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What have clubs learned from the pandemic and what advice do you have to be prepared when the next crisis occurs?

As we traverse through the economic surge for clubs fueled by the pandemic, it’s important to reflect on the realities of what created the environment we live in today in this business. Unfortunately, this may not be the last unexpected crisis we will see during our days in this business. From that perspective, I offer:  

  1. The government pandemic-related relief programs infused hundreds of millions, if not well over $1 billion of cash in the industry’s balance sheets. These proceeds helped protect valuable employees, stabilized clubs during the periods of uncertainty, and served as seed money for reinvestment back in so many clubs. As an industry, it seems highly prudent to have a legitimate emergency supply of cash and to create an emergency plan for future stakeholders to adopt. An executable, published plan of self-reliance for the next crisis will be the hallmark of stewardship.   
  1. The pandemic localized behavior and economics greatly benefited the industry. With travel so significantly curbed, the well-documented golf revival (among other local activities) and limited food and beverage operations plus significant member sales growth help mute the effects of transitory pandemic inflation. There will be an even greater reliance on dues streams to produce the correct level of cash to sustain clubs going forward—particularly in environments with membership levels at capacity waiting for departures to create initiation fee income. Do not be surprised if your club needs to raise dues beyond the rate of ordinary inflation.  
  1. The dynamic of family life continues to evolve. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 52% of the American population between ages 18 and 29 were living with parents, a figure unmatched since the Great Depression. From February to July 2020, 2.6 million young adults moved back with one or both parents. This, coupled with the shift away from elderly care facility living, will lead to a more dynamic, multigenerational family home life. As an industry, we will need to be able to adapt to same residence, cross generational living.  
  1. Isolation has had an impact on all human behavior in all walks of life. Rates of psychological distress rose for all adults as the pandemic deepened—increasing sixfold for young adults and quadrupling for those ages 30 to 54, according to a recent Johns Hopkins University survey. Clubs served as an alternative lifeline to mitigate the impacts of isolation. Alternatively, human behavior challenges have increased significantly in all spaces, including clubs. Addressing risk issues thoughtfully and consistently are the requirement. Behaviors that disrupt the peace, harmony and reputation of the club simply cannot be ignored.  
  1. Intuitively, it feels as though there is a shortage of laughter in the world. According to the Mayo Clinic, the adage that laughter is the best medicine remains true. Laughter stimulates the organs, eases tension, improves your immune system, and even relieves pain among other things. Fun is not self-indulgent, but rather self-fulfilling. This holds true for both employees and member families. Clubs are in the happiness business for all stakeholders and joy is the lifeblood for their people.  

Robert J. DeMore, is president, Troon PrivéHe can be reached at [email protected].