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How can my club capitalize on millennials?

IT’S TIME to fully embrace millennials. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials are expected to surpass baby boomers in 2019 to become the largest living generation in the United States. Born between 1981 and 1996, millennials’ approach to life is different than that of their previous generational cohorts, which means private clubs need to adjust their offerings to attract and accommodate these 23 to 38-year-olds. The good news is that the adjustments don’t have to be extreme and can easily complement what clubs already offer. Google anything about millennials and you will almost always see the words “shared experiences” somewhere in the content. For millennials, it’s all about sharing experiences and that, along with the traditional amenities of golf, tennis, dining and fitness, is the essence of what private clubs offer.

With today’s popularity of golf and gaming entertainment, millennials know the game of golf but often expect a different experience, including booking tee times online, music on the golf course and a relaxed dress code. Nontraditional, fun forms of the game like nine and dines, six holes of play combined with wine tastings on each tee box, team play, glow-in-the-dark night golf and social hour putting competitions all are opportunities to create memorable shared experiences for millennials that can also easily translate to the tennis courts.

The shared experience factor spills into every aspect of life for millennials, including wellness, so be creative when planning your fitness programming. Incorporate games, endurance challenges and high-energy dance-fitness classes.

The more fast-paced, the better. Create a sitting area near your fitness facilities where members can socialize after their workouts over smoothies or healthy snacks. Hold a club 5K run and offer specific training leading up to the big race, which can be followed by a healthy brunch in the grille. Make healthy living fun and experiential.

A plugged-in, dynamic Social Committee reflecting every age group will do wonders for the millennial base of your membership. Give your committee the freedom to plan innovative events and encourage them to be creative. Millennials love unique and adventurous dining experiences, such as signature cocktail tastings, college-themed tailgate parties featuring regional foods, and outdoor gourmet culinary brunches with communal tables and live music. Millennials also are very civic-minded. Group volunteer projects, fundraising tournaments and charity-themed events will allow them to gather while giving back. Whether they are dining, drinking or donating, millennials will be socializing face to face, something that, despite their mastery of today’s digital world, is of great importance to them.

The bottom line is, don’t fear the millennials. They are just like any other members, seeking experiences that will enrich their lives, building relationships and finding value in life experiences—just with a twist from the traditional.

Tom Bennison is chief development officer at ClubCorp, the largest owner and operator of private golf and country clubs. He serves as an NCA director. He can be reached at [email protected] or visit