February 3, 2020
“It has been such a pleasure working with you and the Concert Golf team, and it is such an awesome feeling to leave our club in your hands.” – Happy Sobell, CCR Board Member
ALPHARETTA, GA – After several months of reviewing strategic options and considering its memberowned business model, the members of the Country Club of Roswell, located in the fast-growing Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta, ratified the board’s unanimous recommendation to recapitalize the club with Concert Golf Partners by a 97 percent membership vote. Applause broke out in the ballroom when 2020 Board President Bill Daniel announced the new partnership, which immediately repaid the club’s bank loans, used to fund the last round of improvements, ended member assessments permanently and injected a fresh $3 million in capital for projects from the club’s Vision 2025 strategic master plan. Among the best golf courses in North Atlanta, Country Club of Roswell’s 18-hole championship golf course is located on 150 acres of rolling hills, lakes, streams and elegant homes in the 700-home Willow Springs residential community. CCR is a true family club, with over 600 kids and a growing junior member population that has lowered the average age to 54. Members drive their private golf carts to the club; the active swim team, wide range of amenities and extensive golf instructional programs cater to young families. Busy USTA tennis leagues dominate the club’s 13 lighted tennis courts, along with active pickleball events.
Since 2015, successive boards at CCR debated the competitive local club market and how best to respond to the arms race of capital projects and declining initiation fees. Atlanta features some 58 private clubs, half of which are owned and operated by ClubCorp, and there are eight clubs in Alpharetta alone. While expectations were high each year, following a fresh round of capital projects or a new board’s membership initiatives, membership counts and annual revenues stayed flat year after year. In 2019, the board held focus groups and conducted member surveys to develop a strategic master plan. Members voted overwhelmingly in favor of a $3 million “Vision 2025” package of course and facilities improvements – then soundly rejected the assessments to pay for it.
Enter Concert Golf Partners. After five years of discussions with rotating board members at CCR, President Fred Maust and the board decided to vet Concert Golf thoroughly and ask for a proposal. The recapitalization proposal was carefully crafted to address common member concerns, Concert Golf clubs were visited and Board member references were called.
“We wanted a sustainable funding mechanism for the Vision 2025 master plan and beyond,” said board member Tim Geiken, whose business specialty is process management consulting. “It was clear to us that member assessments would be contentious and lead to attrition, or that we would ‘kick the can’ on these important projects and lose ground to our nearby competitor clubs.”
The club’s Vision 2025 plan included a major overhaul of the 45-year old irrigation system, which had suffered three main line breaks during the 2019 golf season alone. In addition, members wanted a new kids club, a splash pad for the kids and an adult bar at the pool, a golf simulator, new tennis court LED lights and resurfacing, an outdoor dining courtyard and a “cosmetic refresh” of the member lounge and ballroom. One option the board considered was to pare down the project list until the members would support a smaller assessment to pay for it.
They also considered another option – doing nothing.
“We knew that if this board failed to act, it might be years before another board would have the energy and credibility to move the club forward, and we would have been in a worse situation over the long term,” said Bill Daniel, an avid Greens Committee member who, in his professional career, has built over 1,000 restaurants for major multi-concept chains. “This group of board members was well respected and deeply committed to enhancing the club for our next generation of members.”
The Country Club of Roswell is a good example of the issues facing hundreds of member-owned clubs today: times are good, and demographics are trending positively; the club has been prudently managed with only modest debt, but funding substantial capital projects is something members no longer want to do.
“Even well-run clubs with little or no debt need to think about immediate and future capital funding needs,” said Concert Golf Partners CEO Peter Nanula. “Master plans and capital reserve studies show that member assessments are coming, and only the clubs with a waitlist can easily assess without losing any members.”
“I was against the idea of change when I first heard about it, but when President Fred Maust forwarded a CGP article from BoardRoom Magazine, I felt like it was describing us here at Roswell,” said Happy Sobell, a CCR board member who runs the club’s tennis pro-am, a charity event that has been running for 42 years.
After the nearly unanimous member vote in favor of the recapitalization, Happy said, “It has been such a pleasure working with you and the Concert Golf team, and it is such an awesome feeling to leave our club in your hands.”