Many golf and country clubs count on the warm months for 100% of their revenue. The mortgage doesn’t take a break during the winter and you can’t let the furnace and the power shut down just because it’s cold, so doesn’t it seem crazy to cut off all incoming revenue? More importantly, it’s difficult to keep year-round memberships active and retain high-quality staff members if you close your doors for the winter. The cold weather will slow your business down, but with a little creativity, you can keep the doors open and a steady (if slightly reduced) stream of revenue coming in.
Keep the Kitchen Open
You’ll want to inform members long before the normal season ends that, this year, you’ll be serving brunch, lunch, and maybe even dinner through the winter. Even if you can only staff the kitchen on weekends, it’s much better than closing down altogether. Banquets and special chef’s dinners can be a great success. Even if only held once or twice a month, may be enough to break even on bills through the winter and keep valuable staff members who can return to full-time in the spring.
Use the Snow to Your Advantage
If you have enough snow to shut down your golf, tennis, and swim operations for the season, you have enough snow to pivot your club’s focus to another outdoor pursuit for a few months. If you have hills, you can attract guests with sledding and toboggan rides. Cross country skiing is also popular, and where there’s cross country skiing, you’ll find fat-tire snow bikes. Sleigh rides are fun for the whole family and can also be a unique addition to a romantic evening. If there’s a lake or pond on the property (and it’s cold enough), ice-fishing can be a quiet, relaxing way to spend the day. Even if an activity doesn’t directly earn revenue for the resort, your food and beverage sales will get a welcome bump.
Weekly Theme Nights
Pick a night to host a themed activity. Some clubs have found that a weekly activity can draw a nice regular crowd. Electronic trivia games pit players against each other in the club and across the country. They also sell quite a few drinks over the course of an evening. You could also ask members what type of theme night they’d like — maybe it’s bingo or maybe it’s a movie night where they can see their favorites on the big screen. Recurring theme nights are great because they keep people thinking about your club during the off season and create a sense of community among the regulars.
Keep ‘Em Swinging
If you’re fortunate enough to run a club where the courts or courses are chilly but still usable year-round, members may just need a little added incentive to come out. Tennis courts can be made a bit more comfortable by setting up a social area nearby with deck heaters and a mobile bar. In the case of golf courses, mini tournaments can sometimes be enough of a lure to get some hearty players on the course. It’s OK if all the entrance fees go to the winners at the end of the day — you just want to sell some drinks and make sure your members are having a good time. Lastly, it might be a good time to look into a golf simulator for the pro shop or the resort bar. Today’s golf simulators are incredible. Players can choose from courses around the world, and many provide swing analysis software that adds legitimate training value.
It’s true that there are golf and country clubs that have survived for decades without staying open year-round, but they’re missing out on revenue. They’re also losing quality employees who just can’t afford to stay home for months at a time. The bottom line is that it’s an inefficient business model and, with a little creativity, it can be improved upon. Ask your staff. Ask your members. Come up with fun ideas that everyone will enjoy and see if staying open all year works for your club. You might be pleasantly surprised.