For nearly 100 years, the country club was the center of the social universe for many Americans. It was where business was done, generations grew up, families had fun, and members dined regularly.
This is still the case, but not nearly as much. The cost to join, time to play, and difficulty of the game remain a real concern for membership growth at private clubs and rounds at daily fee properties. A club membership is not as appealing to the technology obsessed, time-compressed, inclusive minded (and not exclusive), and less country club-oriented Millennial generation as it was for aspirational Baby Boomers and their parents.
Enter Topgolf, a remarkable disruptive innovation. Who would have thought a driving range could be morphed into a $20 million in revenue per year golf and entertainment business with over 400,000 visits annually at a typical location? Yet, it is high-tech golf, fun, and entertainment that is enjoyable for any age, but particularly Millennials. It so much fun, companies and charities area actually moving their golf annual outings to Topgolf.
The lesson for those of us on the real grass side of the business is we have to make our clubs as high-tech as possible, change the décor from traditional to more modern, relax our dress codes and club rules if we can, be heavy into social media, be flexible in our membership structures, and add wellness and fitness into the club lifestyle.
Of course, the golf and country club is not going away nor is Topgolf taking over the industry. However, unless we embrace this sea change that is happening and offer progressive golf experiences to the Millennials and those that follow them, we may quickly find ourselves irrelevant.
The Merions and Medinahs of the world need not worry. The rest of us should be focused on adapting and experimenting. It’s either innovate or stagnate.
Which is why Bobby Jones Links official motto is where history and innovation play.
The principals of Bobby Jones Links own the company - we are not driven by investor expectations and pressures. Our balance sheet is strong.
As a result, we don’t leverage our operational leadership across too many clubs. And unlike many companies in our business, we don’t require long term management agreements with large breakup fees. If you like what we do, you’ll keep us. For more than two decades our clients have renewed our management services more than any other company.