NGF TOP 100 BUSINESSES IN GOLF
David Pillsbury, CEO
Robert Morse, COO
Curt McClellan, CFO
Emily Decker, Chief Legal Officer
Ken Guerra, Chief Revenue Officer
Meg Tollison, Chief Marketing Officer
ClubCorp USA holds a dominant place in its field, as the industry leader in the world of private club management.
Founded by Robert Dedman, Sr. in 1957, with the construction of Brookhaven Country Club in the company’s headquarters of Dallas, Texas, ClubCorp has grown significantly in the past 60+ years. Today, the company has more than 200 clubs in its portfolio, including 145 private country clubs, spread across 27 states, the District of Columbia, and two countries outside the United States.
ClubCorp is nearly twice as large in scope as any other private club operator in the country. From fiscal years 2014 to 2018, it invested more than $525 million in properties to make them, in part, more relevant in their communities and ensure they better fit the changing needs of today’s private club members.
“I see a remarkable space,” said golf industry veteran David Pillsbury, who took over as ClubCorp CEO in 2018. “I also might define it a little differently than traditional people in the golf space. I see it as part of the bigger core of a lifestyle that people aspire to. They aspire to club life. We like to say every passion has a community. We have an opportunity to aggregate lots of communities within our clubs and an opportunity to introduce people to golf in a non-intimidating, low-friction environment.”
While golf and memberships are at the heart of the company, ClubCorp’s management influence further extends to an array of high-end city, sport, and stadium clubs. It’s impressive cache of influence includes: 3,834 golf holes; more than 950 tennis courts; approximately 20,000 peak-season employees; and over 430,000 individual members.
Annual revenue was $1.1 billion in 2018 and ClubCorp had roughly $3.1 billion in assets as of December 25, 2018.
Among its array of choice golf properties, ClubCorp’s portfolio includes Rancho Mirage, California’s Mission Hills Country Club, site of the LPGA Tour’s ANA Inspiration (golf’s first major championship of the year), Akron, Ohio’s Firestone Country Club, site of the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship, and Texas’s The Woodlands Country Club, site of the PGA TOUR Champions Insperity Invitational.
By the 1970s, ClubCorp was the management consultant for more than 50 clubs. In 1976, it started a realty division to develop residential communities around country clubs. Firestone was added to the portfolio in 1981 and the Pinehurst Resort was brought into the fold in 1984. The acquisition of Pinehurst was a significant one for ClubCorp, precipitating a new division within the company for the management of destination golf and conference resorts. When the Dedman family sold ClubCorp in 2006, they retained Pinehurst.
In September 2017, ClubCorp sold to private equity firm Apollo Global Management for a reported $1.1 billion equity value – with an enterprise value of $2.2 billion (including the assumption of debt). The purchase is a reflection of ClubCorp’s excellence in its field, as the company reportedly raised its revenue by approximately one-third from 2013 to 2016.
Shortly after Pillsbury took over in 2018, ClubCorp announced the launch of ClubLife Management, a comprehensive management services division for private clubs, destination resorts, and premier daily-fee golf courses. And in December, it purchased a controlling interest in BigShots Golf, a cutting-edge golf and entertainment company powered by BigShots Golf proprietary technology.
Today, ClubCorp focuses on providing extraordinary lifestyle experiences through its championship golf courses, work spaces, handcrafted cuisine, resort-style pools, tennis facilities, golf lounges, fitness centers, robust programming, and continually expanding vast array of benefits and services available through the ClubCorp Network – including exclusive access to sports and event tickets, award-winning restaurants, unique destinations and travel experiences, and more.
In fall of 2019, ClubCorp acquired seven premier lifestyle golf clubs in East Coast residential communities from Toll Golf, the golf and country club division of Toll Brothers, Inc., the nation’s leading builder of luxury homes.
“We continue to invest in club infrastructure, reinventions, and expanding the ClubCorp Network as we redefine club life – exploring new lifestyle amenities, club concepts, and innovations that add value to member benefits and to the member experience,” said Pillsbury.
ClubCorp is following the trend of some of the other major management companies in golf: continued growth. A pioneer in the private club industry, ClubCorp’s total number of facilities under management has increased by almost 69 percent over the past seven years.
ClubCorp certainly offers a meaningful advantage in the management space, as it can spread costs around and utilize economies of scale. Its deep portfolio of mid-level private clubs features an active membership with a consistent rate of renewal. That’s appealing for a firm like Apollo, as ClubCorp can generate recurring revenue in the form of monthly club membership dues.
After a humble beginning with one club in Dallas under Dedman, who was once described as the “Henry Ford of the Club Management Business,” ClubCorp evolved into the pre-eminent owner and operator of private clubs, ultimately providing a higher and more consistent level of service for members of its facilities.