Exclusive midtown membership club Golf & Body delivers the benefits of golf, physical therapy, and business networking in a single weatherproof package.
In 2013, Golf & Body NYC transformed the third floor of a Midtown Manhattan multilevel into a private “country” club limited to just 200 members. Its mission? To provide a private, and productive haven for affluent locals and jet setters who want to build the best game of their lives, while also providing the means for them to reach new heights in personal fitness.
Now two years running, Golf & Body NYC has put into play an operation featuring some of the best people and training tools in the world, from multiple disciplines, including golf, sports medicine, and business. Golfers, for example, will almost certainly recognize the names on the list of club advisers (Sean Foley, James Leitz, and David Orr), not to mention its assortment of top-tier analysis tools (from Trackman Golf’s launch monitor to Science and Motion‘s SAM Putting Lab).
It doesn’t have its own golf course (of course), but it does offer the kind of experience, service, and ambiance one would expect from a private golf club. Plus, it’s literally in the heart of Manhattan so it’s easily accessible and offers incredible views from its elevated position on the Avenue of Americas. Just outside–so close that long-hitters could reach it off the tee–the Empire State Building is among the most prominent landmarks on full display for members.
A point that can’t be overlooked and that New Yorkers in particular will appreciate: Being indoors, Golf & Body NYC offers one feature no golf course can: It’s weatherproof. So during winter, when much of the northeast US coast ices over, the facility continues to operate as if it’s a sunny 80F outside. (Beat that, Sebonack!) Such benefits come at a price, of course. At the time of writing, the annual fee for membership was $7,500 annually after a one-time initiation fee of $5,000.
Manhattan Transfer: Jeannine Harrington
People management and relationship building is critical to the success of any member-based business. As there are some two million groups on LinkedIn, and because I myself run the leading golf- and business-related community on the platform, I looked to Golf & Body General Manager Jeannine Harrington to see what I might learn from her club’s strategy.
That Harrington–a longtime GM of Indian Hills Country Club in Northport, Long Island and 15-year active member of the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA)–has moved from a true country operation to one squarely located at New York City’s nerve center, and that she currently operates a facility focused on offline and in-person member interaction, I consider especially useful as an example for organizations seeking inspiration from parallel industries.
LinkedGolfers: Let’s start this off as you might when approaching a new member. Do you have a starter process in place or even some way of helping a new member acclimate to a way of thinking?
Jeannine Harrington: Certainly membership starts with an assessment process – a physical assessment and a golf evaluation, for example — which helps us determine what each individual member needs to play better golf. We know they’ve come to us to improve their body and their game, but that doesn’t really tell us much.
Our facility is stocked with outstanding tools that help us better understand each new members’ existing strengths and limitations from the start. We make comprehensive use of those tools, but getting to know a new member’s needs is a process that goes beyond the numbers.
LG: Meaning his or her interior world? How one might perform under pressure?
JH: That’s an important side of anyone’s game, and one our experts can certainly help with, but in the beginning we need members to teach us a bit about their goals and obstacles, whether internal or external. One of the things we do like to encourage our members to do from the beginning is to commit to the process and give themselves over to our experts because that’s how we find the best results.
That’s not always an easy proposition, however, as our members are ambitious, successful, and accustomed to steering their own success. Golf and rehab, however, are among the few things in life that leave no room for negotiation.
LG: Tell us a bit about the golf experts you’ve brought into the fold.
JH: Our goal when identifying and selecting advisers, staff, and partners is to not just support the services we have but also to extend them into areas where we may not otherwise be paying attention to or where we may not even be asking the right questions. The Golf & Body team consists of PGA professionals who understand the bio-mechanics of a golf swing. As performance coaches for some of the best tour players in the game, they’ve proven they know how to employ all kinds of tools to identify areas needing attention and to put members on a path most likely to see the desired results.
LG: How hands-on is your team after you’ve developed an individualized program?
JH: We are committed to staying with our members every step of the way, helping them improve or getting them back to where they need to be. We offer a lot of personalized services on a continuous basis. We have highly focused programs dedicated to game improvement, in-season maintenance programs, and even a travel program that allows our members to stay in touch with us no matter where they are.
We constantly monitor our members’ progress, both physically and technically. Paying very close attention to and quickly providing supportive feedback about individual members’ upside progress while correcting counterproductive issues–before the latter become habit–is something we consider a vital and unique part of our service.
LG: That interaction is, of course, indispensable. But all the tech you’ve built into the facility has to be a significant factor in your appeal.
JH: Putting both together is powerful indeed. Our people are our greatest asset, but that’s not taking anything away from our technology. Our seven golf simulators are used for assessments, practice by members, golf instruction, club fitting, and entertainment – all of which have the ability for our members to “advance the ball.”
We use TrackMan for swing- and ball-flight analysis, V1 Sports Video, Science and Motion’s Sam Putt Lab, and more. We even have a complete onsite club-fitting studio run by TrueSpec Golf. Our fitness facility is top tier, too. We have the latest gear from Redcord, Keiser, Vertimax, Life Fitness, and Cybex, for example.
Again, those are powerful tools, but we see them as just that–“tools.” The most important “gear” at Golf & Body is our staff. They are ultimately the experts who know how to get the best out of not just the tech, but the person they’re training.
LG: How would you describe your members? Do they focus intensely on their individual golf or health programs, for example, or do they gravitate to the social benefits?
JH: Most of our members join for the combination of golf and fitness training–and many of our members use the facility for business meetings and find the environment conducive for client entertainment. There are a few people who only use the gym and a few who only use the golf side. But the majority of them use both, and, honestly, the ones who get the most out of us and stay with us are those who take advantage of everything we have.
Our philosophy is about bringing the two worlds of golf and fitness together. The members who take advantage of this unique opportunity are the most dedicated.
LG: Who do you consider an ideal candidate for membership?
JH: Of course, that person will be passionate about golf and looking to improve his or her game, regardless of ability. But that person also understands that it will take more than just a golf lesson, that it involves swing training as well as physical training and our holistic method of bringing it all together.
For people who live and/or work in NYC, having access to something like Golf & Body is invaluable, so we make it available to them whenever they want—before work, during lunch, after hours, and weekends. The ideal candidate understands how important connecting physical training is to improving one’s golf game and is interested in pushing the physical envelope a little bit.
I’m not referring to just lifting weights or climbing on a Stairmaster. We offer so many different fitness and health programs that having some curiosity along with a real willingness to improve one’s game is essential for reaping the greatest rewards.
LG: In your 26 years at Indian Hills, did you evolve skills that are particularly well suited to managing the indoor country club?
JH: The key words are “country club.” What I mean is, Golf & Body works very much like any private golf club. Besides running the operation, most of which happens behind the scenes, everyone on staff has to be committed to delivering not just a membership, but a highly personalized “experience.”
I learned early on in my career that whenever a member is at the club, he or she is “the one.” What’s going to make a difference is how staff interacts with that person, how they make him or her feel, and especially important here, how we help them.
When people join Golf & Body NYC, I am going to take care of them: That’s my personal commitment. We keep the environment very relaxed so members can let go and enjoy the quest. Club staff are careful not to become so relaxed that we don’t quickly respond. Whatever they need or want from us, we’re here to deliver.
Providing outstanding service is not just rewarding for members. It’s also important for everyone on the staff. When I left Indian Hills, I felt like I had “broken up” with my members. I was able to move forward, however, with confidence and a sense of pride. Whatever the members wanted, I would find a way to provide it. I know that whenever I reconnect with them, I will feel great.
LG: Say you have to hire the new you at Golf & Body NYC or for a parallel role at a new Golf & Body location. What are the must-have skills or qualities you would look for in a successful candidate? Is there even a path or discipline leading to your position?
JH: This is absolutely not a clock-watching type of job. It’s 100-percent personality-driven. It requires attention to detail, making good business decisions, and mastering club management. It is about building the right team around you to achieve the goals of the club. But most of all, it’s being there for the members.
LG: Every membership manager will, on occasion, be thrust into the center of a conflict between members. It’s inevitable. How do you prepare for or manage diplomacy during those occasions?
JH: I know it’s inevitable at other places because I’ve worked in other clubs, but in our environment, I have never had to get between members to solve a problem. Where would people get pissed off? There is no formal dining room or golf course where they can exhibit bad behavior.
Our members aren’t here to play the 18-hole round as we know it, so there are no frustrations around slow play or cheating. I don’t have to worry about those things. But I will say, from my previous experiences that when getting between members, the truth has to prevail.
LG: Anyone whose job involves frequent interactions with community members will at some point face challenges for which there is no rulebook. Members are on one hand “clients” and oftentimes something akin to “family.” How do you separate the business and the personal?
JH: What’s unique about our club is we don’t feel a need to separate. We don’t have to, again because we’re not a traditional club. Of course, there are rules of membership, but they don’t stray far from common sense. We allow use of mobile phones, for example, but we ask our members to use them wisely and discreetly. We don’t take a hard stance on wardrobe, either. We want our members focused on improving their health and growing their game, not what to wear.
Most members of Golf & Body NYC belong to other clubs so they generally know what to do and not to do. But again, from my earlier life in traditional clubs, I’ve learned that when members do something wrong, they know. And as long as you don’t embarrass them and handle things discreetly, you can deal with it.
LG: What social responsibility should members take to heart when interacting with someone in your position?
JH: I don’t know how to answer this question, maybe because this is a different environment from most clubs because the members do not own it. When they own it, they view my position as staff. The definitions of you are clear. It’s different here because we own it, not the members.
LG: In addition to the possibility of Golf & Body’s expansion into more cities, what new features are you considering that will prove most exciting to golfers?
JH: We are always looking for new methodologies and services to add to our golf, wellness, and fitness training portfolio. That’s why we added TrueSpec Golf to our location last year. We also are focusing some of our attention on injury prevention. A lot of our members present injuries that may have been avoided–or at least not repeated–if they spent even the briefest amount of time learning what to do and what not to do.
LG: I can’t recall a single membership-based organization that hasn’t at some point fought a war against attrition. How do you keep people coming back?
JH: You know what? Attrition is not a bad thing. Nobody in this business wants to talk about it, but people leave. It should be expected, and very often, it’s good. When one person leaves, another will arrive to bring fresh, new energy. That’s good for our instructors, too. It keeps us from getting stagnant and complacent, and it gives us reasons to always be upgrading our services.
LG: Are there any side benefits or observations you’ve encountered that have personally given you a lift?
JH: I recently discussed this with my assistant. With all the high-powered, high-net-worth people we have walking through our doors–people who daily endure enormous amounts of stress–I expected I’d encounter more “urban” New York City Type A tension than I do. Instead, when they come in here, that closed-off, tough exterior melts away. The more time they spend with us, the more they relax and loosen up. They realize they can just be.
And they like that.