board of an equity 501(c)7 club, they are finding they don’t know everything about their role as a volunteer committee member. So, what should do they do? It’s time to get a new notebook and some fresh pencils (or today more likely a laptop) and head to class! BoardRoom Institute has an array of educational opportunities for board members, each presented by industry experts and focused on specific topics that will teach board members everything they need to know to serve a successful term on your club’s board. At least, that’s the way I see it. B R

John G. Fornaro, publisher

Thinking of replacing your club Thinking of replacing club management software?your Think again! management software? Think again! If your club accounting and POS software is 7, 10 or even 15 years old, you may be thinking of making a change. So were many of our club clients, who hired us to help them make that decision. Surprise! After a thorough needs assessment, 7 of 10 clubs decided to retain and improve their existing software. Money saved. Business interruption avoided. To learn more, contact us. 400+ CLUB CLIENTS - 30 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE.

(561) 281-0459 • (561) 281-0459 •


Technology Planning for Private Clubs

Technology Master Planning • Club Technology Report Cards • Cost Reduction / Audits • Hosted IT Solutions • Surveillance Cameras • Cyber Security Analysis • |




239.596.8551 | ADDISON RESERVE

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CLOCKS BY V E R D I N | 800-543-0488

Steve Berlin Steve Berlin




2012 - 2020


BOARDROOM MAGAZINE ADVERTISING INDEX ACCP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119

Hilda W. Allen Real Estate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117

Addison Law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

HINT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

Ambassador Uniform . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77

Jonas Club Software . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39

Angela Grande . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79

KE Camps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105

Big John Grills . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113

Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 & 70-71

BoardRoom’s Distinguished Clubs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3, 109, 110 & 111

Marsh and Associates | MAI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

BoardRoom’s Distinguished Golf Destinations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 114

McMahon Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37

Boothe Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119

MembersFirst . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33

Bozeman Club & Corporate Interiors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

Northstar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124

C2 Limited Design Associates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68-69

Peacock + Lewis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97

Castor Design Associates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41

PGA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

Club Bencharking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

PHX Architecture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

ClubDesign Associates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19

Pipeline . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67

ClubTec . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51

Proform . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97

ClubUp . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55

RCS Hospitality Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83

Cobalt Software . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Rogers McCagg . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87

Country Club Technology Partners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119

RSM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115

Creative Golf Marketing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

Strategic Club Solutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45

Duffy’s Tri-C Club . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99

Studio JBD & Jefferson Group Architecture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83

EA Photography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113

Syzygy + Azenco . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57

Emersa WaterBox . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53

Top Tier Leadership . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63

Eustis Chair . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87

Troon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65

Forbes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .73

USPTA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77

GCSAA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123

Videobolt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75

Gecko Hospitality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43

Vivid Leaf . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61

Golf Business Network . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47

WebTec . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51

Golf Maintenance Solutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119

XHIBTZ Contract Furnishing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99

Golf Property Analysts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117 High End Uniforms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79

BOARDROOM MAGAZINE COUNTRY CLUB INDEX Dave Bachman, Rockaway River Country Club, NJ

Joe V. McCart, president, The Club at Admirals Cove Jupiter, FL

Nancy Berkley, green committee and marketing committee, Frenchman’s Creek Beach & Country Club, Palm Beach Gardens, FL

Michael McCarthy, CEO Addison Reserve Country Club, Delray Beach, FL

Kris Butterfield is director of membership, communications & PR, Bethesda Country Club and president of PCMA. Jarrett Chirico, USPTA, PTR, PPTA,PPR, director of racquets, Baltimore Country Club, Baltimore, MD Eric Dietz, CCM, CCE, PG, GM, Mountain Lake, Lake Wales, FL Damon DiOrio, CCM, CCE, GM, Desert Mountain, Scottsdale, AZ Kate Karnik, GM, The Ranch Country Club, Westminster, CO Dr. Bonnie Knutson, the Country Club of Lansing and the Michigan Athletic Club Nancy Levenburg, member, Spring Lake Country Club, Spring Lake, MI Joel Livingood, Interlachen Country Club, MN Nicolas Markel, CCM, GM, Country Club of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY Carmen Mauceri, The Club at Mediterra, FL



Marian McGill, CCM, assistant GM, Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club, Gold Canyon, AZ Brett Morris, COO/GM, The Club at Admirals Cove Jupiter, FL Pamela Radcliff, SHRM-SCP, CAM, director of human resources, Hideaway Beach Club, Marco Island, FL Robert Sereci, GM, Medinah Country Club, Medinah, IL Richard Straughn, president, Mountain Lake, Lake Wales, FL Kristi Thoutt, president, The Ranch Country Club, Westminster CO Scott Urdang, president, Desert Mountain, Scottsdale, AZ Robert Walter, president, Country Club of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY


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