Henry Wallmeyer: I got started later in life with golf. My parents never played, so I didn’t grow up with the game. Baseball and basketball were my sports through high school. I graduated from Villanova University with a business degree, and I realized that knowing how to play golf would be beneficial for my business career. I purchased my first set of clubs with graduation money and little did I know that I would ultimately end up in a profession that is so closely tied to golf—but I am sure glad I did.
HW: The National Club Association protects and advances the well-being of private clubs. NCA advocates to policymakers on behalf of clubs to pass laws and regulations that are beneficial to the interests of private clubs and to stop efforts that hinder the industry. We also provide clubs with much needed educational resources in a wide variety of areas that help them succeed, such as governance best practices, strategic planning, capital financing, wage and hour guidance and trends affecting the industry, among others. - One misperception is that private clubs only benefit their members. Not true?
Private clubs do much more than provide a third home to members. It’s estimated that private clubs provide more than half a million jobs across the United States, contribute more than $3.75 billion in taxes, and add $21.5 billion to the economy each year.
Many private clubs are also very philanthropic and community-oriented, much like their members. Clubs rally behind their members who host charity events, golf tournaments, food drives, toy donations and other initiatives in support of good causes that impact the community. Many clubs also have foundations and offer scholarships, particularly through caddie scholarship programs.
For instance, The Union League of Chicago has a culture that values members’ engagement in public life. The club’s programs, committees and policies reveal a commitment to understanding and advancing public policy issues and community life. For more than 95 years, the Union League Club has served as an affiliate member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, serving the after-school development needs of at-risk youth in Chicago. For staff, clubs are a terrific place of employment. Salaries at private clubs tend to be much higher than comparable positions at area businesses and employee turnover is much lower, with about half of private clubs reporting less than 15 percent rate of turnover according to a recent National Club Association/McMahon Group survey. - How are private clubs helping grow the game of golf?
Golf clubs are introducing new, innovating programming that broadens the appeal of the game. For example, Medinah Country Club’s Golf For Life program installs tee boxes on every hole that players can select based on their skills. (New England Golf Monthly).
Midland Country Club in Midland, Mich. has a world-class indoor golf facility equipped with simulators and hitting bays merged with advanced technology that tracks a golfer’s performance—offering players the ability to improve their game year-round, no matter the weather. The club also provides Wednesday evening classes for women who are new players and a strong junior program.
At the Country Club of Fairfax (Va.), its Wine and Golf program has increased women’s play by providing a low-stress introduction to golf that includes on-course instruction and coaching, fun and a focus on meeting other members.
AG: Another belief is that course - both public and private - are bad for the environment. Please dispel.
HW: The environment is central to the mission and success of private clubs, particularly those that offer golf. As such, private clubs tend to be very proactive when it comes to sustainability and, in fact, clubs are much more environmentally-friendly than the typical homeowner. A recent National Club Association/McMahon Group survey of private clubs found that 74 percent pursue sustainable practices, and the typical club spends nearly $50,000 each year to promote sustainability. Like many environmentally-friendly businesses, private clubs use a variety of traditionally sustainable practices and environmentally safe products and recycled materials in their operations. In an integrated and far-reaching approach to resource management, Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va., constructed a LEED Silver Certification clubhouse.
Many clubs also practice hyper-local food sourcing, such as the Jonathan Club’s rooftop garden in Los Angeles, which produces $100,000 worth of ingredients each year, and Medinah Country Club’s USDA-certified chicken coop and organic garden and maple syrup program, which taps trees on the Illinois property. Clubs also participate in advanced environmental programs like Audubon International’s Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf. Pine Valley Golf Club (#1 rated golf club in America according to Platinum Clubs) was certified in 1999 and Congressional Country Club (#1 rated country club) was certified in 2011.
AG: Are private clubs antiquated, relics of the past?
HW: Today’s private club is more reflective than ever of the values and interests of most active Americans. It’s more family-oriented and focused on fun, health and wellness. The entire family can enjoy a wide range of offerings, including pool-based activities, game nights, themed parties and other family events. Many clubs offer junior sports camps for children to play golf, tennis or swim. Coffee-shop cafes, youth rec rooms and spa amenities also make clubs a destination to serve all members of the family.
Denver Country Club has a family focus on youth training for team sports and Palo Alto Hills Golf & Country Club provides families with fitness and kids yoga classes, cooking lessons, magic shows and a “tween” dance social.
And today’s private clubs are more committed to promoting members’ health and wellness as well. That may include exercise studios, spas, physical therapy, private trainers and nutrition programs, and it extends to the clubhouse menu, with many clubs offering healthier food choices.
AG: What’s your “dream foursome” (living or dead, golfer or non-golfer)?
HW: I never got the opportunity to meet either of my grandfathers because they both passed away before I was born, so if this foursome gives me the opportunity to meet them, then they are definitely in. I would round out the foursome, at the risk of the “Error of Recency,” with Jay Wright, head basketball coach at Villanova. I would love to get insight on building a championship culture to win the 2016 and 2018 national championships—and to also let him know I still have a few years of eligibility left if he needs me to come off the bench.
AG: What course tops your “bucket list” to play?
HW: I get this question, or a variation of this question, a lot—whether it is what course I want to play or what is my favorite club. I respond by saying that as the head of an association representing the most prestigious clubs and courses, it is like asking me to pick my favorite child. And like with my kids, I don’t care which course I am playing, as long as I am playing.
Learn more about the National Club Association at www.nationalclub.org.