This article originally appeared in the November/December 2016 edition of Golf Inc. Magazine.
NEWPORT BEACH COUNTRY CLUB
Newport Beach, Calif.
When Eagle Four Partners, an Irvine, Calif.-based private equity group, acquired Newport Beach Country Club in 2012, the club had 650 members. But, the facilities had grown stale and some members were offering cash incentives for other people to buy out their memberships.
Kevin Martin, a principal of Eagle Four, had experience in golf. The company owns three other courses, including Shadow Lakes Golf Club and Deer Ridge Golf Club, both in Brentwood, Calif.
He felt the club’s prime location in the heart of Newport Beach meant it could be reinvigorated. He hired Heidi Voss, a private-club consultant, to help with strategic planning.
The first thing she did was host a membership meeting to gather feedback and survey members. With this data in hand, the club made some difficult strategic decisions.
“We realized we needed to get the membership numbers down,” Voss said. “There was a compaction issue on the golf course and tee sheet, and there were no other amenities other than golf to attract younger Newport Beach families.”
Eagle Four decided to build a new clubhouse that would add fitness space, a swimming pool and more meeting facilities. It also decided to aim for fewer members at higher fees.
“There were too many middle-of-the-road clubs [in the area] and not enough high-end clubs,” Voss said. “The high-end clubs were all doing well.”
So, Eagle Four decided to take what seemed like a big risk. It raised initiation fees from $30,000 to $100,000 and raised dues from $775 to $1,200.
The response has exceeded expectations. The club lowered membership numbers through natural attrition from 650 to 525, while adding 325 social sport members for fitness, dining and the pool. The club has a waiting list for both the golf membership and the social sport membership.
The new 55,000-square-foot clubhouse opened in July to rave reviews. But, management used it as a selling tool long before it opened, using artist renderings to build anticipation and keeping members updated on the construction.
“The prior building was very old,” Voss said. “It was fine for lunch, but not for a nice dinner. The new facility is elevated, and the second story can see down the fairway and to the ocean.”
The club has added to the excitement with expanded programs, a wood-fired pizza oven and family activities by the pool. Fitness includes a training area with cardio and weights and a room for Pilates, spinning and other exercise routines.
In the end, the club’s dues line has doubled from $6 million to $12 million.