I was intrigued to be told (by a Twitter follower no less) that Vancouver’s Shaughnessy and Point Grey are looking at a potential merger that would pair two of the city’s better private clubs. In a document leaked to me (see the details here), the two clubs document their discussions, including the fact Shaughnessy paid $20-million for a public golf course and adjacent piece of property, which it runs in case its lease with a native band is suddenly terminated and it needs a home. Doug Carrick has created a new design on the property, but I hear it isn’t a particularly good piece of property.
Interestingly, the real reason for the merger looks to be this:
An important point discovered using actuarial projection was that both Clubs will experience membership attrition that will dramatically increase costs and compromise capital spending over the next 20 years.
So even two of the best clubs in Vancouver are worried about the state of their businesses going forward. At least they are being proactive. I just finished a story on private clubs in the Toronto area and they are almost all investigating alternatives to traditional models for private clubs.
Shaughnessy to merge with Point Grey: Trend-setting?
But does the Shaughnessy/Point Grey scenario suggest another way forward — merging? Certainly Ontario and Quebec clubs have to contend with ClubLink, the corporate golf giant with thousands of members and clubs scattered around Toronto and Montreal. What if private clubs with similar cultures — say Summit and Thornhill, for example, or Weston and Bayview — got together, offering members two clubs to belong to, both with classic club cultures (something ClubLink does not offer)? That seems to be the concept Shaughnessy and Point Grey are working towards.
Would it work? That’s a good question. Right now private clubs are feeling a lot of pressure from the economy, from deep discounting by ClubLink and high-end public courses like Eagles Nest and Copper Creek, among others. Hardly any private club in the city (with the exception of Rosedale) has a waiting list. Got cash? Private clubs that might have seemed out of the range of possibility in the past are suddenly offering deals. For instance Summit offers a weekday membership, and a variety of age-based options. So does Cedar Brae. Lots of clubs — Scarboro for instance — offer “trial” memberships designed to showcase the course for a single year. And more often clubs are putting out their details — costs, initiation, annuals — on their website for all to see. Hard to sell something if there isn’t a price tag after all.
One thing is clear — private clubs must look at alternatives to survive. Shaughnessy and Point Grey are pondering one option — but I’m sure we’ll see different options with other private clubs in coming years.
Brad Zeimer in the Vancouver Sun picked up the story on Saturday — here’s his take.