Rick Farrant has turned the private club
model on its head. The former golf course
superintendent introduced a low-cost-membership model that has taken the Great Plains
by storm. With monthly dues as low as $30,
his club memberships look a lot more like
gym memberships than those of traditional
Customers have flocked to his clubs, allowing him to expand at a faster pace than any
other golf course operator.
In 2016 alone, he added a dozen 18-hole-
equivalent courses, most in the Kansas City
region. There are now 63 facilities under the
GreatLife banner, up from 17 in 2011.
And Farrant is just getting started. He
recently unveiled a franchise model that
could help GreatLife grow exponentially.
“There are lots of opportunities out there
for everybody,” Farrant said. “We are all com-
peting with keeping golf viable.”
Farrant is confident his low-cost business
model is one of the best ways to do that. He
owns courses, has licensed his model and has
affiliate courses. But his focus moving for-
ward will be on selling franchises.
“We have 20 years of throwing darts at a
board and figuring out which ones missed
and which ones didn’t,” he said.
Farrant began offering club memberships
with low fees in 1992.
He started by charging $20 a month. By
1999 he had increased that to $65 a month.
But membership sales were slow, and he realized he had actually generated more money
when the monthly fees were $20.
“We built forecast models based on our
performance from ’92 to ’99, and every time
it showed that if we lowered our fees, total
revenue would go up,” he said.
Farrant dropped his clubs’ fees back to $25
a month, and memberships tripled that year.
At one nine-hole executive course, member-
ships shot up to more than 1,000, and Farrant
was worried the course would be slammed. It
He said the average golfer in Kansas plays
20 rounds a year and spends $400 annually
in green fees. So, he charges a little more for
a yearly pass and gets their membership, loyalty and incidental revenue.
Farrant started adding fitness centers at his
courses in 2003, giving members another reason to join.
“That was the turning point, and it has
been a blur since then,” he said.
Farrant came up with the idea of franchising his business model almost 10 years ago,
and in 2011 was close to launching that strategy. But legal hurdles delayed the process,
especially when his attorney, who is also a
partner, was diagnosed with cancer.
“It was a never-ending and laborious pro-
cess,” he said. “We just got the legal go-ahead
to sell franchises in December.”
Farrant’s goal is to launch the new fran-
chises in major markets. But finding the right
partners has not been easy.
“I went fishing in the wrong pond,” Farrant
said about his initial efforts in 2011. “I
thought the market was people like me, who
were working hard in golf but could not get
over the hump. But the reality is that you need
to [invest to make the transition] and most
[private club] boards were not into that.”
“In most cases, [the investors] are not golf
people,” he said. “We help them through the
process on what to acquire, how many loca-
Rick Farrant’s low-cost-membership company has grown from 17 courses
in 2011 to 63. But now, the real growth begins. BY JACK CRITTENDEN
RICK FARRANT is looking to franchise his unique GreatLife business model of low-cost memberships to more clubs in the Kansas City metro area.