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Facilities Management: The Facility Master Plan

Club membership, at its core, has long been about exclusive access to premier facilities. When perceived value is a distinguishing characteristic for clubs and activity preferences are changing dramatically, it is arguable that a club’s physical facilities are more important to their success than ever before. Given this changing landscape, developing a master plan is one of the most important steps club leaders can take to position their club for success.

No matter the type, the club of the future will be a multi-faceted collection of social spaces and recreational activities. It will offer a diverse set of features and benefits where innovative leaders can initiate programs that increase member engagement. These facilities must work in unison to deliver the proper member experience as well as avoid competition within the offering or require an inordinate amount of labor.

When planning projects that will make an impact, not only design for your culture and market, be mindful of the trends:

  • Modern Social Spaces: Everybody eats—members, spouses, children, relatives, guests and clients. Having the types of bar and dining spaces that reflect societal tastes is imperative to driving member engagement.
  • Infrastructure Improvements, Especially Kitchens: While often dismissed as being of little interest to members, improving the kitchen is often one of their top priorities. Dining is the club’s most important activity when all members and spouses are considered, so members understand they need a great engine room to make it all happen.
  • Get Outside: Access to outdoor spaces in season is every member’s top priority. If it’s a county club, members want to eat outside overlooking the course. If you are in the city, figure out a way to get on your rooftop. At yacht clubs, you’ll want to maximize the views of the water.
  • Pools: With the average new joiner now a 40-year old couple with two children, swimming pools are in the sweet spot for new member attraction. At or near the pool complex, you’ll want a poolside cabana bar to serve as a source of gathering for all members, not just the pool users.
  • Health and Wellness: Fitness facilities are a required amenity for most clubs. Increasingly, the basic fitness center of the past is evolving to become a full-service fitness and wellness club. This means that in addition to the cardio and weight areas, there should be spaces for stretching and classes, like yoga, aerobics, spinning and other group activities.
  • Children’s Activity Rooms: Young families are fired up about clubs, especially ones that cater to everyone in the household. They are anxious to use the club in multiple ways, but not always together. The club of the future will have a great children’s activity room, so mom and dad can enjoy the club when the little ones are also onsite.
  • Remote Work Spaces: To be useful to as many members as possible, clubs will increasingly offer remote work spaces, so member use can blend seamlessly with the changing work day. It’s a third-place thing.
  • Golf Performance Centers: Golf will increasingly move off the course and into training and simulator spaces that provide the teaching and equipment important to low handicappers and the fun and games enjoyed by the one and two-hour golfers.
  • Pay Homage to Your History: Clubs don’t have revolutions, they evolve. While adapting to the desires of the next generation, don’t forget the past.

The Process

Developing and receiving member approval to invest their money to improve club facilities is the result of a thoughtful process that engages the broader membership. Clubs often miss the point here, first viewing this as solely an architectural exercise. While the facility solution is obviously important, it is only one aspect of a multi-layered process that includes strategy, financial planning, communications and marketing, and yes, basic politics. Club leaders must approach planning as a holistic process or they will fail to strike the right vision and receive member endorsement to move ahead with the vital first phase.

A planning committee (made up of club leaders and members-at-large) should lead the charge, not the board. This group will steer the process to complete the initial research, link the plan to the club’s strategy (developed by the board), establish goals and program requirements and, ultimately, produce a preliminary plan. Beyond this obvious requirement, it is critical that the entire membership can participate in the review and finalization stages. Plans handed down from the top are typically rejected by members because they feel imposed rather than organic. For a plan to address the membership’s top priorities and receive broad support, it is essential all members are given the opportunity to attend meetings, view video presentations, read project booklets and other information on the plan section of the club’s website and, most important of all, be invited to participate in a formal feedback loop before preliminary ideas go final. A broad member review will not only assure the wisdom of the membership is baked into your final proposal, it will also generate the goodwill toward the recommendations that is critical for approval.

Bright Prospects Ahead

It is an exciting time for clubs. For the first time since the 1980s, the number of people moving into the prime joining years will increase each year for the next decade. Clubs have historically performed well when these age waves occur. Additionally, the credit markets are awash in capital looking for sound investments. Clubs with strong balance sheets and cash flow have greater access to capital and the ability to structure favorable long-term deals that can change their approach to facility reinvestment and enhancement. A master plan is a critical tool for maximizing this potential and creates the physical plant clubs need to satisfy the members they have and attract the next generation.

Keys to Preparing and Approving a Master Plan

Process is Key: Master planning is much more than an architectural exercise. The board must embrace a planning process that allows them to lead the club in the proper direction while also listening to the membership to avoid overreaching or trying to impose solutions that are out of character.

Know Your Mission & Vision: The master plan must be designed toward your club’s well-researched and articulated vision.

Do Your Homework: Ask members what they want from the club and how they feel about the current facilities before designing your plan.

Have a Great Committee: Get the right people involved, especially a dynamic chairman.

Effective Communications: It is critical the leadership goes into this process with a well-developed communications plan that builds member confidence, while being empathetic to concerns about money and change.

Collect and Respond to Feedback: Clubs are community assets and your process must invite member feedback. It is likely members will want changes to the committee’s initial ideas.

Secure Approval: Once you’ve completed all the steps to know you have the right plan and member support, close the deal with a voting campaign that produces high turnout.


Club 102

Facility Master Planning vs. Strategic Planning

Club Trends wants to dispel the rumors existing in our industry: a strategic plan is not a facility plan. We know, this is not earthshattering, but it must be explained. Many times club leaders confuse these terms to mean the same thing, when one is very specific and the other is overarching. In a nutshell, a strategic plan is developed to ensure a club is successful in all it is  doing. A club will understand its true purpose (mission) and develop strategies to be successful. Of the many action items identified in a strategic plan, one will undoubtedly be to develop a facilities master plan for all the club’s facilities. The facility master plan is targeted on just the facilities, but does so with the understanding of the club’s mission as the guiding force. 


Club Trends Fall 2018