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Waitlist Editorial

Private Golf Memberships: Prospect sentiment toward waitlists should provide both concern and opportunity for the private club industry

By: Jason Becker, CEO
Golf Life Navigators

“Golf, even at its peak levels of popularity, still comes with challenges.” –Joe Steranka, former CEO of the PGA of America

Joe’s words likely echo many current boardroom discussions across the country as clubs enter into an era that might not have been foreseen just a few years back – waitlists. What do prospects expect while in waiting? How much would they be willing to invest into an initiation to hold their position? Can we get waitlisted members on the golf course with a tee sheet that is already stressed?

Over the past several months, we have been approached by industry colleagues in search of “a bit of clarity” on what would be acceptable as a waitlisted member. In the following pages, you will find data and insight on that very topic – which is the first of its kind within the private club space. A survey was sent to prospective private club members who are actively in search of a private club and golf home. The overall objective was to gain their thoughts on waitlists and overall expectations of an ideal scenario, while in waiting.

After completion of the study, Golf Life Navigators’ position is that clubs who currently have a waitlist should be cautious with assumptions toward their waitlist numbers. On average, 70% of prospects (across all initiation ranges) do not have intentions of joining a waitlisted club that is 12 months or longer. In addition, an average of 50% of prospects said they would change directions completely and look at alternative clubs to avoid a waitlist. In short, to close the gates completely on new member applications could lead to a costly mistake as we predict waitlist dilution – based upon the data collected.

For those clubs who are not yet at a waitlist era, we implore you to broadcast the fact that you have membership availability and an open tee sheet. Issues of capacity at clubs during season months is a hot topic, not just from your members but prospects as well. Golf Life Navigators’ partner real estate agents say their active golf clients are pivoting from an intended club to alternative clubs who have instant availability of both memberships and tee time availability. Even if that means buying into another market across the state.

The biggest takeaway from this report is that we have good problems on our hands. The demand for private golf and real estate remains at all-time highs with no signs of slowing down. The goal for management is to now think through the solutions and lead their members in the right direction with data, best-practices and good ole’ gut feeling.

We hope this report will serve you well in the coming days. If you have any questions regarding the data, please do not hesitate to reach out.

-Jason

To learn more about Golf Life Navigators, click here.

Before we begin examining the data, consider these factors:

  • A survey was distributed to Golf Life Navigators users the last week of February 2022.
  • Over 550 prospective members responded to the survey.
  • The data reporting was tiered to initiation range so clubs at any level can gain intel.
  • GLN asked 14 questions and over 100,000 data points were collected.
  • There was no reward or prize for taking the survey.
  • The data collected should be used for context and informational purposes only.

Chapter 1: Waitlist Sentiment

1.) How likely are you to join a private club in the next 12 months?

  • $0-$10,000 Initiation Budget
    • 61% say “not at all likely” to “unlikely”
  • $10,000-$25,000 Initiation Budget
    • 64% say “not at all likely” to “unlikely”
  • $25,000-$50,000 Initiation Budget
    • 56% say “not at all likely” to “unlikely”
  • $50,000-$75,000 Initiation Budget
    • 55% say “not at all likely” to “unlikely”
  • $75,000-plus Initiation Budget
    • 49% say “not at all likely” to “unlikely”

2.) How familiar are you with “waitlists” for a full golf membership into a private club?

  • $0-$10,000 Initiation Budget
    • 60% say “not at all familiar” to “somewhat familiar”
  • $10,000-$25,000 Initiation Budget
    • 58% say “not at all familiar” to “somewhat familiar”
  • $25,000-$50,000 Initiation Budget
    • 45% say “not at all familiar” to “somewhat familiar”
  • $50,000-$75,000 Initiation Budget
    • 40% say “not at all familiar” to “somewhat familiar”
  • $75,000-plus Initiation Budget
    • 42% say “not at all familiar” to “somewhat familiar”

3.) How likely would you join a club with a 12-month waitlist?

  • $0-$10,000 Initiation Budget
    • 83% say “not at all likely” to “unlikely”
  • $10,000-$25,000 Initiation Budget
    • 79% say “not at all likely” to “unlikely”
  • $25,000-$50,000 Initiation Budget
    • 63% say “not at all likely” to “unlikely”
  • $50,000-$75,000 Initiation Budget
    • 65% say “not at all likely” to “unlikely”
  • $75,000-plus Initiation Budget
    • 60% say “not at all likely” to “unlikely”

4.) If there was a non-refundable down payment required to join a waitlist, to what percent of the initiation fee would you be comfortable committing?

  • $0-$10,000 Initiation Budget
    • $0, I would not put money down to join a waitlist – 52%
    • I would be willing to put down 5-10% of initiation – 28%
  • $10,000-$25,000 Initiation Budget
    • $0, I would not put money down to join a waitlist – 40%
    • I would be willing to put down 5-10% of initiation – 25%
  • $25,000-$50,000 Initiation Budget
    • $0, I would not put money down to join a waitlist – 22%
    • I would be willing to put down 5-10% of initiation – 38%
  • $50,000-$75,000 Initiation Budget
    • $0, I would not put money down to join a waitlist – 34%
    • I would be willing to put down 5-10% of initiation – 31%
  • $75,000-plus Initiation Budget
    • $0, I would not put money down to join a waitlist – 26%
    • I would be willing to put down 5-10% of initiation – 22%
    • I would be willing to put down 10-20% of initiation – 22%

5.) How likely would you move forward with a down payment toward initiation if you were to receive a 50% refund – should you decide to opt-out of joining that club?

  • $0-$10,000 Initiation Budget
    • 94% say “not at all likely” to “unlikely”
  • $10,000-$25,000 Initiation Budget
    • 79% say “not at all likely” to “unlikely”
  • $25,000-$50,000 Initiation Budget
    • 73% say “not at all likely” to “unlikely”
  • $50,000-$75,000 Initiation Budget
    • 72% say “not at all likely” to “unlikely”
  • $75,000-plus Initiation Budget
    • 67% say “not at all likely” to “unlikely”

Chapter 2: Golf and Amenities Sentiment

6.) If you were to join a waitlisted club, what amenities – or access – would be important to have as you wait to become a full member?

  • $0-$10,000 Initiation Budget
    • 94% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play golf during season
    • 82% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the practice facility
    • 43% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the dining facilities
    • 33% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the health amenities
    • 27% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the clubhouse pool
    • 26% say it would be “very important” to “important” having inclusion in member events/parties
    • 43% say it would be “very important” to “important” having a member discount in the golf shop
  • $10,000-$25,000 Initiation Budget
    • 72% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play golf during season
    • 83% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the practice facility
    • 45% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the dining facilities
    • 45% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the health amenities
    • 43% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the clubhouse pool
    • 29% say it would be “very important” to “important” having inclusion in member events/parties
    • 31% say it would be “very important” to “important” having a member discount in the golf shop
  • $25,000-$50,000 Initiation Budget
    • 73% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play golf during season
    • 79% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the practice facility
    • 51% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the dining facilities
    • 39% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the health amenities
    • 26% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the clubhouse pool
    • 35% say it would be “very important” to “important” having inclusion in member events/parties
    • 26% say it would be “very important” to “important” having a member discount in the golf shop
  • $50,000-$75,000 Initiation Budget
    • 74% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play golf during season
    • 91% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the practice facility
    • 74% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the dining facilities
    • 34% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the health amenities
    • 34% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the clubhouse pool
    • 44% say it would be “very important” to “important” having inclusion in member events/parties
    • 17% say it would be “very important” to “important” having a member discount in the golf shop
  • $75,000-plus Initiation Budget
    • 76% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play golf during season
    • 78% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the practice facility
    • 52% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the dining facilities
    • 37% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the health amenities
    • 9% say it would be “very important” to “important” having access to the clubhouse pool
    • 27% say it would be “very important” to “important” having inclusion in member events/parties
    • 27% say it would be “very important” to “important” having a member discount in the golf shop

7.) How important are each of the following golf scenarios while on a waitlist?

  • $0-$10,000 Initiation Budget
    • 63% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play in the afternoon
    • 82% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play once a week
    • 59% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play once a month
    • 63% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play with member leagues
    • 45% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play with a guest
  • $10,000-$25,000 Initiation Budget
    • 61% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play in the afternoon
    • 74% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play once a week
    • 66% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play once a month
    • 45% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play with member leagues
    • 33% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play with a guest
  • $25,000-$50,000 Initiation Budget
    • 59% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play in the afternoon
    • 70% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play once a week
    • 55% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play once a month
    • 43% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play with member leagues
    • 41% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play with a guest
  • $50,000-$75,000 Initiation Budget
    • 71% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play in the afternoon
    • 84% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play once a week
    • 66% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play once a month
    • 59% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play with member leagues
    • 30% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play with a guest
  • $75,000-plus Initiation Budget
    • 62% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play in the afternoon
    • 63% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play once a week
    • 54% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play once a month
    • 44% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play with member leagues
    • 39% say it would be “very important” to “important” to be able to play with a guess

Chapter 3: Real Estate Sentiment

8.) How likely are you to purchase a home in – or near – a golf community where you would be on a waitlist for an extended period of time?

  • $0-$10,000 Initiation Budget
    • 23% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $10,000-$25,000 Initiation Budget
    • 27% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $25,000-$50,000 Initiation Budget
    • 37% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $50,000-$75,000 Initiation Budget
    • 40% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $75,000-plus Initiation Budget
    • 55% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”

9.) How likely are you to purchase a home that has a full golf membership attached – or a transferable membership form the seller – to avoid a waitlist?

  • $0-$10,000 Initiation Budget
    • 62% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $10,000-$25,000 Initiation Budget
    • 74% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $25,000-$50,000 Initiation Budget
    • 60% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $50,000-$75,000 Initiation Budget
    • 82% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $75,000-plus Initiation Budget
    • 88% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”

10.) How likely are you to change your direction toward an intended club due to a waitlist?

  • $0-$10,000 Initiation Budget
    • 71% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $10,000-$25,000 Initiation Budget
    • 70% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $25,000-$50,000 Initiation Budget
    • 52% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $50,000-$75,000 Initiation Budget
    • 43% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $75,000-plus Initiation Budget
    • 39% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”

11.) How likely are you to change your direction toward an intended club community based upon the lack of real estate options?

  • $0-$10,000 Initiation Budget
    • 60% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $10,000-$25,000 Initiation Budget
    • 62% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $25,000-$50,000 Initiation Budget
    • 50% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $50,000-$75,000 Initiation Budget
    • 45% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $75,000-plus Initiation Budget
    • 42% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”

12.) How likely are you to completely change markets based upon the lack of membership and real estate options?

  • $0-$10,000 Initiation Budget
    • 54% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $10,000-$25,000 Initiation Budget
    • 51% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $25,000-$50,000 Initiation Budget
    • 48% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $50,000-$75,000 Initiation Budget
    • 42% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”
  • $75,000-plus Initiation Budget
    • 37% say “somewhat likely” to “very likely”

13.) Please rank the following in order of importance based upon where you stand today as a buyer in the current market conditions: finding the perfect home; finding the perfect golf course; finding the perfect lifestyle/culture; finding the perfect amenities for my family

  • $0-$10,000 Initiation Budget
    • (1) Home; (2) Golf Course; (3) Lifestyle/Culture; (4) Amenities
  • $10,000-$25,000 Initiation Budget
    • (1) Home; (2) Golf Course; (3) Lifestyle/Culture; (4) Amenities
  • $25,000-$50,000 Initiation Budget
    • (1) Home; (2) Lifestyle/Culture; (3) Golf Course; (4) Amenities
  • $50,000-$75,000 Initiation Budget
    • (1) Golf Course; (2) Home; (3) Amenities; (4) Lifestyle/Culture
  • $75,000-plus Initiation Budget
    • (1) Golf Course; (2) Amenities; (3) Home; (4) Lifestyle/Culture

Chapter 4: Discussion Points

Taking a step back from what we just learned, let’s add a few more discussion points that would be a great start with club officials:

  • $0-$10,000 Initiation Budget
    • 60% of your prospects are not sure how waitlists function. Do you have collateral available that explains your waitlist programming and steps toward membership?
    • The home is a significant part of the decision process for your prospects. Does the club have a strong pulse on the local real estate market?
  • $10,000-$25,000 Initiation Budget
    • 70% of your prospects say they are likely to change directions from one particular club to the next due to waitlist constraints. Do you have systems in place to track your current waitlist and determine if they have indeed left for another club? Especially if there was no deposit made.
    • 83% of your prospects would like practice facility access while on a waitlist. Is this available at your club, and if so, is it highlighted?
  • $25,000-$50,000 Initiation Budget
    • 63% of your prospects say they are unlikely to join a waitlist if the projected conversion time is over 12
      months. Versus attrition, is the club able to posture accordingly if the pool of buyers shrinks significantly?
    • 59% of your prospects would like to play golf in the afternoon hours during season months. How can you make this happen with a stressed tee sheet? Ex. Going from 10 to 9-minute tee time intervals will add 12-plus more tee times for course play.
  • $50,000-$75,000 Initiation Budget
    • 82% of your prospects say they would likely purchase a home in a golf community that has a membership attached – or a transferable membership. If your community has these types of properties, is there a way to be involved in the marketing of those homes to buyers?
    • 59% of your prospects say they would like to play golf with the member leagues while in waiting. Is there a possibility to insert the waitlisted member into league play and satisfy golf desire without furthering capacity issues?
  • $75,000-plus Initiation Budget
    • 67% of your prospects say they are unlikely to make a deposit on initiation if they were able receive a 50% refund upon exit of the waitlist. Does this change the mentality of making a deposit mandatory? Or perhaps, escalating it to 75-80% refund-ability?
    • 49% of your prospects say they are unlikely to join a club in the next 12 months. Does your plan toward current waitlist vs. attrition account for a potential slow-done in new waitlisted members?

Thank you for reviewing this report, to learn more about Golf Life Navigators, click here.

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