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How can my club uphold its safe haven status while staying operational?

“Out of the 12 candidates, it came down to two, one of whom happened to be named Ralph. At that point, the chairman of the search committee said, `We will not have anybody at this club with the first name of Ralph.’”      

—John Sibbald, legendary Club industry leader and late founder of Platinum Clubs of America when describing the club business to the St. Louis Journal.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Sibbald before he passed away but I can hear his words in my head today. This quote dates back to 1997 and makes me smile for its woeful marriage of reality and absurdity. It also lightly touches on the unfairness of the industry we are all in. Too often personal bias replaces principles in decision making to the detriment of the club, its stakeholders and people named Ralph.

Today, the consequences of principle drift, let alone principle abandonment, are potential high cost land mines. The current pandemic environment highlights this struggle. For example, a number of clubs are facing the challenge of how to manage weddings and other events in particular. While a club can routinely manage the capacity restrictions laid out by its local jurisdiction, managing social distancing of even a limited number of wedding attendees is much more difficult. Bars and dance floors are notoriously high volume social harbors and no club wants to be at the center of a pandemic or social shaming outbreak. Can this knotty issue be effectively navigated?

Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer or even a bias to easily lean on for most to make a decision. Instead, a good start is for club leaders is to clearly state the club’s pandemic-era principles to all stakeholders. This can help sort the friction of competing notions of safety, hospitality, obligation and sustainability to codify a reasonable and thoughtful plan forward. So much of creating community is thoughtful, not necessarily perfect, communication. Your club’s stakeholders will greatly appreciate a concise and polite message tied to the issue. Well, most of them anyway. As my muse, Mr. Sibbald also timelessly noted for the St. Louis Journal, “There is always an element of dissent in country clubs.” Never has a single sentence more encapsulated club life.   

Safety is the foundational principle ahead. However, it is not the sole principle. Our industry and your club can and should remain committed to being fun and financially solvent. If you find your club is unable to continue to adhere to these core tenets, this may be more of congested imagination and not necessarily due to the restrictions imposed. While the theater is currently closed for Shakespeare, there just might be room for Shakespeare in the park so to speak. Just as long as his first name is not Ralph. Obviously.

Stay safe, fun and financially solvent. For more ideas or needs, our industry resources remain open at to help you and your club.

Rob DeMore is president of Troon Privé. He can be reached at [email protected] or visit and