Private clubs have a reputation for being
stodgy — reluctant to change and stuck in
tradition. That has caused many clubs to
struggle in recent years, as they have been
slow to adapt to changing demographics,
technology and social mores.
But that’s not the case for all clubs. A few
see the future as very bright, so long as they
“We are about to enter a time that will be
remarkable for private clubs,” said Jeffrey
McFadden, general manager of The Union
League of Philadelphia. “Millennials value
authentic experiences more so than posses-
sions, and that’s what clubs deliver. But to get
what we never had, we have to do what we
have never done.”
McFadden is one of the leaders who is try-
ing new things, creating unique experiences
for his members and watching as his club
grows at an exponential rate.
Golf Inc. identified 10 of the most innovative individuals who work at or with private
clubs. These visionaries are taking steps to
bring about the resurgence in private clubs.
They are bringing new energy and growth
and making changes that extend far beyond
n chief Operating Officer and General
n The Union League of Philadelphia
McFadden, who was only 30 when he was hired
19 years ago, said The Union League has been
transformed from what some might call an “old
boys network.” The result is dramatic changes
in the private club’s membership and facilities
that have placed McFadden among the most
respected leaders in the private club industry.
His club has increased from 1,500 to 4,000
members, which has pulled it out of a financial
tailspin to make it one of the most successful
clubs in the nation. He has increased dues to
pay for amenities that give up-to-date value to
This includes the acquisition of a Donald
Ross golf course last year. The course, 12 miles
from the club’s Center City clubhouse, was
previously known as the Torresdale-Frankford
Country Club and had gone through difficult
times. Renamed the Union League Golf Club,
it went from 140 to 450 full-time golf members.
“We have a waiting list there to join as well,”
McFadden said, adding that the club is considering adding a second golf course.
Another major amenity for members was
better parking; the club bought a 400-car garage
near its main clubhouse. And dining options
have expanded with the purchase of two suburban restaurants for members: the Guard
House in Gladwyne and The Bungalow at Stone
The club has also increased membership, he
said, by offering members $3,600 if they get
someone new to join.
He also requires members to propose a new
member before they can serve on a committee,
Today’s private club industry is transforming to meet
the needs of a changing membership. We identify 10
people on the cutting edge of the latest trends.
BY REBECCA LARSEN
10PEOPLE who are SHAPING the FUTURE of private clubs