THE FIVE E’S OF COUNTRY CLUB CURLING
This is the second in a series of five reviews of curling facility marketing and management.
The curling fraternity knows the differences between types of ownership and operations. But ultimately, what curlers want is a place to curl. Operations behind the glass serve to differentiate the experience. The management of a country club is often less cognizant of the curling membership for various reasons: less profitable than golf; smaller market than for other recreation facilities; management’s inexperience in the sport. In this article, we review the five E’s of Country Club Curling: Expense; Expectations; Engagement; Experience; and, Exchanges.
New members are expecting that the cost of being a member of a Country Club will be higher than that of a private, one purpose curling facility. Although the annual membership cost is only 10 to 25% greater, it is the additional costs that add up.
Some clubs require an initiation, similar to golf memberships. This is influenced by the golf members who feel more a part of the management of the facility, because of the investment. Initiation fees have the impact of retaining members for longer terms. Knowing that you have made an investment in the facility creates an anchor for you to stay. Initiation fees are non-refundable.
Minimum food and beverage costs require curlers to spend at the facility. In the Greater Toronto Area, this cost could amount to $100 to $500 per month.
Country Clubs tend to be more sophisticated in their understanding of sustainability and operations. After all, they have paid management teams that may include accounting staff. Accordingly, capital fees are added appropriately to the monthly bill. As pointed out in a previous article, that cost should be no less than $35 per person per annum. For example, Thornhill G&CC charges $28 per month of membership for capital maintenance and renovation (due to recent addition of a fitness facility and locker rooms). Taxes are extra.
Depending on your enjoyment of the extended facilities, your annual bill can range from $2500 to $7500.
Given your expenditures, your expectations are heightened for the use of the facility. Paid staff are expected to earn their keep. Staff will know your name and address/greet you. Billings will come regularly and itemized. Some of those costs, after all, will be billable as company expenses.
Additional programs will be expected. A curling professional should be available for instruction.
Ice Conditions and equipment will be superlative. No less than ideal ice should be provided. But ideal ice varies between the age demographics. Will the country club be able to serve the expectations of various levels of curling prowess?
Country clubs differentiate themselves from other types of facility ownership by providing staff to do the tasks that volunteers might otherwise contribute. What country clubs often fail to realize is that the engagement of volunteers is what keeps the members motivated to participate and stay. This is a sustainability issue. If the members are not contributing, they do not connect with the entity that is the experience .Volunteering is another way to promote exchanges (see below).
The experience is the feeling with which one comes away from the institution. Provide your members with a reason to participate in curling rather than the competing recreations outside the country club. Keep them in the facility as long as possible by providing options to spend at the bar, in the restaurant, or at the fitness room. The experience should be memorable and repeatable, only then does it become part of the marketing plan. And the plan should be to create appeal for all age groups. Youth will be wary of an aged membership who do not approve of their dynamic behavior. But without introducing youth, the country club misses an element for sustaining growth. The experience should be tempered to the demographic to whom the country club wants to appeal.
Socialization is part of business. The country club is a venue for connecting with business associates, providing a memorable experience for a client or maintaining relationships with those who are potential links to others. Therefore the business plan of the country club should be to maximize the opportunities for such exchanges. A curling game is shorter in duration than 18 holes of golf or a baseball game. The opportunity for exchange is immediately following and adjacent to the field of play to acquaint with an old or new associate.
Exchanges can also be purely social. Seniors find a comfortable space to meet and retain old friendships. One goal of the country club should be to create an environment that takes clients from the business world to the retirement world.
For these reasons, the country club appeals to curlers with motives more than just curling. But curling remains the primary reason to join. Engage them in the programs and their experience will be heightened. Create the best venue to accommodate exchanges and you will sustain the club. Meet the curlers’ expectations and the expense will evolve from the success of the other E’s.