Business has boomed at area country clubs since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, however surprisingly, with many enjoying full membership rosters and long wait lists.
Ridglea Country Club, a club in West Fort Worth, did not have a waitlist until 2021, when it first introduced a 1,600 membership cap. The waitlist has now reached 150; prospects could wait two years to be accepted.
The pandemic severely impacted luxury and service industries. In food service, 90% of Texas restaurant owners surveyed by the University of Houston said they saw a decline in sales in early 2020, 80% reported laying off employees, 41% temporarily closed locations, and 19% permanently closed locations.
In the travel industry, the pandemic may have caused $910 billion to over a trillion in lost tourism spending, according to a World Trade Organization brief.
Compare these circumstances with the success enjoyed by country clubs, and a stark contrast emerges.
Many country clubs adjusted to pandemic restrictions before other venues, providing takeout food and encouraging their members to participate in the outdoor activities they offered. During the height of COVID, outdoor sports like golf and tennis became more popular; country clubs were prepared with facilities to host them.
Some of the pandemic-friendly amenities Ridglea offers are a swimming pool, two eighteen-hole golf courses, an eleven-court tennis and racquet center, and a second-floor card room where members can conduct remote work.
People with hybrid work schedules can take more advantage of country clubs, according to Jeff Morgan, CEO of Club Management Association of America in Arlington, Virginia. He also speculated that fears and insecurities about traveling and being around other people prompted people to look for luxuries and vacation amenities closer to home.
Appealing to women and families also became more important to country club managers during the pandemic, Morgan explained. While in the past country clubs may have focused on catering to the preferences of their predominantly male membership, that is no longer the case, Morgan said.
“We really are focused on being a resort in your hometown,” he commented.
The Dallas Country Club takes a similar approach; it bills itself as “full-service,” providing recreational services and amenities for the entire family.
Ridglea Country Club invested $12 million to $14 million in upgrades over the past five years on various projects, most recently renovating the fitness center. Next on the docket are three pickleball courts.
General Manager Jeff Morris attributes the club’s ability to maintain its popularity even during the pandemic to its culture. He said Ridglea and other country clubs invest in building relationships so that members feel like their club is a second home.