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Advice and Resources for Private Club Management and Board Members

Succession Planning for Management of a Private Club

 Succession Planning for Management of a Private Club

The Role of Club Boards and Human Resources in Succession Planning

Human Resource (HR) Committees are becoming increasingly important for all organizations, including Private Clubs. From performance reviews, compensation, benefits, definitions of contractors and employees, and increasing regulatory reporting requirements an HR Committee can be an invaluable resource to both the Board and the Management of a Private Club.

An additional area where an HR Committee can work with the Board is in Succession Planning for Management. While we have cautioned Boards about considering all of the ramifications of turnover in the General Manager role, the reality is that for a variety of reasons Management turnover is something that Boards need to deal with, especially the rapid rate of turnover within the Private Club space. This applies not only to the General Manager but other key positions including (but not limited to) F&B Director, Golf Course Superintendent, Executive Chef, Director of Golf Operations, Pool and Racquets Directors, and Controller.

Most Clubs are not of the size to be able to have individuals on staff that can be groomed as successors. However, for clubs where a long-serving manager is nearing retirement, the Board may be well advised to see if there is someone on staff that can be groomed.

Aside from retirements, turnover is inevitable because individuals may be afforded better opportunities or the result of performance issues. Oftentimes, turnover occurs at an inopportune time for a Private Club, especially if it occurs in season, in the midst of strategic and/or facilities master planning, or in the middle of the deployment of a major capital project.

There are several things the Board and the HR Committee can consider when discussing succession planning:

  • Who will fill in if there is a sudden departure? If there on not internal options, identify options for outsourcing the position on an interim basis. It is recommended that the Board draft an emergency succession plan.
  • For Private Club’s that have General Managers or other key managers nearing retirement, prepare a specific succession plan for those positions.
  • Prepare job descriptions for the General Managers and other members of management. For many Private Clubs needs may have changed so the profile of a successor may well have changed. A few examples include a General Manager with experience to address a Club’s need to strengthen non-golf amenities or in the case where the incumbent golf course superintendent greatly improved the health and playability of the golf course, there may be a future need for someone who can implement a master plan.

The General Manager should be involved in the development of a succession plan, whether it is for planned departures or for emergencies. The General Manager knows his management team the best and what additional capabilities may be needed. The General Manager’s role itself is very complicated and his or her input to the Board would be critical. Until the practice is well-established,  the Board should be very clear with the General Manager and other members of the management team that the reasons behind succession planning are nothing more than best practices and fulfilling the Board’s fiduciary duty to do what is in the best interests of the Club.


Club Board Professionals is a strategic financial consulting and training firm.  The Principals, Dave Duval and Joe Abely, assist clubs achieve excellence in three areas: governance, financial sustainability and membership satisfaction. Contact us for a complimentary initial assessment of your club.