NGF TOP 100 BUSINESSES IN GOLF
Rick Farrant, Founder
Thomas Walsh Sr., Chairman and CEO, Golf & Fitness Club
Mike Malaska, Vice President, Golf & Fitness Club
GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness introduced the low-cost membership model to the private club market in the Midwest, and has flourished doing so. GreatLIFE today counts 57 facilities under management, up from 17 in 2012.
GreatLIFE owns golf courses, has affiliate courses and recently introduced a franchise system that offers facilities and management systems that extend beyond golf – to fitness, bowling, food and bar operation, wellness and weight loss, and several other forms of recreation and healthy lifestyle opportunities.
The company was started by former golf course superintendent Rick Farrant in the Kansas City area in 1992. Farrant initially started offering club memberships with monthly fees that only cost $20 a month. When GreatLIFE more than tripled its price structure seven years later, membership sales slowed. Fees were dropped down to $25 per month shortly thereafter and it was memberships that tripled. When Farrant added fitness centers at his facilities in the early 2000’s, it proved to be yet another enticement for prospective members.
Today, there are several levels of pricing, but a member is able to play all the clubs in the GreatLIFE portfolio, which is concentrated in Kansas and South Dakota. Those who pay the lowest monthly fee (approximately $60) will have limited access at some courses and are subject to additional fees. The highest level memberships are priced at $160 per month, with full access for family members and no added fees.
Farrant came up with the idea for franchising his business model about a decade ago, but it wasn’t until 2016 that GreatLIFE began selling franchises, with a variable rate based on an area’s population base. While GreatLIFE gets a percentage of the gross revenues, it also supplies services such as membership tracking and billing.
GreatLife expanded to the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, market by teaming up with entrepreneur Tom Walsh Sr. and his business partner, Mike Malaska, to form GreatLife Malaska Golf & Fitness. It owns more than a dozen golf courses and fitness centers in the Sioux Falls area (with affiliate relationships at another 15 courses) and counts more than 11,000 members.
“Our mission at GreatLIFE is to enrich the lives of families and individuals through golf, fitness and healthy lifestyles,” says Walsh. “When you look at unlimited golf and unlimited fitness, it gets families together doing things. The big thing is getting kids and families doing things, getting more physical, looking at their lifestyle and nutrition, enjoying life together, getting away from the computers, video games and cell phones and having quality time together.”
GreatLIFE founded a business model that works in particular markets and successfully created a niche in the golf industry.
The math made sense; with low-priced golf options in the Kansas City area, golfers on average paid about $400 to play roughly 20 rounds annually. Ultimately, Farrant and GreatGOLF would charge what amounted to be slightly more for a yearly pass, but the company got more than just members, it also aligned with loyal players who provided regular incremental revenue.