CLUBS OFTEN ASSUME that family programming is the only way for your club to stay relevant, as if families are the only type of membership available at your club. The hyper focus on—and abundance of—programming targeted to families for the typical 30 to 40-year-old heterosexual married couple parenting several kids of varying ages, overlooks a group of existing members you may already have.
Although the complexities of the private club world do make the potential for change arduous, the need to adapt or die is critical to the overall sustainability of the model. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 47 percent of adults in America are unmarried, and one in five are over the age of 65. Marriage certainly isn’t obsolete, but the statistics are showing that there are more single people in America than ever before. In 2014, the Pew Research Center predicted that one in four adults may never marry. The divorce rate of those over 50 has doubled since 1990 and tripled for those over 65. In fact, older adults are the fastest growing group of unmarried cohabitators in the country today.
The last few decades have begun to change the same antique notion the private club industry seems to cling to: Unmarried people are generally lonely and unhappy. To the contrary, research shows that on average, unmarried individuals have a wider network of friends than married couples. They’re friendlier with their neighbors, productive at work, and lead happy, healthy, helpful lives.
This shift is truly a game changer and private clubs should be taking note. In order to take a leap forward into the 21st century, we can no longer believe that married couples with 2.8 children are the best and only qualified prospective members.
As private clubs continue to post flyers about the Valentine’s Day dinner, their single members make plans to go elsewhere. But fortunately, it’s relatively easy for any private club to roll out new programming once the target has been identified.
The unmarried member is not an incomplete half of a married couple waiting to happen. Just imagine the possibilities.
Rob DeMore is president of Troon Privé, which manages a global portfolio of private clubs. He can be reached at [email protected] or visit troon.com and troonprive.com.