Big clubs = big revenue
When it comes to private golf clubs, size does
matter — along with location and amenities.
A Golf Inc. review of Internal Revenue
Service tax filings by more than 150 nonprofit
clubs in the U.S. shows that clubs with the largest memberships — not necessarily the most
exclusive or most expensive — generate the
The top-revenue clubs also have a couple of
other things in common:
• Most are located within metropolitan
markets (such as Phoenix, Houston and
Washington, D.C.) or in second-home
resort communities (such as Boca Raton,
Fla., and Pebble Beach, Calif.)
services that appeal to all age groups.
Of the clubs on the list, four reported gross
receipts exceeding $40 million: Boca West
Country Club in Boca Raton, Fla.; Desert
Mountain in Scottsdale, Ariz.; The Olympic
Club in San Francisco; and The Country Club
of Virginia in Richmond, Va. Another 55 clubs
reported revenues above $15 million.
The revenues were listed on IRS 990 forms
filed by nonprofits to qualify for tax exemp-
tions. Golf Inc. obtained the forms from a
database maintained by GuideStar, a service
that provides information on nonprofits. The
documents reviewed were for the 2014 tax
year, the most recent period for which filings
for all the clubs were available.
Because the review covered only nonprofits,
high-profile private clubs that are not operated as nonprofits, such as Augusta National
and Trump National Bedminster, were not
“The clubs at the top of this list prove that
the first priority needs to be providing a great
experience, as a membership willing to invest
in your services is critical to any club’s suc-
cess,” said Ben Keilholtz, vice president of
marketing and sales at BlueStar Resort & Golf.
“From there, it’s often about how much you
come up often is not necessarily a surprise.”
So, what drives income at high-revenue
It mostly comes down to size and member-
ship costs, said Ray Cronin, chief executive
officer of Club Benchmarking. Some clubs
have more members and lower dues, while
some have fewer members and higher dues.
“When you get to these large clubs with
over $30 million [in annual revenue], generally what you’re talking about is dues north of
$15,000 a year and member accounts north of
1,000 or 1,500 members,” he said.
With more members comes more golf revenue and more food and beverage revenue,
which in turn produces more money for the
club to invest in upgrading and adding amenities.
(CMAA) and Club Benchmarking recently
conducted the 2016 Economic Impact Report,
a study of the finances of more than 2,500 private clubs. About 77 percent of the clubs surveyed had golf courses.
While it did not identify the individual revenues of specific clubs, the report said about
100 clubs reported annual revenues in excess
of $15 million. The operating revenue (from
membership dues, food and beverage revenue,
greens fees, lessons and other fees) generated
by those clubs averaged $21.7 million annually.
The study also found that capital income
(from initiation fees and capital dues and
assessments) at those clubs averaged $3.7 million annually, meaning those clubs have more
money to invest in new clubhouses, equipment
and other facilities that can attract additional
Clubs exceeding $40 million in operating
revenue were not included in the averages
about 10 clubs in the survey were in this ultrahigh revenue range.
Large clubs have grown revenue over the
years, thanks to annual dues increases, so over
time, more clubs have crossed the $15 million
threshold, he said.
“There’s no question there’s inflation and all
the clubs get bigger,” Cronin said.
Thanks to their large memberships, Boca West and Desert Mountain top the list
of nonprofit private clubs that generate the most revenue. BY KATIE THISDELL