Serving the country club industry in educating governing bodies and committees in building renowned programming in tennis and fitness departments. Through best-business practices, proper management, and by retaining and recruiting "best-in-class" professionals, we look to bring your tennis and fitness departments at your club to be the benchmark in excellence in the region.
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
How do you make a private members club a destination? Aaron James, one of the leading club managers in our industry, believes it's all about creating a sense of community. His experience at facilities from the global Club Med to Atlanta's Cherokee Town and Country Club forced him to realize that member service is key to creating a destination.
The Country Club of Asheville, one of the oldest and most established clubs in North Carolina and the nation, is now the focus of James's efforts, where he has been general manager for the past year. With 650 members and $1.3 million in food and beverage and 25,000 rounds of golf per annum, Country Club of Asheville is a large club.
Owned by McConnell Golf, an active holding company with sixteen properties in its portfolio, the Country Club of Asheville is a leading club in terms of golf and hospitality. McConnell Golf, although based upon an initial love for golf courses and Donald Ross's final design in North Carolina at Raleigh Country Club, has created a stable of elite country clubs based on hospitality. Their quarterly magazine, located here, shows a passion for golf and private members clubs rarely seen at such a high level.
McConnell golf hosts the PGA Tour's tournament The Wyndham but focuses on its members and families. A member of Asheville has reciprocity with 16 clubs and courses across the Southeastern United States.
The Statistic Behind Community
Seventy percent of members who resign from a club are not engaged, whether it's LA Fitness or an elite golf clubs says the young general manager. James spends time in the restaurant introducing members to each other and says the bar is a tool for maintaining a social connection and is the most social part of the entire club. You could almost say the club's bar is like the TV Show, Cheers, where "Everybody Knows Your Name." Just like Sam behind the bar in the fictional Cheers knew every regular, so should the club manager who is key: he or she is at the center of building a community.
James is still working on how he will grow a program introducing new members into the coterie of friendships that comprise the current and established membership. Quarterly new member events are on his agenda, even though he already has an onboarding program for every new member.
A Changing Menu Every Two Weeks
Asheville's head chef changes the menu twice a month. Every two weeks James faces a new menu, with the best-selling regular items but adding new items. That's quite a challenge for any food and beverage staff, but James says both his membership and the staff are attuned to the bi-monthly change.
From his background in and love for health and fitness to his passion for member service, James is creating a destination at Country Club of Asheville, where everybody knows your name. "You've got to have that type of personality that brings people together," says James in summary. Come and have a listen to better understand his philosophy and some of his secrets behind his success.
Augusta Comes To Miami: Creating The Experience Which Breeds Loyalty
Imagine forming a global conference from the ground up. And a new breed of conference at that. One which encompasses what we know as the entire racquet sport industry, not just tennis, but pickleball, padel, racquetball, squash and even ping pong!
"The player of the future might have a racquet in one hand and a paddle in the other,"states Robyn Duda, chief executive and co-founder behind RacquetX, the racquet conference to be held in Miami in late March. Duda's entrepreneurship and marketing experience has brought new headlines to the industry: "Nothing Can Squash The Popularity Of Squash" and "The Anatomy of Experience."
How do you start a brand new conference? Duda goes through a list of ideas that she “throws against a wall to see if they stick.” From creating and then “gating” an industry trends report, to organically creating mailing lists, she’s trying them all.
Duda has gone out and networked and formed industry partnerships between her creation, RacquetX, and professional associations and companies. With those connections, Duda is pushing TheRacquetX in front of people through content, advertising, and social media channels.
The Anatomy Of Experience
Creating an experience that is over the top to create a memorable experience is something that Duda believes that The Masters in Augusta possesses. Duda desires TheRacquetX to be a similar experience and memory. She believes there is profit in loyalty and that many for-profit businesses often neglect that the experience creates loyalty, which in turn keeps prices low for the consumer and creates profit.
Comparing the experience to The Masters in Augusta, known for its grandeur and tradition, suggests a high standard that TheRacquetX aims to achieve. This level of ambition can indeed set the conference apart and create a memorable and valuable experience for all attendees.
TheRacquetX can be found at TheRacquetX.com and is slated for March 24 through March 26, 2024 in Miami, Florida. Duda has formed a partnership with the Miami Open, and Monday night at the Open will be RacquetX Night. All tickets are merged and consumers can visit both the stadium and the conference hall in South Beach. Get ready for an inauguration that will see consumers meeting industry executives, and interesting and rare occurrence.
Building Blocks: Pickle, Padel, & Paddle
Eric Loftus was there as a businessman through the past decade as tennis grew in the Northeast, and in New England, in particular. He's been building pickleball courts throughout the region and has seen that sport rise almost as fast as slam of a whiffle ball. Now, he is hoping to be there for the boom that will be the new sport invading our shores from Europe: Padel. He believes the sun is only just rising over the future growth of padel.
With his high school mate, Loftus built an empire through tennis court construction. Working with country and tennis clubs and private residences, Loftus has crisscrossed New England and the northeast in search of new spaces for tennis, and running tracks, provided for the other segment of his clientele: educational institutions and public facilities. He knows the market for courts and tracks, from the clay courts of Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, to the tracks and concrete of Providence and Springfield.
Padel Is Far Different From Pickleball
But now, he's looking at Padel. Loftus believes that, long term, padel rather than pickleball may be the sport to usurp the grip that tennis has on its racquet competitors. He even sees a possibility of padel joining forces with tennis, say, at the US Open in Flushing Meadows. What's interesting about his view is that, unlike how many regard pickleball, he doesn't view padel as an opponent trying to take replace tennis courts and kill off his main business of building tennis courts. He sees padel as an addition.
Country clubs are going in circles, says Loftus. He calls it the "wild wild west" is the current state of play with padel court construction. Clubs are watching what investors are doing with the sport and promotion. While private equity team up with racquet sport enthusiasts to join forces and investigate various ways to house and build padel courts, Loftus is left holding the figurative shovel until the nod is given. Once he receives the "ok" he can import the structures from Spain and start to add to the 350 courts already here in the States.
Finally, it might be time to invest in those old red-brick mercantile and textile factory buildings in New England from New Bedford to New London and inland along the rivers like the Housatonic and the Connecticut. Loftus is always looking up, as he has to find ceilings over 24 feet. Come and have a listen and maybe you'll be raising the roof!
Is Tennis Still A Sport For The Elite?
Tennis and golf are two sports central to all country clubs. With such a concentration of players and spectators emanating from the private members clubs, is it that tennis is still inaccessible to many? We ask this question with famed writer Amisha Savani, the co-author to The People's Wimbledon.
How the media and contributors views tennis, both at the major tournaments and at the private members club, is so important to our club industry. Last year we brought on the podcast the publisher of Racquet Magazine and this summer we recorded a conversation with one of the leading British writers covering tennis: Amisha Savani. As this is a rather timeless piece, we thought we’d bring it out as we head into Autumn with the memories of Summer 2023 in our mind’s eye.
Amisha is a regular contributor to Courts Magazine, and recently has written a book, The People’s Wimbledon – a coffee table book. "It’s aimed at 'the people' " she says, priced right for all to enjoy. She believes that Wimbledon is for the people.
Discussed are the differences between the four major tournaments – the romance of the French Open, the tradition of Wimbledon, and the exuberance of New York’s US Open. There have been so many changes to the the majors: roofs, ticket prices, alcohol policies, and where we position tournament play within the tennis and private members club industry.
Marketing Tennis To Juniors and Parents
Jesse Gotlib, having served as Director of Junior Tennis at one of New England's most elite clubs, has brought his learnings to the public sector and the inner cities of Eastern Massachusetts. After five years in the private club industry at Sippican Tennis Club in Marion, Massachusetts, Gotlib set out on his own to bring tennis to the inner cities of the port towns on Buzzards Bay along the South Coast of Massachusetts.
Jesse Gotlib took what he learned in the club business to the youth in the inner cities along Massachusetts South Coast.
His program, which started in just a single town, has grown to three municipalities. He works with a core group of juniors throughout the year, serving not only as their tennis coach, but also as a mentor as they grow through elementary and middle school years.
Gotlib takes us through his offerings and marketing materials. He realized long before that communication with the the kids on and off the court is imperative, but even more importantly, communication with the parents is truly essential. As a special education mathematics teacher, Jesse realizes the importance of maintaining relationships with both the juniors and the parents. His marketing, mainly on social media, keeps him in front of the juniors and allows his program to grow across the three towns he now serves.
Please join Jesse on the podcast with our sister website, www.theinstututeofclubdirectors.com, which will launch in May 2023 as we look to work more with the governors and decision-makers in the club industry.
Plan It, Before You Build It, And They Will Come - The Sports Haus
Before Breaking Ground, New Club Has Hundreds Of Applicants
Patricio Misitrano has been a Director of Racquets at some of the best-known clubs in the country. From the hallowed clay courts at both Wee Burn and Greenwich Country Clubs through to the tennis courts at New Canaan Field Club, Patricio has served elite memberships across both Westchester and Fairfield counties for decades. But now not only will he be a service provider, he'll also be a stockholder and shareholder of his new club.
The Sports Haus, which will open its doors this coming summer, is a new, energized method of bringing pickleball, padel and golf to one space. Three sports, one enormous warehouse.
With three partners, each with a focus on racquet sports in their own way, and a bravado and entrepreneurial instinct rarely seen, Patricio Misitrano has moved into the ownership category in the industry. He's only sent the blueprints to the city of Norwalk, but he already has over six hundred applications for membership.
Applications For Membership Outpacing Building Of Facility
It's a great way to build a club - building to suit the waiting membership. With approximately 70 percent of the pre-signed up members being individuals, the rest of the club's membership will be comprised of families and, here's a great new idea, local teaching racquets and golf professionals. The Sport Haus will offer a club professional membership, created to welcome those local pros inside the walls, both to better understand these new-to-market racquet sports and with the hope that these professionals bring and teach the sports back at their respective clubs. Rain days might no longer be lost revenue days as pros will be able to bring their members and guests inside.
Patricio has brought together a veritable think tank as the team behind this new venture: Juan Arraya, Director of Racquets at Greenwich Country Club and Mark Parsons, a fellow director from Weston, Connecticut's Aspetuck Valley Country Club, and Mark Fischl known to most of us as the voice behind platform tennis broadcasts and former president of the APTA. These four industry leaders have teamed up to create a literal think tank to blaze a new road in the industry.
Creating a marketing plan focused on their email newsletter and website at www.sports.haus, this team found a vacant warehouse located in the downtown district of Norwalk, CT. Bringing air-conditioning to a 35,244 square foot warehouse is just one of the obstacles that they have overcome as they are bringing excitement and members from the affluent areas of Greenwich, Darien and New Canaan to South Norwalk, once a no-go area, but now a bustling hive of streets with restaurants, cafes and young people.
The Sports Haus will have its own café with beer and wine where one can watch action across five padel and four pickleball courts and two golf simulators. Armed with the knowledge of who is ready to apply, Misitrano has both the professional and social side of the business wrapped up in one giant warehouse.
Join us on the podcast this week with Patricio Misitrano, a former Argentine padel player who has brought his love for that sport and all racquet sports to SoNo – South Norwalk – as he builds his dream, The Sports Haus.
Great tennis podcast for DOT
I’m a DOT at a member-owned club and I really enjoy this podcast! Great insights and knowledgeable interviews! Much thanks!