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Research Indicates Majority Of Golf And Private Clubs

According to a survey of 1,800 golf, leisure and private club leaders across the UK and Ireland, 65% of clubs must embrace dramatic or significant changes over the next five years if they are to thrive in the future.

The research carried out by global consulting firm GGA Partners, also indicates the conservative nature of club leadership means that the overwhelming majority of clubs tend to effect the change that is necessary only when it is a financial imperative that they do so.

“The data indicates that in too many instances clubs are reacting to financial problems,” according to Rob Hill, the GGA Partner responsible for the firm’s EMEA practice, “rather than systematically preparing for the changes which the great majority of respondents believe are surely coming.”

Conducted with the support of The England Region of CMAE, GGA’s survey revealed an urgent need among clubs to prepare for an uncertain future.

“Only 13% of the clubs surveyed believe they enjoy the combination of strong leadership, financial expertise, and a clear long-term strategic plan,” Hill notes, “and these are exactly the elements any club expecting to navigate through an uncertain future must possess.”

In designing the survey, Hill said, GGA Partners wanted to determine how clubs could maintain their traditional identities, however defined, while responding to both local and global changes. “We wanted to know,” Hill continued, “where clubs fit within our ever-shifting social, cultural, technological and economic environment.”

The survey discovered that while governing boards / committees have the greatest influence on driving change, “clubs that delegate change leadership to the club manager were the most effective in managing those changes. This was not terribly surprising,” according to Hill, “because our experience advising thousands of clubs around the world has shown us that the best-managed clubs retain and empower extremely effective, professional general managers or secretaries.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how important it is for private clubs to prepare for change, even in uncertain times. “While only 36% of our respondents believed their clubs were well-prepared for the crisis,” Hill pointed out, “given the unprecedented scale of the pandemic, that speaks well of the industry. Perhaps it is also not surprising that most of the clubs which were well prepared also reported that they had strong leadership in place and made ‘change management’ a top business priority.”

The results of GGA Partners’ survey is available for download at