What is the financial impact of coronavirus on the American private golf clubs?

By: May 20, 2020

In the last two months, I’ve been researching and analyzing how coronavirus affects public golf clubs around the globe.

Robert A. Sereci (GM/COO, Medinah Country Club) shared with us his thoughts about what will coronavirus change in membership marketing in private golf clubs.

This time I will show you that the American private golf clubs are not ‘untouchables’ when they face the coronavirus crisis.

private golf clubs

To prove this I would like to share with you some of the findings of the latest Club Benchmarking Strategic Monthly Dashboard (used by more than 250 clubs in 38 states and 4 Canadian provinces): 

  • The average club saw non-dues revenue drop from $384,463 in March 2019 to $249,586 in March 2020. In aggregate, for all clubs participating in the service, non-dues revenue declined from $96.5 Million to $62.6 Million.
  • Private clubs began shutting down on March 16th meaning activity for at least half of the month of March was relatively normal
  • Many clubs pivoted quickly to engage members with take-out dining which appears to have muted the decline in non-dues revenue. For clubs without golf i.e. yacht clubs and city/athletic clubs, non-dues revenue declined more severely than it did for clubs with golf — 39.2% versus 33.2%.
  • Year-over-year membership counts held steady across the industry, up marginally at .3% in March 2020. The median club without golf reported a total member count of 808 at the end of March 2020, while the median club with golf tallied 667 members.
  • In March 2020, the median initiation fee was $35,500 to join a club with golf and $10,000 in clubs without golf. Tracking year-over-year changes in initiation fees for March, 69% of clubs had no change, 5% decreased their initiation fee and 26% increased the initiation fee.
  • March reporting also showed that 24% of clubs had a waitlist and 24% had a sell list meaning there are members waiting to receive equity back from the club after leaving. 
  • In clubs with golf reporting March 2020 data, the total cost of belonging was $11,793 at the median, up 3.7% year over year. In clubs without golf, the median was $4,652 which is an increase of 2.9% year over year.
  • Dues Revenue, the primary source of money to fund club operations, increased 3.7% at the median year over year for clubs with golf and 3.6% for clubs without golf.
  • Among all clubs, debt decreased 5.3% at the median year over year, while capital investment declined 14.6% in March 2020 from the prior year.

Ray Cronin says

“While we recognize the economic impact of the virus is an issue for clubs, we don’t believe it is or should be, the issue. The lockdown’s impact will mainly cause marginal, short-term, stress on the club’s operating finances.”