Club Management Around the World

Golf is truly a global game, which continues to grow in popularity. Most people recognize Scotland as the birthplace of golf, but there are arguments that the origin of golf can actually be traced back to China around 943 A.D. Scholars have found records and paintings of a game called Chuiwan, in which players hit a small ball into a hole using a bent stick. It is thought that Mongolian travelers brought the game to Europe and Scotland in the Middle Ages, where its popularity grew exponentially. The game even became so popular that King James II, the King of Scotland, passed an act banning golf so that young men would practice archery to help defend their country from attack, rather than play golf.

Pictured: Emperor Ming Xuanzong plays Chuiwan.

Today, there are still plenty of people who enjoy a full 18 holes of golf. But for many, taking a whole day or even the afternoon off to play golf requires too much time out of their busy schedules. How do clubs deal with this shifting tide, and what are the major challenges faced by club management professionals?

In order to answer these questions, the HFTP Americas and Asia Research Centers developed a survey and distributed it to a select group of club financial executives located in countries around the globe. Responses came from individuals residing in the following geographical locations: Australia, Canada, Bahamas, Europe, Japan and the United States. These managers provided feedback on challenges in three major areas: operations, accounting/finance and membership.

The key takeaway: managers from all around the world are addressing the same operational challenges:

  • Capital budgeting, facility enhancements and depreciation
  • Membership development
  • Staff recruitment and retention
  • Club communications
  • Membership retention

The top accounting challenges include:

  • Capital budgeting and funding improvements
  • Tax laws
  • Staffing
  • Healthcare regulations
  • Communication

Capital budgeting and facility improvements or enhancements were the top operational and accounting challenges for the majority of respondents.

The top membership challenges were improving membership areas, and adding amenities and facilities. As mentioned earlier, golf has been a mainstay of clubs worldwide for centuries, but focus is expanding to other recreational activities — including tennis, fitness facilities, bowling, racquetball, pickleball, yachting and basketball — which were all listed as offerings by respondents to this survey. When combined, membership development and retention were listed as the second greatest challenge faced by most clubs.

Other membership challenges indicated include:

  •  Targeting younger members
  • An aging population
  • Technology implementation
  • Limited space to add additional activities

What factors cause the greatest impact on the club industry?

  • Demographic trends
  • Social changes
  • Local economics
  • Technological innovation
  • Laws and regulations

Demographic trends and social changes are noted as top factors causing the greatest impact on the club industry. Respondents stated that it is imperative to understand what is important to the upcoming generation and understand how to cater to all ages. Technological innovation will also provide a major impact on clubs in the future. Club offerings must keep up with technological developments to stay relevant to their membership.The important item to note is that the same challenges are faced by clubs all around the world. Everyone is struggling with capital budgeting issues, membership development, staffing and technological deployment.

As an association, HFTP® brings together members from around the globe and offers a multitude of resources to its membership.

Various HFTP offerings include: 

  • Conferences and events. HFTP offers multiple conferences and events throughout the year for club professionals, including the Club Summit, the Club & Hotel Controllers Conference, the Annual Convention, and other local and regional conferences with club offerings.
  • Community@HFTP. HFTP offers online community forums where members can interact with their professional peers, post questions and gain insight from individuals around the world.
  • Webinars. HFTP produces club-focused webinars on topics such as club technology, ethics and immigration law.
  • HFTP research centers and sponsored research. HFTP provides club-specific research to their members.
  • Global Hospitality Accounting Common Practices (GHACP). HFTP provides a searchable online version of the USFRC7, including schedules, complimentary to their members.

…and much, much more!

Tanya Venegas, MBA, MHM, CHIA is the executive director at the HFTP Americas Research Center at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston. Contact Tanya via email at or via phone at +1 (713) 743-1839.

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About the Author: Tanya Venegas