Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Golf and Associations: 3 trends impacting both

Headline  USA Today this week:

Interesting story ... makes me think about associations and nonprofits.

Here are some key golf stats:
  • Fewer people play golf: down 13% in last five years
  • Golf memberships down 1 million since the early 1990s
  • Private club courses are starting to allow non-members to play 
  • Clubs slashing member fees to get new members
“We’re entering a new normal,” says Pete Halter, chairman of Halter Cos., an Atlanta firm.

As I looked at the story, it seems to be very similar to what is happening in the association and nonprofit communities ... especially those where a weekly or monthly luncheon meeting is the main member benefit.

Here are three factors impacting both golf and associations:
  1. Demographics: 30 million fewer Gen Xers that Boomers. This means we are scrambling for memberships from a much smaller pool of prospects.
  2. Time: Gen Xers and Millenials less willing to invest time to golf and associations. Think about it as door-to-door time commitment. For golf, its 5+ hours. For an association luncheon meeting, it can be at least 3 hours. That begs the “younger generations” to ask the value question: what do I get for my fees and my time?
  3. Money: The recession has pushed a lot of people to question the cost of memberships in golf clubs and associations. Especially if they are paying it out of their own pocket. Meanwhile the economy pushs companies to question such membership fees.
When visiting a new Naples golf community yesterday, the sales manager told me that “we are selling mostly high end properties right now. In the last 11 weeks, we sold 90 percent of the home sites going for $150,000+ for the lots. Meanwhile, we’re begging people to purchase lots that sell for $30,000 to $50,000.”

I thought this was interesting. I’m wondering if some associations might be finding the same results for their “high-end” memberships?


  1. I have witnessed the decline in playing golf in our community. I guess the sudden rise of prices in equipment has something to do with it.

    Mill Pond golf course

  2. The condition of the golf courses probably matters as well. When the golf course has a good maintenance such as a strong organic weed control, then it is more playable for golfers.